No, it's not the latest summer disaster movie (thank goodness). Jason and I recently watched Titanic and now we are watching one of my favorite movies, Apollo 13. They're both disaster movies, but one is about people dying and the other is about people living. Take away the setting, time period, number of people and that's what the real difference comes down to.
When the HMS Titanic hit an iceberg, the captain basically gave up right then and there. They didn't have enough lifeboats and the Carpathia was four hours away with two and a half hours until the ship sank. He and everyone decided right then and there that nothing could be done. They let lifeboats sail away only partially filled because they had given up.
On the other hand, when the oxygen tanks blew on Apollo 13, the people at NASA decided right then and there to work every problem that came their way. They decided that failure simply was not an option. And in the face of mounting difficulties they kept coming up with ways to rescue three men who were in outer space and they were successful.
Imagine for a moment if the captain of the Titanic had started making some effort to problem solve. What if he had immediately mobilized evacuation efforts? What if he had evacuated all children and their mothers immediately, regardless of class? What if he had put every available crew member and passenger to work breaking up crates and wardrobes to construct as many rafts as possible for everyone else? Sure hindsight is 20/20, but there were things that could have done in the present to save more lives. How many more, no one knows for sure, but certainly more. Giving up was simply a guarantee of more death.
Maybe the difference between disaster and victory has more to do with mindset than circumstances.