June 1, 2004, on this blog: The Dog Rule
Simply stated, the Dog Rule holds that no good movie seeks a larger emotional response from the survival of a dog than from the casual death of a dozen or more people.
The rule was devised after watching an earlier Roland Emmerich opus, Independence Day. In that film, evil space aliens attack the earth. The audience sees New York City and Los Angeles destroyed. While little of this mass destruction is on a human scale, the explosions and fireballs make it clear that millions of people have just been killed and that the audience may be witnessing the highest-ever cinematic death toll (depending on how many people lived on Alderaan).
Then Emmerich cuts to a highway tunnel near L.A. where Vivica Fox, a cute little kid and a golden retriever are trapped in an unmoving line of cars attempting to flee the city. Fox and the little boy duck into a maintenance tunnel just as another fireball shoots up the road, casually dispatching hundred of people still trapped in their cars. In slow motion, we see the golden retriever leap to safety and the audience cheers.