When “Reel Life” meets “Real Life”

Summer Blockbuster Artwork Web The Summer Blockbuster season has gotten off to an early start: we’ve been shaken by earthquakes, battered by flooding, devastated by tornadoes and that’s all before we ever set foot in a movie theater. This week’s release of San Andreas starring Dwayne Johnson is this summer’s big disaster film and the viewing audience has shown once again their love for a good disaster film. The modern disaster films are so well done, so persuasive, that they are almost always cited these days for their “realism”. A May 27th article in Variety cites that the film is “so devastating that scientists note there are multiple instances in which the make-believe quake rocks the truth.”

So how come, when a real disaster strikes, it feels so different? 

Real disasters have casualties, disaster movies have characters. In real life, we usually don't learn about the people who live through (and die in) natural disasters until after the disaster have unfolded.  In San Andreas, we get to know and establish a relationship with Johnson’s character, Ray Gaines; his ex-wife, Emma and their daughter, Blake as they struggle to outrun and survive a 9.1 earthquake.

Real disasters have casualties, disaster movies have characters. In real life, we usually don’t learn about the people who live through (and die in) natural disasters until after the disaster have unfolded. In San Andreas, we get to know and establish a relationship with Johnson’s character, Ray Gaines; his ex-wife, Emma and their daughter, Blake as they struggle to outrun and survive a 9.1 earthquake.

Real disasters don’t fit in a 120 minute time frame. If April’s Nepal Earthquake were happening in film, we would have seen the major aftershocks happening within minutes of the initial quake. Never mind that real life (vs Reel Life) sees disasters roll more slowly and with scattered effects. After the April 25th earthquake in Nepal, it was 17 days before the major aftershock. In order to maintain suspense and attention, each major catastrophe must take place quickly on film.
Real disasters don’t follow a dramatic arc (rising action leading to a climax), disasters happen unexpectedly and then we deal with them, often for a very long time. Films don’t work that way, nobody wants to see the cleanup; we want to see what leads up the disaster and how the characters we’ve become emotionally invested in survive.
Real disasters are just that, disasters. In film, something good always comes from them; a family is reunited, a last minute rescue, an unlikely hero. There is always a silver lining to the storm cloud. In Reel Life, we never know how long the silver lining will last. But we do know, as the credits roll, that our hero and survivors will be okay. If only Real life had that same assurance.

Would you survive San Andreas?  In three simple steps your company can be prepared: 1) Get a Kit; 2) Make a Plan; and 3) Be informed.  SafetyMax can help you get prepared and stay prepared. For more information, contact us at 1.800.585.8506 or [email protected]

Leave a Comment

*