Why Do Movies Always Want to Destroy New York City?

Hollywood on the Hudson sure takes a beating, and The Avengers is no exception



In a weekend thick with big pop-culture and other attention-grabbing events, The Avengers still managed to dominate, walking away with the title of Best Opening Weekend of All Time. The movie made a little more than $200 million, soundly trouncing the previous record-holder, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and its $169 million opening-weekend haul.

If you were one of the billion people who saw it over the weekend, you’d know that (minor spoilers) the climax takes place on the doorstep of Grand Central Terminal, under the watchful gaze of the statue of Staten Island’s Cornelius Vanderbilt (who once ran a ferry service in Peekskill, in addition to the Staten Island Ferry). Having done a little bit of research on Grand Central recently, at first I was excited.

But then I got to thinking: Haven’t I seen this before? Even though it was my first time seeing The Avengers, something about large-scale destruction of New York City looked... familiar. Maybe because the exact same spot got smashed up in that not-so-great Godzilla remake in 1998 — or was that the meteors that came crashing through the Grand Central ceiling in Armageddon that same year? Or was I thinking of I Am Legend, which also filmed in Grand Central? Or it could be that I was recalling New York City’s destruction in Deep Impact, Cloverfield, Independence Day — it seems every movie from King Kong to Ghostbusters wants a piece of New York City.

I get it. New York City has really recognizable landmarks and buildings that really make an impact when they’re shown demolished by some sort of super-sized threat. (The end of Planet of the Apes would not have been quite the same if George Taylor stumbled across the Hollywood sign in the sand.) I’ve also been told by people better versed in comic books that the Marvel universe is closely tied to New York City, so it’s a fitting place for the Avengers to make their final stand.

Still, I think there's a certain laziness at work here — not from The Avengers specifically, but Hollywood in general. By now, I think I’ve seen every building in New York City destroyed on film, be it by alien, asteroid, flood, monster, or marauders. Let’s try and find some other city to destroy, shall we?

Kudos to the movies that already have. I’m not a huge fan of the Transformers, but I did get a kick out of seeing Chicago get mangled by robots for once. Speaking of apes, it was especially cool to see the primates let loose on the Bay Area in California during Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

For that matter, why do movies always destroy cities? Let’s have some giant monster traipsing up the Hudson River, taking out the Tappan Zee or the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

What local landmark would you want to see destroyed? Let me know in the comments.

Note: Other than my one complaint, I really did love The Avengers. If you haven’t seen it yet and you plan on doing so, make sure to stay until the very, very end of the credits.

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Marisa LaScala

Marisa LaScala
Elmsford, NY


Associate Editor Marisa LaScala joined Westchester magazine in 2003, and ever since she's blown every paycheck at the Greenburgh Multiplex. She also staunchly defends Richard Kelly, doesn't mind spoiling the endings of trashy movies you're curious about but don't want to pay to see, wishes the Hold Steady would come back and rock out Westchester, misses Arrested Development more than anyone can imagine, and still watches cartoons and Saturday Night Live. You can find more of her cultural criticism at www.popmatters.com, where she is a staff writer.

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