Sunday, August 9, 2009

Review: The Day After Tomorrow

One of the quirky habits I picked up from my father is the ability to watch movies on TV whenever they come on even though I own the DVD. On FX, I have caught the film The Day After Tomorrow, the sci-fi apocalyptic flick about the effects of global warming. They edited portions of it and in the FX style, have commercials out of the wazoo. Anyway, I figured I would review it just for fun.

The film was released in 2004. It was directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla), and stars Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Emmy Rossum.

The plot begins with paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Quaid) and his companions on the ice shelfs of Antarctica. Hall senses something is wrong when part of the main shelf breaks off. At a conference in India, he explains his findings and warns of a future 'climate shift' if humans don't stop misbehaving toward the Earth. Around the same time, the weather becomes more volatile - hail in Tokyo, tornados in Los Angeles, and the largest typhoon ever in Australia. After working the models, it looks like the shift is coming, and large hurricane-like winter storms are forming in the Arctic. Meanwhile, Jack's son Sam (Gyllenhaal) is in New York with his quiz bowl team where they get stuck in what is literally a storm for the ages. Jack tries to convince the US government what needs to be done, but the Vice President (Kenneth Walsh) is too stubborn to listen. Eventually, the storm strikes and kills a lot of people. Jack vows to save Sam, who is holed up in the New York Public Library. Overcoming odds, Sam and his friends (Rossum and Arjay Smith) survive the extreme cold and Jack manages to make it to New York by walking. The entire northern hemisphere is now blanketed with white as a new ice age has come to be.

Before I begin to dismantle the weaknesses, let me be clear - I enjoy the film, as cinema, as a way to put away popcorn, and as entertainment. As propaganda, it is so overly heavy-handed in its message that it ought to make any one cringe, even if you do believe in man-made global warming. The heavy-handed approach even boils down to making the sensible President (Perry King) look like Al Gore and the Vice President look like Dick Cheney - these kinds of things don't happen by accident. The science is absolutely non-sensical - global warming causing ice ages (the Jack Hall character tries to explain it, but doesn't pass a sniff test)? The political commentary, which includes 'reverse illegal immigration' and international debt forgiveness, is used as a cudgel. At the end, the Vice President (now President) admits he 'was wrong' - which just strikes me as wish fulfillment on the part of liberals who would have loved for Dick Cheney to start supporting their favorite policy points.

Aside from the political aspects, there were some useless points of the film, such as Lucy Hall (Sela Ward), Jack's estranged wife, who is a oncologist or something similar. Her whole plotline with the kid with cancer could have been eliminated altogether. Conversations about what books should and should not be burned in the Library were also useless, as well as the homeless guy with the dog. The most ridiculous plotline, though, was Sam et al going to a ship frozen outside the Library to find drugs and run into CGI wolves. Yes, CGI wolves!

Now, remember, I like this movie. If you are willing to understand it as entertainment and even sci-fi, then you won't have a problem. If you think that this film will provide you with ammunition against skeptics of global warming, then you will need to go back to the drawing board. Otherwise, enjoy the film and bring the popcorn.

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