There has been a spurt of science fiction movies in Hollywood since 1990s. At a time when concept of artificial intelligence and robots are no longer a dream, it is only human nature to explore what lies ahead. A close look from the last two decades of the twentieth century reveals that human society has become more and more robotic. Advanced technologies in the form of computer and internet have opened newer possibilities to connect and interpret. At the same time, there is an increasing threat from climate change. Increased carbon dioxide emission due to industrialization and technological progress has made global warming a real threat. Just like the 1950s and 1960s when dangers from nuclear war and fascination with UFOs (Unidentified Flying Object) led many science fiction movies produced on the theme (such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in 1968), so is the case in the last decade or so with global warming. Scientists, writers, and movie directors have all shown considerable interest in exploring the aftermath of the event of global warming. ‘Day After Tomorrow’ by Roland Emmerich is one such movie, which according to Lichtenfeld, takes us from the ‘Cold War’ to a ‘War on Cold.’ (Wildmoon; Leiserowitz, 23)
The blog discusses the different aspects of this science fiction movie with a note of impending warning to the society. Before moving into details and analysis of the movie, it would be beneficial if a brief introduction of the people associated with this film is given in a tabular form.
|Facts of the Movie|
|Date of Release||May 28, 2004|
|Writing Credits||Roland Emmerich (story)Roland Emmerich and Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Screenplay)|
|Supervising Art Director||Claude Pare|
|Co-Producer||Thomas M. Hammel|
|Associate Producer||Lawrence Inglee|
|Executive Producer||Kelly Van Horn|
|Dennis Quaid||As Jack Hall|
|Jake Gyllenhaal||As Sam Hall|
|Emmy Rossum||As Laura Chapman|
|Dash Mihok||As Jason Evans|
The movie shows the devastating consequence of climate change that may appear to many as just a fantasy. In the movie, there are scenes of abrupt breakdown of the Greenland ice sheet, producing a 1000-feet- high tsunami smashing into New York. The movie was one of the most successful box office hit and did generate another wave of discussion over the issue of climate change.
The movie narrates the tale of Jack Hall (climatologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) as he survives the breakdown of a colossal ice shelf flouting off Antarctica and returns to his work with a warning about the chances of a sudden and sharp climate change because of global warming. Few weeks after Dr. Hall has submitted his theory, scientists at North Atlantic thermohaline circulation system find that the system is briskly closing down. Thermohaline Circulation (THC) denotes part of the extensive ocean circulation that is driven by density gradients generated by surface temperature and freshwater fluidity. There are some conjectures that global warming might, by way of a slowdown or shutdown, activate localized freezing in the North Atlantic and lead to cooler temperature in that region, particularly affecting regions that are warmed by North Altantic drift (Ireland, Britain and Nordic countries in particular). After analyzing trends of the climate of the geologic past through his paleoclimatic computer model, Hall predicts that the ‘world is on the verge of a major climate shift’. Initially, Dr. Hall predicts that melting polar ice caps will lead to a shutdown and drastically cool the climate in 100 years or so. He tries to warn the American vice president but is ignored. Perhaps, forecasted timeline was too long for the U.S. President Blake (performed by Perry King) and his corporate-friendly vice president (performed by Dick Cheney look-alike Kenneth Welsh) to take any action.
In the meantime, extreme weather events start to happen throughout the world, including snow storms in New Delhi, grapefruit-sized hail falling in Tokyo, hurricanes obliterating the town center of Los Angeles, and dense ice covering in Scotland. Using his computer model, Hall predicts three mammoth cyclones will develop around Northern Hemisphere, which would rapidly tug sub-zero air from the upper troposphere and precipitously ice-bound everything that comes in between. This would lead to a new ice age. Dr. Hall is called to brief US president about what can be done to address this mounting serious threat. Hall marks an east-west line through the center of the US. He advises that everyone should be shifted to Mexico. This happens after US president clears Mexico of all its public debts against US. In the meantime, Hall’s 17-year-old son (performed by Jake Gyllenhaal), who is in Manhattan for a scholarly pursuit, escapes a tidal wave. He along with his friends takes refuge in the New York Public Library. Here the movie depicts how people are burning books to warm them as the ice age has begun. The choice of burning books by Director is important as it denotes reckless use of natural products by human beings could possibly lead to such natural calamity. Dr. Hall takes on the rescue mission with two pals in a van.. And as Hall moves fast to save, his wife, Dr. Lucy (performed by Sela Ward), is engaged in heroism, rescuing patients in a deserted D.C. hospital. The end of the movie covers Dr. Hall defying cold Antarctic climate in order to reach New York to save his son, signifying victory of human will over all odds.
