Last week I wrote about “bad science” movies and mentioned The Day After Tomorrow, a 2004 “climate science fiction/disaster” film. In this expanded post I first thought about adding it to my Guilty Pleasures, but given that it grossed over $550 million, I quickly discarded that idea. Here is a brief overview of this movie, one of my all-time favorites, with no spoiler alert.
THIS YEAR, A SWEATER WON’T DO
Seriously, that was one of the taglines for the film. I preferred “Nature Has Spoken.” Paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) and his team are taking samples on an ice shelf in Antarctica when a piece of it breaks off, the rift nearly swallowing them. Jack later mentions that a piece “the size of Rhode Island” had once broken away from the same ice shelf. This is true; it happened in 2002-2003.
Later, while addressing a world climate conference, Jack says the model he’s created indicates that climate change could plunge the planet into a new ice age in 100 years or less. The U.S. vice president, a science denier and all-around asshole, dismisses the prediction.
But when severe drops in the ocean temperature occur in the North Atlantic, Jack realizes that his long-range estimates are of a shorter range…like, the day after tomorrow? There are multiple tornadoes in Los Angeles, hailstorms in Tokyo, and minus 150°F drops in temperature in the UK, which flash freezes three helicopter crews. Nasty business.
HANGING OUT AT THE LIBRARY
Superstorms begin to form, including one over New York City, where Jack’s son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), and his friends had been participating in an academic decathlon. Avoiding tidal waves and about a million feet of snow they take refuge in the main library, where Sam manages to get through to his dad in Washington D.C. Jack tells Sam to stay put, that he’ll come to the Big Apple to rescue him. But not before Jack convinces the U.S. president to order evacuations of the southern half of the country to Mexico. The upper half? Well, they will just have to try and stay warm against the deep freeze. Yeah, right…
Jack and his team manage to make it to Pennsylvania on snow-choked roads, before they can drive no farther. Break out the snowshoes! Yeah, they’re going to walk the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Sam and the others in the library are burning books to keep warm. But one of those minus 150°F temperature drops is on its way to menace all of them. Hoo boy!
Oh yes, The Day After Tomorrow is way over the top, and the science is definitely dubious. But it is an exciting film, and it does serve to issue a warning about the dangers of denying climate change. I’m glad this country is back in the Paris Accord. My grandchildren deserve a better fate than the one presented in this film.