The Day After Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow...

George MF Washington24 Jun, 2024 3 Min Read
Still waiting for the apocalypse.

Director Roland Emmerich’s climate disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” was released twenty years ago, back in the heady days of “An Inconvenient Truth” and Al Gore’s quixotic crusade to grow a beard and travel the world by private plane so that he could shout at people about the climate and amass a fortune. Now, I’m terrible at math,  but my back-of-the-napkin calculations tell me that twenty years is seven thousand three hundred days (and counting). An endless series of days after tomorrow in which the world has still not ended due to "climate change."

As Harry Doyle might have said, “juuuust a bit outside.”

In Hollywood there are two kinds of effective propaganda… great movies and great filmmaking. Sometimes you get both, “All the President’s Men” or “JFK” for example, but not always. “The Day After Tomorrow” sits firmly in the latter category. Roland Emmerich, whatever you may think of his movies, has always been a brilliant storyteller and “The Day After Tomorrow” is an endlessly re-watchable movie.

In Hollywood, great actors are drawn to great filmmakers and “The Day After Tomorrow” is packed with the kind of talent that is absolutely required in order to create effective propaganda. Dennis Quaid, Sela Ward and Ian Holm, of course, but also Emmy Rossum and a young Jake Gyllenhaal. It takes a truly great actor to deliver lines like “they crashed because the fuel in their lines froze” without busting up laughing. As believable lines of dialogue go, it’s no more than one small step away from “The Walls of the fifty-third precinct were bleeding.” And at the end of the day, which is more likely… ghosts in New York, or helicopters crashing because their fuel, and their pilots, flash froze during a weather event?

“The Day After Tomorrow” came along at a critical time for the environmental movement. The propaganda value of the term “Global Warming” had begun to fail. The planet simply wasn’t getting hot enough fast enough, and folks who were still capable of critical thinking had begun to look askance at things like the "hockey stick" graph. The climate movement was desperate to incorporate extreme weather events into its campaign in order to ratchet up the fear factor, but regular Americans just couldn’t wrap their brains around the idea that extreme cold, hurricanes and tornadoes could be created by the same phenomenon that was supposed to be making the Earth hotter and raising sea levels.

But then along came movies like “The Day After Tomorrow” with scenes like the one which opens the movie. After a dramatic sequence in which the entire Larsen B Ice Shelf (whatever that is) breaks away from the Antarctic ice pack, we meet climatologist Jack Hall delivering a speech to a group of world leaders on what he saw there. He’s interrogated by a Saudi official, an OPEC nation naturally, and we are treated to the following exchange:

Jack Hall: What we’ve found locked in these ice cores is evidence of a cataclysmic climate shift which occurred around ten thousand years ago. The concentration of these natural greenhouse gasses in the ice cores indicates that runaway warming pushed the planet into an ice age which lasted two centuries.

Saudi Official: I’m confused, I thought you were talking about global warming… not an ice age.

Jack Hall: Yes, it’s a paradox but Global Warming can trigger a cooling trend.

And just like that, all our propaganda problems were solved. No matter what happens to the weather, up or down, it’s all part of the global climate crisis. “Global Warming” was out, and “Climate Change” was in, baby!

As has always been the case, Hollywood creates propaganda and then our corporate media runs with it. This winter, when the CNN weather boob comes on the air to warn you to stay inside at all times lest a “polar vortex” flash-freeze your jimmies right in your drawers, be aware that it is images from “The Day After Tomorrow” that they hope to recall in your mind. Images of advanced military helicopters spiraling into the ground, the fuel frozen in their tanks, of marble floors frosting over and cracking underfoot as our heroes race to outrun the advancing cold, of hundred-foot waves swamping the skyscrapers of Manhattan, windows blasted out as if from the pressure wave of a nuclear explosion, and American flags stilled mid-wave by a blast of cold air delivered from the very edge of outer space.

In the end, it may be that Climate Scientist Dr. Terry Rapson (played by Ian Holm), who chooses to drink a bottle of 12-year-old Balvenie rather than use it to power the generator and perhaps extend his life on this ridiculous planet for a few more miserable hours, is the smartest character in the movie.

Roland Emmerich is a filmmaker who understands how to deliver great cinematic moments, and so while lethal polar vortices may be bad science, they make for great cinema -- but not public policy. As the saying goes, it's only a movie.

George MF Washington is a 30-year veteran of the movie business. He writes about the intersection of Movies, The Culture and Politics at The Continental Congress on Substack. Contributor: Against The Corporate Media.


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4 comments on “The Day After Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow...”

  1. That movie manages to break all the laws of thermodynamics, and in fun ways. It's a classic.

  2. I LOVE "Day After Tomorrow" & will happily watch it anytime. It is an absolute comedy classic that leaves me rolling on the floor. Jake Gyllenhall sulking, Dennis Quaid smirking, Hollywood being destroyed by tornados (added bonus--the Hollywood sign being blown away), actors TALKING...VERY...SLOWLY because this is a VERY...IMPORTANT...TOPIC--hysterical! And I defy anyone to tell me what movie Sela Ward was acting in, because it clearly wasn't "DAT". Her plot makes absolutely no sense, which only adds to the hilarity. My hunch--she had started on some other project for the producers which fell thru; they didn't want to waste the footage (or her salary) so they stitched it into "DAT" with a couple of perfunctory scenes. The cherry on top is the George Bush surrogate, because clearly he was responsible for global warming--that is until Donald Trump became responsible. Such fun!

  3. Yeah, this is actually addressed in the movie. Quaid asks Holm what temperature jet fuel freezes at and Holm says "negative 150 degrees... we had to look it up!", which, credit where credit is due, is a great line which always makes me laugh. That said, I think the point is that there is a temperature at which fuel begins to freeze, and then there is what happens in the movie which is the fuel in the lines flash-freezing almost instantly, along with the pilots.

  4. Not that I disagree with you but the common varieties of jet fuel will freeze at about -52F.....some aircraft actually have heaters to prevent this

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