(This review came out in May 24, 2004. It’s one of my personal favorites and I’m reposting it in conjunction with Time Magazine’s recent special issue on global warming. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t written the last paragraphs of the review so ominously. As stated on the cover of the said Time issue, “Be Worried. Be VERY worried.”)
Review by Vives Anunciacion
The Day After Tomorrow
Written and Directed by Roland Emmerich
Starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Sela Ward
PG13 / 124 minutes
20th Century Fox
“Urgent: HQ Direction,” began a message e-mailed on April 1 to dozens of scientists and officials at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with (the film),” said the message, sent by Goddard’s top press officer. “Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA.” (New York Times, April 25 2004)
The film in contest is Roland Emmerich’s US$125-million The Day After Tomorrow. In recent weeks, NASA has decided to help discuss the issues of climate change, stemming from the public interest raised by the film. The New York Times reports last May 12 that environmental advocates in the US are using the film’s release as an opening to slam the Bush administration’s policies on global warming. While in Washington a coalition of industry groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, is working to make sure that the movie does not contribute to the passage of a bill limiting carbon-dioxide emissions.
The Day After Tomorrow is a sensationalized, science fiction account of sudden climate change and the instantaneous shift to the ice age brought about by global warming and greenhouse gases. In the movie, a gigantic superstorm threatens to wipe out the entire northern hemisphere and send the earth to the next ice age. Paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) teams up with a number of scientists worldwide to warn the White House of the imminent danger, which like in all disaster flicks, gets ignored. Meanwhile, his son (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is trapped in New York where the eye of the superstorm is headed.
After Independence Day, director Roland Emmerich comes up with another spectacular reason why we should be scared of our future. In The Day After Tomorrow, it’s The End Of The World As We Know It. TEOTWAWKI. Tornadoes wipe out Los Angeles, hailstones batter Tokyo and snow falls heavily in India.
The movie is swarming with plotholes and is a conglomeration of previous disaster movies like The Perfect Storm, Towering Inferno and even Titanic. Characters are so ordinary they’re practically forgettable, until you realize that in situations like these, no one gets to be a superstar. In that sense, everyone acts out what was needed sufficiently. Even Ian Holm’s brief screentime ends poignantly – you get to miss his character at the end of the film. This is Emmerich’s most emotional spectacle, if it means anything.
There are a number of spectacular effects sequences. But most enjoyable are the numerous potshots thrown against US foreign policy, conspicuous consumption and greed for energy. This movie surprisingly turns out to be a rallypoint for Third World Agenda and environmental sensitivity. In a curious paradigm shift, this Hollywood summer movie shows a tornado wiping out the famous Hollywood sign in California.
However, it must be stressed that a lot of things in this movie aren’t supported by scientific fact. Climate change simply cannot happen that fast. But one illustration of sudden climate change is shown in this movie which was also discussed by National Geographic – that of the remains of a Mammoth instantly frozen while grazing. Incidentally, the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica featured in the opening scene, really did break off and fall into the sea in March 2002, a few weeks after Emmerich wrote the scene in the movie.
Implausible may be many of the events in this movie, it is hard to ignore the signs that the world’s weather is going awry. The Day After Tomorrow is fictional grand entertainment not in any way near the truth, thankfully. Pray to God it stays that way for a long, long time.
And start being mindful of greenhouse gases, just in case.