Basic Things That Every Disaster Movie Gets Wrong

Humankind has obsessed over cinematic mass slaughter ever since we made three Titanic films the same year it actually sunk. But for all our previous effort, the true explodey renaissance no doubt came with 1996's Independence Day and the slow rise of modern digital effects. Now, cut to the 2016 sequel and epic destruction is so blase you can calm an infant with the sounds of flaming cars. Let's face it: Simulating big-ass disasters is sort of what we do, as a species.

Too bad, then, that we suck at it. I'm not talking about "Uh, lasers wouldn't make a sound in space"-style nerdery -- in most cases, the actual disasters would look even more awesome than what the movies are showing us (provided you're not one of the casualties). For instance, bet you don't even realize that ...

#6. The Statue Of Liberty Would Be Blown To Shit In A Second

20th Century Fox

As a beacon of American freedom, the originally named Liberty Enlightening The World is an easy target for screenwriters and directors hoping to scoop some quick symbolism points to use on their monster/doomsday/global warming movie's poster.

Columbia Pictures, MGM, 20th Century Fox
Enough casual violence against women, Hollywood.

And even if the statue's destruction isn't the centerpiece, films like Independence Day and Deep Impact will still make a point to show fairly intact pieces of Lady Liberty when the dust starts to settle.

20th Century Fox

Paramount Pictures
If she didn't die from the blow, she'll probably die from drinking Hudson River water.

One way or another, America's endurance in the face of certain doom rears its crowned head, a cinematic habit no doubt inspired by the grand-daddy of them all ...

20th Century Fox
"You maniacs! You blew (most of) it up!"

But Actually ...

The Statue Of Liberty would be the first to go.

While so many films imitated the visual parable of finding America's hope jutting out of the monkey-beach like a million-year-old tombstone, none of them stopped to wonder if this iconic twist was in any way a load of bold-faced hogwash. Spoiler: It absolutely is. Because, as Discovery's Life After People series figured out, there's no goddamn way the Statue Of Liberty would withstand so much as 300 years before crumbling into the ocean -- let alone the amount of evolutionary time apes need to form robe societies and shag haircuts.

Hell, Lady Liberty wasn't able to go its first 100 years without $25 million in restoration to rusting framework and heavy corrosion, as the National Park Service once described her as "literally falling apart." Because for all she's taken on in movies, we're actually talking about an iron frame under copper that's been exposed to the elements of sea spray, cold winters, and hurricane winds. Copper that's thinner than two goddamn pennies pressed together.

Wiki Commons, Wiki Commons
You can barely tell she's had work done, though.

It's no wonder that back in 1916 when Germans exploded a munitions dock in Jersey City, the shock wave was enough to burst rivets from her arm. So any world-ending tsunami or alien ray explosion would pulverize her like moist tissue paper. And this solemn green toga giant isn't the only landmark we inexplicably think is indestructible, either ...

#5. Bridges Would Completely Fall Apart (Instead Of Just Losing A Chunk)

Warner Bros.

We're not sure what San Francisco's most iconic bridge ever did to screenwriters, but they love breaking it up. We're seeing major franchises from Terminator to Planet Of The Apes to Godzilla take a swipe -- sometimes literally.

Warner Bros.
"Hey, a penny!"

This is from the scene where the atomic lizard grapples one of the large cables while fighting an army so inept that they already destroyed the other one ...

Warner Bros.
Someone's cannon was busy last night and isn't shooting straight.

All of this culminates in the monster bursting through the center of a bridge like an angry marathon winner.

Warner Bros.
Spoilers: The "friend to all children" just killed the ones in those buses.

But this isn't the only suspension bridge that's been bisected by monster rage, since the Brooklyn Bridge sees a similar fate in Cloverfield, as well as being purposely destroyed in I Am Legend:

Warner Bros.
This is the first time anyone has brought up I Am Legend this year.

But Actually ...

