Remember all the movies that got altered, delayed or canned altogether because of September 11? The fallout from the US terrorist attacks was felt in Hollywood as much as anywhere else, and executives, producers and investors alike must have been cursing Al Qaeda as loudly as the rest of America for entirely different reasons.
Suddenly, entire genres of films were rendered obsolete by their insensitivity. Films where a single hero saves the world from evil terrorists (like Scwarzenegger vehicle Collateral Damage) seemed purely insulting; how could Hollywood producers remind us of the fictional heroes who — as September 11 made painfully aware — don’t exist?
Anything with even a hint of terrorism in the script was hushed up, changed or shelved. A similar rash of movies that dealt with (previously passe) now politically and emotionally explosive devices were affected. The original script of the Barry Sonnenfeld comedy Big Trouble dealt with a bomb on a plane. It was hurriedly changed and its release delayed for up to a year, whereupon it sank like a stone at the box office. Who wants to be in charge of marketing a movie about a plane hijacking at the moment?
In the explosion of late 90’s CG-driven adventure thrillers, suddenly our deepest fears could come to life. Comets? Meteors? Tornadoes? Aliens blowing up cities? Studios could serve them all up with orgasmic gusto.
In fact, you’ve even got to wonder if Hollywood culture had something to do with the perpetrators deciding to pick New York for the September 11 attacks — it had been damaged, leveled or otherwise destroyed in no fewer than five films in the previous few years.
In Independence Day (1996), the alien craft picks the Empire State Building as the focal point for its superweapon to wipe New York clean. In Deep Impact (1998), the mile-high tidal wave the comet sends hurtling across the globe bears down on New York, knocking the State of liberty off her pedestal before sweeping through Manhattan (ironically, people on top of the World Trade Centre towers are high enough to survive).
In Godzilla (1998), army pilots trying to kill the giant lizard miss and destroy the iconic cone of the Chrysler building (plenty of other structures are scraped, trashed or destroyed in ensuing battles).
Armageddon (1998) sees the Big Apple under the onslaught of a meteor shower. The Chrysler Building again cops it, having its nose smashed off in a billowing cloud of fire. More disturbingly, people who’ve jumped or fallen are depicted in horrific detail. The scene concludes with a panning view of New York in ruins, on fire, and with holes through buildings — including the World Trade Centre.
And Artificial Intelligence (2001), released in Australia just days before September 11, depicts an abandoned New York of the far future — skyscrapers having crumbled and fallen and the twin towers we’d all watch crumble on the news in the days ahead still standing.
No wonder we all thought we’d switched on the TV that morning in the middle of The Movie Show with a segment about the latest disaster blockbuster to hit screens. Who else would think of terrorists flying planes into buildings but a Hollywood producer and his team of CG engineers?
In the following weeks, as every sector of the world economy (including Hollywood) reeled, it seemed that short period in history — of showing the destruction of cities and the death of thousands in gleeful detail — was over.
But take heart. We can now confirm that nothing’s changed. They haven’t destroyed the American way of life. We can forget those irritating distractions like the three thousand corpses still buried in downtown Manhattan, the truth about how the rest of the world sees America and her current stewardship and those awkward questions; why do we have to bomb two Muslim countries in response to the actions of a band of zealots hiding in the Afghani desert?
We can turn our attention back to what matters now; whether Britney and Justin are going to get back together, finally saving a few cents a litre in petrol again, and making movies where world landmarks full of innocent people are killed in colossal CG explosions or tidal waves.
Yes friends, Hollywood has had its minute of respectful, reflective silence. The entertainment industries have collected big stars to do tribute shows and albums, the TV movie rights are in the can — I think we all agree those poor development executives in Hollywood has paid enough in lost profits.
In the coming weeks you’ll start to see marketing for a new Paramount disaster movie called The Core. It deals with the Earth’s core having ground to a halt because of military weapons testing — now creating freak weather conditions the world over.
There’s an advertising leaflet for the movie in some cinemas in the form of a newspaper, complete with bios on the crew of the drilling machine that will save us all and the effects of the catastrophe around the world.
Also included are exciting production photos of the Colosseum exploding across a plaza of terrified tourists and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge just after its collapse, complete with cars and wreckage strewn across the water.
Thank God everything’s back to normal.