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It's not nice to fool with mother nature

Review by Héctor Reyes | June 11, 2004 | Page 9

The Day After Tomorrow, written and directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal.

UNLIKE MANY Hollywood disaster movies, The Day After Tomorrow has generated lots of controversy because it moves beyond providing an entertaining spectacle and pokes a finger at political and economic assumptions that our rulers want to remain sacrosanct.

The movie's main political point comes across loud and clear--that unless we modify the way that our society operates, with the reckless disregard that those in power show toward the rapidly accumulating effects of pollution and degradation of the environment, the whole world is heading toward disaster.

In its opening scene, we find internationally renowned climatologist Professor Jack Hall witnessing a piece of ice--the size of Rhode Island--breaking off the Antarctic Ice Shelf. Immediately after, we watch Hall warn the audience at a United Nations conference in New Delhi about the eventually catastrophic events that could unfold if the pace of global warming is not checked.

Hall is then confronted by the U.S. vice president--clearly representing Dick Cheney--who goes on a tirade about how all this talk is speculation and that implementing the changes that Hall suggests will be too expensive. The rest of the film shows the awful results when, instead of taking the century or more that Hall had predicted, the drastic climate changes unfold over the course of weeks.

All hell breaks loose as we are treated to an awesome collection of special effects depicting unending torrential rain, hail the size a football, multiple tornadoes in Los Angeles, the flooding of Manhattan--enough for a freighter to park itself in front of the Public Library--and the great chill that freezes anything in a matter of seconds.

To be sure, The Day After Tomorrow has plenty of Hollywood clichés and implausible personal and physical events--like those found in most disaster and sci-fi movies. Some critics have seized on the impossibility of the spectacular elements of the movie--such as the cataclysmic freezing and the immense climate changes happening overnight--as discrediting the serious arguments presented by environmentalists.

But that's missing the point. Just having the would-be Cheney swallow his words near the end of the movie and acknowledge how criminally negligent our rulers are regarding the environment is worth the admission price.

And there are other treats to be savored, such as when droves of Americans escaping the freeze are forced to enter Mexico illegally by crossing the Rio Grande or when a homeless man teaches wealthy kids the finer points of personal insulation with crumpled paper. Invite your friends, remember to bring your umbrella, and be ready to join the audience when it spontaneously breaks into applause at the end of the movie.

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