I love "trash science" thriller movies. These are films where a scientist-hero or heroine races against time to save the earth from some major disaster. There are some superb movies, and even more terrible ones.
What makes a movie bad? Bad science? No. The science is guaranteed to be bad, no matter what. That's part of the fun! Even the quality of the CGI doesn't correlate. But there are some clues that you are about to get ripped off. Lucky for you, I have performed detailed mathematical modeling on 672.3 thriller films, and have come up with ten signs of a bad science disaster movie. If you count more than five of these scenarios in a film--run!
1. Military personnel are dispatched to collect the dishonored/hermit-like scientist from his house. In fact, collecting a crazy scientist will be the only job of the military. Generals will look concerned and bark random, irrelevant orders. Soldiers will run around. But at the end of the doomsday, it is the scientist, not the military, who will solve the problem.
2. The hero (or heroine) meets up with an ex-spouse, or ex-date, or surprise babymomma or babydaddy. Because "the end of the world" evidently doesn't supply enough drama. Alternatively, a serial killer is on the loose.
3. A TV news host plays a pivotal role in generating suspense. This newswoman or man gives the backstory about the scientific underpinnings of the disaster, and continues to report how the disaster is getting closer and closer, and worse and worse. This allows cheap stock footage of say, ducks swimming in a pond, to be used in the film.
4. A news reporter dies, on camera, due to the disaster. This is the signal for viewers to really start worrying. Alternatively, in disaster movies with a moral message, the smarmy lawyer or greedy CEO dies.
5. Somebody, anybody, drives a Hummer. Because who needs to drive green? The earth is screwed anyway.
6. Scientific modeling can predict, to the second, when the earth will reach the point of no return. A week ago everybody was ignorant of the looming disaster, but now, with a little overnight computer work and plenty of coffee, an explicit ticking clock is generated.
7. No continuity check. The same pole blows down over and over again. The same guy struggles to get out of a swimming pool before it freezes solid.
8. The President of the United States gets his updates on doomsday by watching TV news.
9. No internal consistency in the science: If a black hole can swallow a city, why can't it suck up the helicopter flying above it? If there's no electricity in the world, how can the mainframe computer still work?
10. And the last sign of a bad movie: You actually hope the earth and everybody on it is destroyed, so that humans will be spared watching movies that bad.