There's no way any of these bridges would still be standing.

This really shouldn't be surprising, but it turns out those big things called "suspension cables" are there not to look nice but rather to keep the bridge suspended. So when one such cable snaps on the Golden Gate Bridge, the road would instantly start falling apart -- especially when said road is covered in 60-ton tanks. Instead, it doesn't even shake at Godzilla's might, nor does it completely fall apart when severed at the middle, despite that act essentially being like cutting a rubber band in two. We know this thanks to a structural engineer named Alex Weinberg who took the time to explain how these bridges actually work.

Alex Weinberg, P.E./Hackaday
The same thing happens if you cut Larry King's suspenders.

Main suspension cables work by creating tension between the bridge's towers, as if one of them just farted. When driving across, your vehicle pulls downward on the vertical cables -- creating force that is then transferred to those main arcing cables above. If you break one or both of those cables, the road is no longer supported and would begin to domino into the ocean like a suicidal anaconda. Meaning that when you see Godzilla cut through the Golden Gate Bridge without the whole road falling, it's the equivalent of Wile E. Coyote walking on air before looking down. And the biggest offender? According to Alex, it's the grounded world of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises -- which explodes every mid-section of Gotham's suspension bridges while magically keeping the surrounding road intact like it's being controlled by Magneto.

Warner Bros.
Seriously, Nolan? You modeled a scientifically accurate black hole but you can't handle basic gravity?

#4. Doomsday Explosions Are Way Faster (And More Horrific) In Real Life


We hate to say this, but Hollywood has banded together to inexplicably make big-ass explosions less intense. For example, this one:

20th Century Fox
Alternatively, this is Rand Paul when he's just woken up.

That would be the Nagasaki scene in The Wolverine -- one of many instances where characters come face to face with a world-shattering explosion ...

Columbia Pictures

... and manage to outrun it at the last second.

Columbia Pictures

Heck, sometimes you don't even need a car, as long as you're an adorable and literal underdog.

20th Century Fox
If this dog isn't in the new ID4 and doesn't kill an alien, I'm walking.

Needless to say, there are so many examples of the hero outrunning some kind of grand-scale volcanic or nuclear explosion that the only doomsday prep kit needed is a good pair of sneakers.

But Actually ...

Everybody dies. Instantly.

For starters: Your lungs, ears, and bowels would explode at the speed of sound by the pressure change alone. If you can run the speed of sound, then good on you -- otherwise all the Wolverine blankets in the world couldn't stop your organs from popping like grotesque water balloons. In the case of Nagasaki, the real-life detonation traveled 9,000 mph and leveled everything in a two-mile radius. Close up, it's an explosion so fast and devastating that it's hard to even portray on camera, immediately followed by a rain of radiation that would go on to kill everything not already dead within 1,000 yards. Oh, and this is all after the bomb's superheated flash already set your skin on fire -- as that tends to cause third-degree burns as far as five miles away. Oddly enough, the only movie that gets this mostly right is the one about shape-shifting future robots.

TriStar Pictures
Sadly, the simulation of Edward Furlong's adulthood isn't as correct.

And these are the non-sci-fi explosions we're talking about here, as any ID4 alien death-ray would surely cause so much heat that Will Smith's lovable dog (and entire family) would be pink mist before they even knew what hit them. Not to mention that unless they are somehow slowing down the fireballs with space magic, it would take a flat surface and an Indy 500 vehicle to outrun even the blast from a volcano ... which is something we learned first-hand back in 1980 when this happened:

United States Geological Survey
It was the only thing we learned the whole decade.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens sent out a lateral debris wall ranging from 150 mph to 300 mph -- something that a few lucky people far enough away were able to outrun in their cars. And so, in the case of alien invasion or 2012-style mega-volcano, we'd be thanking our lucky stars that death is only coming at speeds of 450 mph.

It's like Roland Emmerich isn't concerned with science at all.

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