The Day After Tommorrow

I saw The Day After Tomorrow on Tuesday.

(Okay, if today is Thursday… [insert probably done-to-death “that’s today” joke here])

Great effects. Fun story. The cardboard cut-out characters were cut from a decently thick-enough cardboard that they had me fooled for a while.


Sweet merciful crap. If you’re going to run a wall of water through Manhattan, you need to inflict us with the bloating, floating corpses. Sure, we see a few bodies here and there, but the reality of this disaster movie is that we come out of it thinking “bad weather would be fun.” Sure, a few unnamed characters disappear, and in one or two cases we see someone actually get killed, but for the most part it’s all passionless stuff.

Remember that scene in The Sum of All Fears where we see the fast montage of people at the football game? And then the nuke goes off, and we are forced to IDENTIFY with at least one now-incinerated person in the crowd? PASSION. EMOTION. POWER.

The message in The Day After Tomorrow is “don’t screw up the environment.” It’s heavy-handed, the science goes from decent cutting-edge stuff to the inane contrivances of narrativium and “plot device,” and the power figures are all straw-men. Fine — that’s typical eco-political sensationalism. But they screwed it up, because IT LOOKS COOL AND YOU CAN BELIEVE NOBODY REALLY GOT HURT.


Here’s a comic about it.

Pathetically, I enjoyed the movie.

–Howard “hypocrisy now, procrastination later” Tayler

18 thoughts on “The Day After Tommorrow”

  1. I haven’t seen it yet, but didn’t anyone explain to them just how much energy you’d have to extract from the Earth’s atmosphere to have a “sudden ice age”? I mean, it takes a volcanic event just to heat a large lake to boiling temperatures quickly, we’re talking about the whole planet here!

    Think about it this way: how much energy do you think it would take to raise the earth’s temperature by, say, 60 degrees all of a sudden? Suddenly it’s 160 degrees in Texes in mid-June, and well over 100 in the Northeastern US. Not even an all-out nuclear war is expected to release that much energy!

    Okay, to drop the temperature that much, you’d have to extract that much energy all at once. Where in the world do they think it went so suddenly?!


    I still want to see it though. Hopefully I can turn off my brain so it won’t drive me crazy.

    1. It works like this… in real life

      It works like this in real life:

      1) Equatorial heat is carried to the northern hemisphere by global currents. Those currents are powered by differences in salinity — ice-melt is heavier than salt water, sinks to the bottom at the poles, and is drawn to the equator. Surface water is lighter, warmer (from the sun at the equator) and is drawn northward to balance the equation. This is pretty solid science.

      2) This flow is potentially fragile, and could be interrupted. In the Atlantic it could be as easy as slowing glacial outflow in Greenland. Alternatively, raise water levels through global warming and polar melt to the point that the fresh-water flows are redirected, and the northward return currents originate from points further north than they currently (hah) do.

      3) Interruptions of the flow will result in a fairly sudden drop in temperatures in the northern hemisphere. One model has the flow stopping in winter, and spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere just don’t arrive. Days get longer, but temperatures remain at early winter levels.

      4) Longer periods of snowfall and interrupted melting results in higher albedo (reflectivity) of the surface, which means that more sunlight is reflected back into space. The “weak summer” is followed by a hard winter, a “false winter,” and then… THEN it gets cold. You have two winters of snowpack in latitudes that used to green up in the summer. Almost all large plants north of a certain point are now dead. Canada looks like Antarctica.

      Where did the extra heat go? A lot of it went into space. Most of it, however, remained at the equator. The cycle of evaporation and precipitation is more aggressive at those latitudes, and, unfortunately for those in now-temperate climes, the water ends up in snowfall at points north. LOTS of snowfall. Within just a few years, the glaciers return. Sadly, they are converging upon growing desertification in the lower latitudes, thanks to increasing amounts of fresh water being trapped in ice.

      Whether or not this process can be A) caused by human activity, or B) reversed once we see it happening is the subject of quite a bit of argument in the scientific community.


