MANILA, Philippines?It was decidedly ?mixed emotions? time for us last month when we watched the Chinese docu-drama, ?Super Typhoon.? Initially, we were glad that the full-length feature dealt with an environmental disaster, the megastorm of the movie?s title, and the decisive way that the mayor of a big city in China dealt with it over the span of three days.
On the other hand, the film became a turn-off when it piled one melodramatic scene on top of another to hit viewers where they lived and breathed.
The situations were so over-the-top that they eventually had the opposite effect: Genuine empathy was hard to come by, because the emotional manipulation was so in-your-face.
Another major distraction was the occasionally inept and even funny subtitling, which came up with risible booboos like, ?The storm is going farer and farer away.?
Despite these and other distractions, however, we watched the film from start to finish, because we wanted to see if it offered some valuable lessons on how we can deal with ?monster? typhoons if they come our way. Happily, we were able to get a few key pointers after cutting through the layers of shrill and hysterical melodrama that weigh the movie down:
The film?s resident typhoon expert pointed out that some big storms roar through an area and appear to have done their worst?only to turn around, backtrack and wreak even more damage. Lesson learned: Make sure a storm is really gone before coming out of your shelter and lowering your guard.
Also valuable is the people-centered mindset that the mayor in the movie represents: He decides to release water from a dam that threatens to destroy his prized construction project, just to protect the city?s residents.
Next tip: Pay attention to the patterns set by past storms of commensurate size and power. They can guide you through the progress of a new typhoon and help you anticipate some of its dangerous moves.
Authorities should also realize that they have to be strong and decisive in order to save people?s lives, even if some of those people resist their efforts. And, when all hell breaks loose, everybody has to pitch in and help.
These and other pointers enable us to get over the film?s excesses, some of which are really lush and livid. Just to give one example, there?s a man whose wife is about to give birth on another island, and he screams and cries a major storm of his own to express his fear and frustration.
To make things even more hackneyed, his character is contrasted with an American ?storm chaser? who loves the killer typhoon. The juxtaposition may have looked promising as written, but in the finished film, it?s a dismal dud.