It's almost summertime. And the movies are about to get LOUD.
Unlike Oscar season, when death and destruction mean agony and tears, during the warmer months, when all of humanity — or iconic symbol, big building or favored character — faces annihilation, we break out the popcorn and cheer.
The White House shattering in "Independence Day," the giant wave overtaking the small boat in "The Perfect Storm," the Joker's fiery leveling of the hospital in "The Dark Knight." All were summer moments to relish.
Among the titles packed with fire and falling debris over the next few months: J.J. Abrams' reboot of "Star Trek," with whole planets consumed by cosmic weaponry; Quentin Tarantino's World War II camp-fest "Inglourious Basterds," blowing up the placid French countryside; the fantasy soldier saga "GI Joe;" and sequels to "Transformers," "Terminator" and "X-Men," which threaten to wipe out life on Earth.
Why is the end of the world so fun?
It's a question barely worth asking, says director Michael Bay, nicknamed "Bayhem" by the crew on his "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" set. "Summertime, ever since our childhood, it has been ingrained in us that we're not going to school, and we can have fun, relax."
Though McG, who directs "Terminator Salvation," has a more cerebral take: "We like to be faced with our demise and see how ultimately we can turn it all around. It's a classic attraction/repulsion dynamic of the human condition."
There's one big catch, points out Steven Zeitchik, senior writer for The Hollywood Reporter. It works only if the threat seems unbelievable. "Movie threats are safe and removed from day-to-day existence," he says. "We're not really worried about Romulans destroying the galaxy 400 years from now."
Summer wasn't always about so much destruction, says Joel Silver, the producer behind such franchises as "Die Hard" and "The Matrix." "When I came to Hollywood, I saw them filming The Towering Inferno, and they were using miniatures back then. Now CGI makes it more real."
And the size of summer audiences makes special effects worth the investment. "Every weekday in the summer is like a weekend the rest of the year," says Silver, whose contribution to chaos this year is horror thriller "Orphan."
Abrams, who also created "Lost" and "Alias," says action spectacle movies work best when the storytellers cater to their own instincts rather than try to please some anonymous ticket buyer.
"If you approach from that thrill of desperately wanting to see this thing, you get those chills, that feeling of almost wanting to laugh because an idea is so emotional or exciting," he says.
The only problem: "There's no guarantee anyone's going to give a damn."
Contributing: Susan Wloszczyna