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June 01, 2004

A Chilly Reception

As disaster movies go, The Day After Tomorrow, is too lighthearted to be taken seriously. Forget what people say about the science. Forget the ham-handed messages. Forget the stereotypes, gratuitous holes and the throwaway acting. Hmm. Maybe this whole thing will be forgotten. But the thing that kills me about this flick is all the goodness. Everybody in the film reveals their essential goodness in the face of disaster except for the evil politicians. Puhlease, it's never too cold for people to loose their morals. No riots? No panic? No murders of convenience? No looting? Not even one snowmobile? What kind of disaster flick is that? If society doesn't come apart, what's the sence of watching? Where's the entertainment value?

Oh wait, this is supposed to be a political flick. Sheesh.

It's a typical jab by liberals that politicians are stupid because they don't listen to scientists. It's true enough, but the politicians in this flick were so stupid that they didn't realize something was up when LA got destroyed by 4 or 5 tornadoes. Critics who ripped into 'Independence Day' for it's willingness to make audiences cheer the White House exploding. But when you can't accomplish politics by normal means, it's always nice to pull some Leviathan out. Emmerich pursues world peace. Uh Oh.

There's a Hobbesian Leviathan in this film too. Instead of it being some alien species making America look silly, it's mother nature. I'm not going to knock Emmerich for doofus, implausible pseudo-science; it's a fantasy film. But he fails miserably in his preaching even by science fiction standards. In that way this film falls far short of the level established by 'Contact' which actually did government vs science vs religion on one neat package.

Emmerich tried to tone down effect of the special effects and pump up the human drama by doing the old Finding Nemo theme, but it didn't really work. In that regard, these storms were hardly a match for human drama evoked by 'The Perfect Storm'. We wanted more storm! There was just too much not covered. Emmerich really should have gone for bigger and more global destruction. So much of the commentary 'and Europe and Asia are getting big storms too' should have been filled in graphically. I was waiting for the equivalent of the huge meteor hitting downtown Paris that one of those metor movies gave us a few years back. No such luck. In the end, we just wanted to see more things freeze.

For the parts delivered, they were juicy. Almost nobody thinks about microwave freezing, temperatures so bitterly cold and rapid that they could freeze your body in mid step. A whole film on dealing with the cold itself instead of the politics of global warming could have made this as good as Twister. Formulaic for sure, but entertainingly formulaic. Instead of making interesting observations about cold or its effects on people or the environment, our crew of scientists in their arctic gear navigate with a handheld GPS and collapse haplessly in the snow. Hell, anybody could have done that. Aside from the weather, being deadly, we get some CG wolves terrorizing plucky heroes. They were decently rendered but decidedly un-wolflike in their hunting tactics and behavior.

DAT was ultimately entertaining enough just for the concept. You are really afraid of the cold, and the I haven't gotten the same kind of goosebumps of seeing NYC thrashed since, well, Godzilla 2000. Even for an LA native, it was rather cool to see the goofy stereotyped LA airheads get smashed up. (Doesn't anybody care about what happens to Chicago any longer?) The hailstorms were cool. But there should have been some rivers overflowing, a train wreck or two.. Like I said, a bit too much time was spent with on the smarmy charm of the good guys and not enough on people losing their freaking minds and getting smashed in cinematically stylish fashion.

This is one of those films that you basically need to see on the big screen because there's not enough in it to be satisfying at normal levels of volume. Go ahead and waste your bucks, at least its not another 100,000 man army meeting on an epic field of battle...

P.S. The film gets an A- for it's rendering of African American (men) in the flick. There are more than a token number, they play good and bad and indifferent roles. Nicely transparent.

Posted by mbowen at June 1, 2004 04:01 PM

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You forget the Hollywood and New Your elite consider the midwest "just the flyover states"

Posted by: Craig at June 1, 2004 04:38 PM