  2. Hey, my take on it – great action/adventure flick, not-bad SFX. The political activism was somewhat heavy-handed (and of a brand I find fairly laughable most of the time), and the science was so bad I just had to laugh.

    Let’s see… the three biggest screwups in my view? Oh, where to start

    The ocean currents they made such a big deal about – I mean, where was the Gulf Stream, where were the Pacific currents (yes, plural), and why did the southern-hemisphere current flow counterclockwise… the reverse of what Coriolis force dictates? That’s one.

    The “freezing downdrafts” from the troposphere… oh, brother. Yes, the troposphere is cold – maybe even cold enough to freeze aviation fuel in the lines… if helicopters didn’t use inline heaters with the fuel pumps. A cold that intense would condense oxygen and nitrogen right out of the air – causing those crewmembers a bit more of a problem than engine failure, to say the least. Besides, didn’t the idiots who “researched” this movie manage to come across the gas laws every high-school physics student covers. Air coming down from the troposphere has its pressure increased enormously – I think somewhere on the order of a hundred-fold. That’s gonna increase the temperature a tad – maybe not enough to make it tropical, but certainly not cold enough to inflict much more than frostbite, and definitely not instantly, as shown. Particularly since the crewmen were in cold-weather gear.

    And I found it so ironic that I had to laugh that an eco-activist movie would have the US evacuating into Mexico. Mexico City is possibly the single most polluted city in the Americas. Indeed, the “third-world” countries this movie was so supportive of tend to be grotesquely more polluted than almost any of the “first-world” countries it was so contemptuous of – especially if those third-world nations have any industrial infrastructure at all. Environmental controls are a signature of countries which are rich enough to afford them, after all.

    Oh, man. This thing was bad on so many points that I think it’s likely to become a cult classic – plot holes you could drive a fleet of semis through, pseudoscience just barely a step more plausible than “Star Trek” science, characters who were such broad charicatures of actual people that in ten years, audiences are going to be shaking their heads and saying “Thank goodness we’d never put someone that stupid into power”… It was so bad it was worth seeing.

    I would have liked to see groups like “Earth First” (People Last?) and Greenpeace represented, though. Too bad that they weren’t – though I suppose that really wouldn’t have fit with the film’s political bias.

    Eh, four and a half out of five for action/adventure/SFX. One and a half for politically shooting its own message in the foot. Minus lots for butchering basic science.

    1. Yes, the science was about as likely as the Independence-Day mothership’s computer having a Macintosh-compatible architecture subject to a computer virus created with no knowledge of the system they would attack.

      The most amusing thing to me is how this is being politically presented: “Scientists know that nothing in this movie could actually happen, but they feel that it’s important because it shows the public what could actually happen!”

      ===|==============/ Level Head

  3. I have to wonder what Irwin Allen could have made with such a good special effects team.

    After doing Posidon Adventure, Earthquake, Airport, Towering Inferno, what could he have done with all the CGI effects at his command?

    Perhaps it might turn out as a disaster movie worth watching! 🙂

  4. haven’t seen this movie yet but..

    ..what’s annoying me is the additional warning it’s being advertised with in the UK. I don’t know if this trend is happening in the US but over here, it’s increasingly common for movies to be advertised with an additional viewer warning like “Contains scenes of strong violence” etc.

    TDAT is being advertised as “Contains scenes of extreme peril”.


    It’s a disaster movie!! What it is SUPPOSED to contain?!

    Good grief!


    1. Re: haven’t seen this movie yet but..

      Do you recall in the radio version of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy being told that when the Heart of Gold was menaced by the atomic missiles from Magrathea noone would be harmed except a slight bruise to the upper arm…but to maintain accepted levels of tension and suspense we wouldn’t be told who?
      (And after the closing credits we are told “Arthur bruised his upper arm”)

  5. It’s a DISASTER movie, Howard.

    That means that death onscreen is irrelevant unless it’s necessary for some reason — i.e., part of the Poseidon Adventure’s point was the Ten Little Indians approach. But in Big Natural Disasters the point is to get to the special effects — giant tidal waves, storms from hell, meteoroids falling, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria! I’m not going to some movie that actually realistically depicts such disasters. That would be disgusting! I want one that UNrealistically depicts the aftereffects, but gives me the COOL.

