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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Movie: The Day After Tomorrow (2004): The ultimate disaster movie

This was a movie released in 2004, at a time when the Bush Administration was steadfast in claiming that there was no global warming (or rather, that the science proving it was not confirmed), and there were sections of the scientific community and in society that were unhappy over this attitude of the administration. The fact that the admnistration was much closer to the business community which would be affected if measures needed to be taken to fight global warming compounded the response of this section of society. So keep in mind this fact while watching the movie, given that it touts that global warming can cause huge damages to our community, and that the political leadership is too blinkered to be able to take effective measures.
Global warming is a fact, and nations all over the world are talking (mostly talking) about how to address this problem, and are debating who needs to take what steps. It is a game for rich nations to worry about the effect on the economy, a huge debate between rich and poor nations about responsibility and steps to be taken, but it is coming and will keep on affecting us. This movie took the scare due to global warming to a much higher level, and keep in mind that there are almost no scientists who share the vision of a much accelerated change that is shown in the movie.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004) - apocalyptic science-fiction, Vision of Disaster

The movie was hugely successful (earning more than 650 million dollars), and brings to its viewers a vision of the full power of Mother Nature. The movie however did not earn much critical acclaim for its scientific background, and was criticized by a number of scientists working in the Global warming area; the feeling being that the movie, by showcasing a sudden onset of disaster and moving away from the decades based impact of global warming and makes the whole science seem freakish and unconvincing. One area where the movie won a lot of praise was in the area of its special effects, especially the disaster scenes.
The movie starts with scientific research on the ice shelf, Larsen Ice Shelf. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is drilling for ice cores in the Antartic for NOAA. Suddenly, the ice shelf separates, and Jack almost dies. Jack travels to a conference on Global Warming in New Delhi where diplomats from all over the world have gathered in order to present his theory, but of course, politicians (including the Vice-President of the United States (resembling Dick Cheney)) refuse to believe him. However, the weather has other ideas. Another scientist (Professor Terry Rapson (Ian Holm) of the Hedland Climate Research Centre in Scotland) looks at Jack's theory and does not dismiss it. When he returns to Scotland, data from 2 water buoys in the North Atlantic show sudden drops in the temperature of the water. Unknown to humanity, the deep chill caused by global warming has begun.
Professor Rapson and Jack talk about Jack's theory, but Jack's theory was over a long period of time, not supposed to happen suddenly. Jack starts to build a computer model based on his theory, and on data, and the model is horrific in terms of what will happen. And the weather systems all over go haywire. Tokyo is hurt by a huge hailstorm, Los Angeles is decimated by tornadoes, planes get caught in the weather turbulence. Eventually, air traffic is stopped. British RAF helicopters are suddenly frozen as they pass through the eye of a superstorm. The human element to the movie is the father-son relationship between Jack and his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) who have travelled to New York City for a competition, when the weather system turns haywire. Jack heads to New York to get them back to safety.
The predictions of storms, of an ice wave are so strong that it is recommended to evacuate the Northern Unites Stated and move to the South and to Mexico. In the meantime, Sam along with friends have taken refuge in the New York Public Library. Eventually, Jack manages to make it to the Library and get help for everybody over there, after the superstorm has passed.

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