The Day After Tomorrow
Eco-disaster porn! And who better to deliver it than go-to predictive-programming purveyor, alleged 33rd-degree freemason – alleged on the degree, rather than being a mason – Roland Emmerich? Not for Roland this “graduating” to serious, adult, Oscar-grab movies of the director (the berg) he’s often credited with ripping off malarkey. No, Emmerich’s quite content to wallow in his pit, the occasional “serious” conspiracy (Anonymous) or personal (the much-derided Stonewall) movie aside. The Day After Tomorrow saw him operating at the peak of his ’70s-disaster-cycle-redux powers, to the tune of half-a-billion dollars gross at the box office. It’s replete with a reliable recipe of B-players and CG-swathe set pieces, a ticking clock to save a precious few, and increasingly risible dialogue. And it is, for a good stretch, more-than-solid entertainment. Greta would, at least in part, be very proud. Her handlers may even have cribbed some of Dennis Quaid’s speeches.
Jack Hall: We found evidence of a cataclysmic climate shift, which occurred about 10,000 years ago. The concentration of these natural greenhouse gases in the ice cores indicates that runaway warming pushed Earth into an ice age which lasted two centuries.
One might even suggest the absurdist science is intentional, so the real scientists can say “No, the movie isn’t accurate, but this is a real danger and…” It seems even NASA wouldn’t cooperate with the production, so excessive were its fancies. Certainly, plundering 1999’s The Coming Global Superstorm for inspiration was never going to get “legitimate” scientific minds on side. Penned by alt-realm superstars – and thus inevitably compromised to some degree, be it by how much they could say or how much they could know – Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, the former having been the reigning compere of the conspirasphere on Coast to Coast AM from the late-80s, and the latter the (in)famous mid-80s Grey-abductee – eliciting the immortal “How dare you!” from Christopher Walken as Strieber’s alter-ego gets his bottom rifled in the movie of Communion – it promulgates all things eco-conscious and thus the coordinated Elite line.
Thus, having fed such notions wholesale to those who might otherwise be suspicious (the alt-minded), the big screen version has a grander scale of consumption in mind. The premise hinges on a new ice age caused by a change in the North Atlantic Current, which “depends upon a balance of salt and freshwater… but no one knows how much freshwater has been dumped into the ocean because of melting polar ice. I think we’ve hit a critical desalinisation point”.
The most recent spell of apocalypse fuel had been beyond man’s control: just plain inevitable (asteroids; aliens; Godzilla). Now, though. We can prevent it. if only we plug the ozone layer stop global warming climate change. Emmerich is upfront about the absurdity of this science, to be fair, since his conceit is built on the idea that warming will creating colding: “Yes, it is a paradox, but global warming can trigger a cooling trend. Let me explain”. You know, in the same way global warming can mean anything you want it to, which is why they rebranded it as climate change.
Emmerich compresses projected timespans of the “science” and generally sexes things up. Massive hail stones in Tokyo. Super tornadoes in LA. Helicopters flash-frozen in Scotland (cue T-1000-stylee pilot’s demise) as three superstorms envelop the northern hemisphere. Naturally, in the face of such momentous events, it becomes necessary to root for a single family to survive, so we have never-quite-superstar-but-not-for-want-of-trying Dennis Quaid on hand as an intrepid paleoclimatologist – just back from Antarctica where all the information gleaned is obviously on the up and up and completely bona fide – on a mission to save his son Jake Gyllenhaal from the New York Public Library. Where he’s being preyed upon by tidal waves, that accursed flash freezing, and ravenous CGI wolves (they’re the worst sort of wolves). Wifey Lucy meanwhile, is a fearless physician attending to the most wholesomely sucrose-rich, terminally-ill child in the face of total destruction.
Most of the movie’s opening stages are precision-engineered, regardless of plausibility. Dennis discovers damning details in the ice. The bastard Vice President (Kenneth Welsh) won’t credit his warning as legit, but super-reliable oceanographer Ian Holm lends anecdotal support. Anomalies and alarming events accumulate, and before you know it, the world’s gone to hell in a frozen-food-section handcart.
Emmerich’s at his best with this kind of mayhem, and he deserves credit for his attention to the CGI, which – those wolves aside – still looks pretty good. Flying cars! Flattened reporters! Shredded Hollywood signs! The creeping death is a neat, horror-movie tactic – Jake’s outrunning it to reach safety in a classically over-contrived sequence where he must locate penicillin to aid stricken Emmy Rossum and avoid those CGI wolves eating him – of the kind Shyamalan failed to emulate with wind in The Happening.