    And yes, I do like chasing tornadoes.

  6. I want to know how the wolves managed to survive that 300 foot tidal wave. Did they build an ark in about 30 seconds. If so, I would rather have seen that. 😉

  7. Little bit political (and a little bit off-topic)

    …So feel free to skip this comment if either of those bothers you.

    This is about the latest “Kerrying On” comic at this same editorial cartoon site.
    See, contrary to what they seem to be suggesting (in the little talky-post below the comic itself, which I could not make heads nor tails of), Sen. Kerry’s primary focus (as outlined in the Yahoo! News site they themselves linked to) was on nuclear materiel in other countries. Unsecured nuclear materiel in the former U.S.S.R. (well, to be fair, it’s not completely unsecured – even the worst of the sites at least have most of a fence around them), and nuclear materiel in nations known to support or traffic with terrorists, such as North Korea and Iran.

    And they (I say they because the “&” in “Cox & Forkum” suggests a plural) are right when they say that it’s not a weapon that’s evil, it’s the people who misuse it. However, this certainly does not mean that we should not attempt to prevent these weapons (Particularly when they are as terrible as nuclear bombs) from falling into the hands of those who will misuse them. U.S. troops in Iraq have already paid a terrible price in lives lost to IEDs due in part to our failure to secure Saddam’s stockpiles of old artillery shells following the capture of Baghdad.

    Mmf. This went on a bit longer than I’d originally intended (and I probably could add more to it yet). If you’d prefer I move this to my own journal or whatever, just say so, alright?

    1. Re: Little bit political (and a little bit off-topic)

      Um, yeah. A little bit off-topic. 🙂

      C&F has a blogspot of sorts you can post replies to, I believe.


      1. Re: Little bit political (and a little bit off-topic)

        Just a little bit, yeah. Again, the movement thing stands.

        Hmm. How open do you think they’d be to a critique like this? I mean, my experience with their website would lead me to believe that they might be somewhat… less than welcoming to a liberal viewpoint. I mean, I’m not really looking for a flamewar here.

        1. Re: Little bit political (and a little bit off-topic)

          I have no idea. I’m not especially fond of flame-wars either, which is why I linked to ONE Cox & Forkum comic rather than all of them.

          Really, it’s up to you. If you want to discuss their Kerry comic with people who have decently researched viewpoints, you’ll have to look further afield than me. My specialty is science rather than policy. 🙂


          1. Re: Little bit political (and a little bit off-topic)

            Yeah, yeah. I know I get touched off a bit too easily on political things.

            Hmm. Well, I might give it a shot, anyway. Always nice to give people a chance to defend their views, eh?

  8. Back on Topic

    Interestingly, I heard that the “original” idea for TDAT was that the Earth’s magnetic poles suddenly reverse. Apparently, scientists are firmly convinced this WILL happen, but aren’t certain WHEN.

    1. Re: Back on Topic

      And it’s conceivable — just barely — that a change in the salinity currents, or the collapse of an ice-shelf could trigger it.


      1. Re: Back on Topic

        I’ve heard that, but I’m still not certain how it’s connected. As far as I understand the matter (admittedly, not very), the Earth’s magnetosphere is generated in the ferrous-rich portions of the Earth’s mantle. Erm, just what does that have to do with temperature and salinity of the oceans?

        Now, I can see the magnetosphere affecting ocean currents, assuming there’s a fair amount of magnetically-susceptable material dissolved in the water, but I can’t see it working all that well in reverse, and no one’s ever been able to explain it to me in terms I can grasp. If you’d care to take a shot at enlightening me, I’m willing to listen.

    2. Re: Back on Topic

      Hm. The last I’d heard, there was very little “suddenly” about a potential reversal – unless you’re talking about geological timescales. A matter of a centuries-long transition period, or something of that sort – abrupt considering the same people were talking about 40,000 years between transitions, but definitely not abrupt to the man in the street.

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