According to Ebert, ‘special effects’ have an ‘awesome scale’ such that movie ‘works’ in spite of its ‘cornball plotting.’ For instance, sequence of events showing picturesquely presidential plane facing serious threat from the ice as it flies amidst snowstorm. However, Ebert doubts whether ‘cataclysm’ (if it comes because of global warming) would come like this. Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2006, therefore, calls the movie ‘silly.’ (Leiserowitz, 2004, 22-24; Ebert, 155, 2005)
Lichtenfeld in his book ‘Action speaks louder: violence, spectacle, and the American action movie’ opines that Director Emmerich is perhaps ‘blasting’ White House. Emmerich is a known environmentalist and Green Party activist who is frustrated with corporate interest taking over environmental issues under President George W. Bush Jr. rule. The movie under discussion is a liberal category film that taunts Bush regime for its indifference over climate change. According to McMillan, the consequence of US’s massive energy consumption is melting the Arctic ice-cap that could destabilize the global climate. The movie focuses on the alleged aggressive US government’s energy policy that ignores warnings from ‘National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’ about global warming (Lichtenfeld, 230; McMillan, 425).
Chicago Tribune calls Director Emmerich both ‘hero and villain,’ because of executing with ‘enormous visual panache and rich imagination – after providing himself with scripts and characters so thin’. Beyond their roles, Quaid, Gyllenhaal, and Rossum are no less appreciable indeed. Chicago Tribune, instead of blaming actors questions why Director Emmerich does not hire ‘co-writers’ as ‘imaginative’ as his ‘visual technicians.’ (Wilmington)
According to an article in Geology Today, more often than not ‘rational campaigners’ and ‘environmentalists’ appreciated this movie as they felt it on their own side while realizing the dangers of global warming. Like the movie The China Syndrome (1979) and following real accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, there generated serious debate in U.S. over the issue of nuclear plant safety worldwide (Leiserowitz, 24; Geology Today, 50).
At present time, there are conflicting views between scientists, politicians, and general public over the seriousness of the issue of climate change and how to address it. As a consequence, even before the movie Day After Tomorrow made its debut on May 28, 2004, it generated an intensive media discussion. Director Roland Emmerich presents a possibility of swift and lethal could-be effect of gradual climate change for which the movie did face some criticism. However, the movie does meet the qualities of a good science fiction. It manages to take the audience to a different time and world; one needs to give credit to the director’s imagination in portraying the events unfolding through the scenes of the film in such a manner while depicting the impact of global warming.
Discussing above movie by someone who operates Toronto boat tours may appear irrelevant at first sight. However, awareness towards natural environment would also affect our business of organizing cruises from Toronto harbor in indirect ways. Sightseeing in Toronto through our cruises would be much better in qualitative terms if water bodies through which we run are fresh and do not suffer threats that could be the result of artificial human action not good for the ecological interest.
- Leiserowitz, Anthony A. “Before and After The Day After Tomorrow: A U.S. Study of Climate Change Risk Perception.” Environment. 46.9 (Nov. 2004): 22-37.
- Lichtenfeld, Eric. Action speaks louder: violence, spectacle, and the American action movie. Wesleyan University Press, 2007.
- IMBD (2011) The Day After Tomorrow (2004). June 21, 2011 from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319262/.
- Beware of false prophets – The Day After Tomorrow, Geology Today 21.2 (March/April 2005): 51-52
- Ebert, Roger (2006). Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2006. Andrews McMeel Publishing.
- Mc Millan, Barry. “24 Frames”, The Furrow 55.7/8, (July-August 2004) 425-427.
- Wildmoon, K.C. Space sleepovers more science fiction than fact. CNN, 30 April. 2001, June 21, 2011 from http://edition.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/04/30/russia.spacetourists/.
- Wilmington, Michael. Review for ‘The Day After Tomorrow.’ Chicago Tribune, 6 June 2007. June 21, 2011 from: http://events.austin360.com/reviews/show/7753-review-the-day-after-tomorrow