Dad Dennis sets out to save son, because he’s an idiot, accompanied by Jay O Sanders and Dash Mihok – because hey, why not, they don’t value their own lives. Miraculously, or not, Dennis makes it. And miraculously, a little bit, Bunky does too. The ISS is on hand to deliver authentic NASA space and confirm the storm’s passage across globe Earth. If you’re going to sell the lie, go all out. Indeed, there’s a theme of book burning – ‘You can’t burn books!” – for survival, which is essentially saying: forget about what you know, because you soon won’t know it any more, come the reset (the first printed Bible is nominally preserved from the bonfire, but since that’s already been rewritten, it’s by the by).
Vice President: When do you think this could happen, professor? When?
Jack Hall: I don’t know. Maybe in 100 years, maybe in 1000. But what I do know is that if we do not act soon, our children and grandchildren will have to pay the price.
Vice President: And who’s going to pay the price of the Kyoto Accord? It would cost the world’s economy hundreds of billions of dollars.
Jack Hall: With all due respect, Mr Vice President, the cost of doing nothing could be even higher. Our climate is fragile. At the rate we’re burning fossil fuels and polluting the environment, the ice caps will soon disappear.
Vice President: Professor Hall, our economy is every bit as fragile as the environment. Perhaps you should keep that in mind before making sensationalist claims.
Jack Hall: Well, the last chunk of ice that broke off was about the size of Rhode Island. Some people might call that pretty sensational.
Emmerich, who contributed $200,000 of his own funds to ensure the production was carbon neutral, has a couple of “trump cards” in his “This is a real threat, popcorn poppers” arsenal. There’s a strangely mismatched President and VP. The former, played by Perry King, is open to Dennis’ portends of doom and just happens to bear a very convenient resemblance to Al Gore. Like Al Gore – who didn’t, at all – he doesn’t remain President for very long, and venal capitalist, Dick Cheney-alike Welsh takes over the office. Emmerich makes a very explicit rebuke of anyone disdaining the Kyoto agreement (this is, of course, political smoke and mirrors, since the trajectory is signed, stamped and sealed decades in advance).
News Reporter: Just half an hour ago, Mexican officials closed the border in the light of so many U.S. refugees who are fleeing south in the wake of the approaching storm. And now, in a dramatic reversal of illegal immigration, thousands of people are crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico.
He isn’t stopping there either. How dare the US have an immigration policy? How would they like it, were the shoe on the other foot? And, when the Deagel.com forecasts come to pass, so it will be! Mexico closes the border on rampaging US citizens, only reconsidered for the kind of economic reasons the VP is earlier harping on (“This is only possible because the President was able to negotiate a deal to forgive all Latin American debt in exchange for opening the border”).
Vice President: These past few weeks have left us all with a profound sense of humility in the face of nature’s destructive power. For years, we operated under the belief that we could continue consuming our planet’s natural resources without consequence. We were wrong. I was wrong. The fact that my first address to you comes from a consulate on foreign soil is a testament to our changed reality. Not only Americans but people all around the globe are now guests in the nations we once called the Third World. In our time of need, they have taken us in and sheltered us. And I am deeply grateful for their hospitality. Repentant.
This elicits a dramatic comedown of the chagrined former VP, now a grateful President, in the final scene; he even attempts to feign good cheer that Jack survived. Of course, the Ice Age itself is a made-up thing (those frozen mammoths are most likely the results of the 1700 Event). And if we haven’t seen devastating weather events on a mass scale, that’s probably because such an impact was considered counterproductive, rather than because there was no facility to achieve them (HAARP and its scalar capabilities can service you an earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, cold snap or hot spell, drought or flood, take your pick. And if you want overwhelming fiery devastation and there’s no HAARP on hand, how about a few DEWs?) The Day After Tomorrow celebrates after mass depopulation and redefinition and redistribution of wealth and national status. If that wasn’t planned through sudden seismic weather shifts, make no mistake that it was planned.
Jack Hall: Mankind survived the last Ice Age. We’re certainly capable of surviving this one. All depends on whether or not we’re able to learn from our mistakes.
Emmerich would be back half-a-decade later with his greatest apocalypse stopper – most recently, the Moon plopping into the Earth proved a financial damp squib – one which also drew a line under his cachet for prescribing public tastes. Indeed, his movies were generally dismissed by critics, lapped up by the public and then summarily forgotten by the public. Which is, pretty much, what happened with the ’70s disaster cycle. Doubtless we’ll survive the next cycle too.