Sunday, May 30, 2004

Dude get your board! Mondo waves on the loose!

The movie The Day After Tomorrow was the one movie me and my friends were looking forward to as early as February. The sight of tidal waves, hurricanes, tornadoes, and a frozen New York City held a promise that this movie is definitely going to be worth our while. And it does deliver right from the start till the requisite rescue of stranded loved ones. The premise for this movie was lifted off a real phenomenon going around globally so it adds a creepy possibility of what might happen in the future.

The movie starts with a trio of climatologists, Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), Jason Evans (Dash Mihok), and Frank Harris (Jay O. Sanders) experiencing a near death experience during a not so normal breakdown of a huge ice shelf they were camping on somewhere up North. This prompted Jack to address the issue of a possible Ice Age resulting from a wacked out treatment of the environment before a UN meeting in Dubai. The news was met with mixed reactions from the delegates and he was even arrogantly rebutted by the Vice President of the United States. A fellow scientist by the name of Terry Rapson (Ian Holm) believed in his theory and told him of his findings regarding the shifting of tides in the Atlantic that's affecting the weather all over the world. In the meantime, Jack has to contend with his own son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) who's now openly rebelling to his father's constant absence in the family. He was flying to New York at the time for a National Debate Championship and Jack took some time off to spend some quality time at least on the way to the airport. With the majors players all in place it was now time to step up the drama by accelerating the projected Ice Age from about a thousand years to a week. Unusually strong hurricanes blew inland, hailstorms with ice bigger than a baseball fell on the hapless residents of Tokyo, five tornadoes swept through Los Angeles decimating half of the city and its residents. Of course, as is the norm with disaster movies or any flick that has to do with the massacre of innocents, those in authority were naturally skeptical with everything that's happening even if they all had the evidence staring them at the face. Severe ice storms began developing in Europe and to the horror of the people watching, a funnel of extreme cold began to develop around the eye of the storm dropping temperatures to about 13 degrees per minute, freezing everything and everyone unfortunate enough to be caught in its path (including the royal family who never knew what hit them, shades of King Ralph here). After freezing the whole of Europe, two new ice funnels began developing around Siberia and the United States with New York set in its deadly sight. So the rest of the story is told through Jack's and Sam's experiences as they try to survive long enough to find each other and go home with the other refugees.

Not a lot of people think that this movie is that great, but I beg to differ. Director Ronald Emmerich manages to redeem himself this time after bringing Godzilla to New York ("One order of tsunami to wash away all traces of bad movie making please."). The effects were spectacular and the central characters add human faces that heighten the drama. In some way, I like it in the same way other movies with catastrophic themes like Deep Impact and Titanic. With that said, I have here with me five points I picked up that was consciously or unconsciously scattered througout the whole movie:

1. Providence prepares a person all his/her life for one great moment. You may also call it God's sovereignity at work. Jack Hall was prepared throughout all those years working in the North Pole as a paleoclimatologist for the coming disaster. He, of all people, was the only one to predict and warn the people of the coming Ice Age. Sure, his work tore him away from his family, but those years weren't spent for nothing. All those years of "training" paid off when he got the opportunity to set things right once and for all with his son's life was put in danger.

2. Atheists don't hold fast to their beliefs in the face of death. Simply put they don't have anything to hold on to because they have been fighting dogma and Christian theology for the better part of their lives, resigning to the realm of fairy tales and childish fantasies. Friedrich Nietzsche's fan in the movie was last seen holding on to dear life to the Gutenberg Bible under the excuse that it being the a symbol for the dawning of the age of reason. That statement was dripping so much with irony.

3. Make sure that what you do figures greatly in light of eternity. "Everything I've ever cared about, everything I've worked for, it's all been in preparation for a future that no longer exists. I know you always thought I took the competition too seriously. You were right. It was all for nothing." Laura Chapman (Emmy Rossum) regretfully says to Sam in the middle of their "imprisonment" inside the New York Public Library. She took the competition too seriously and when it was taken a way from her, she had nothing to show to anyone. Stop doing stuff that glorify yourself and do something worthwhile that would help others and glorify that Someone higher than you.

4. Powerful nations aren't as invincible as they think they are. This was a powerful point in the movie and it was quite a delicious come-uppance that what the President of Mexico did to the Americans fleeing to their borders seeking sanctuary from the killer cold. By the end of the movie, almost half of the upper half of the equator is snowed in. People from the First and second World Countries humbled themselves before those belonging to the Third World and sought shelter. The resulting mass exodus could have propelled the economies of these countries sky high.

5. The Biblical idea of a global flooding and "Noah's Ark" echoed throughout the entire movie. Everybody's familiar with the story of Noah calling out to his neighbors and everyone who'd care to listen, about the impending catastrophe that would engulf those caught outside the place of safety. Jack Hall is this modern Noah warning the UN about an upcoming Ice Age. His son Sam is also a type of Noah who heeded his father's warning to stay inside the building along with the others. And he also warned the others about the second part of the storm that could kill those caught outside. In all cases, only a few cared to listen. Incidentally, creationists (including myself) believe the global flood preceded the Ice Age just like in the movie.

Has anyone also noticed the slew of disaster movies starting from the latter half of the 20th century? What does this say about our unrealized fear of global disasters that Hollywood keeps capitalizing on? I have my own theories and I'll only discuss it with those who are interested in hearing it. Before I conclude this review, I'd like to post this quote from the site: The 'Day after Tomorrow' Never Dies: film plot rings true as NOAA runs up against White House
In an amusing case of life imitating art (to use the term loosely), Bush administration officials stalled the release of a website on abrupt climate change, which was developed by a team at NOAA's paleoclimate program to coincide with the release of the film, according to insiders who worked on the project. The site was put together to make years of paleoclimate research on abrupt climate shifts accessible to Day After Tomorrow viewers attempting to make sense of the fact and fiction behind the movie's science (to use another term loosely).

Apparently, life does imitate art more than art imitates life. Because the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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