Everything Wrong With The Day After Tomorrow
Here is a movie so bad, it was used as the blueprint for making 2012. Ice wins; science loses; sins abound.
The Day After Tomorrow is a 2004 American climate fiction–disaster film co-written, directed, and produced by Roland Emmerichand starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, and Sela Ward. The film depicts fictional catastrophic climatic effects in a series of extreme weather events that usher in global cooling and leads to a new ice age. The film was made inToronto and Montreal and is the highest-grossing Hollywood film to be made in Canada (if adjusted for inflation).
Originally planned for release in the summer of 2003, The Day After Tomorrow premiered in Mexico City on May 17, 2004 and was released worldwide from May 26 to May 28 except in South Korea and Japan, where it was released June 4–5, respectively.
The Day After Tomorrow generated mixed reviews from both the science and entertainment communities. The online entertainment guide Rotten Tomatoes rated the film at 45%, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site’s general consensus states that it was “A ludicrous popcorn flick filled with clunky dialogues, but spectacular visuals save it from being a total disaster.” Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, praised the film’s special effects, giving the film three stars out of four. Environmental activist and The Guardiancolumnist George Monbiot called The Day After Tomorrow “a great movie and lousy science.”
In a USA Today editorial by Patrick J. Michaels, who until 2007 was a Research Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and who rejects the scientific evidence for global warming, Michaels called the film “propaganda,” noting, “As a scientist, I bristle when lies dressed up as ‘science’ are used to influence political discourse.”In a Space Daily editorial by Joseph Gutheinz, a college instructor and retired NASA Office of Inspector General, Senior Special Agent, Gutheinz called the film “a cheap thrill ride, which many weak-minded people will jump on and stay on for the rest of their lives.”
Paleoclimatologist William Hyde of Duke University was asked on Usenet whether he would be seeing the film; he responded that he would not unless someone were to offer him $100. Other readers of the newsgroup took this as a challenge, and (despite Hyde’s protests) raised the necessary funds. Hyde’s review criticized the film’s portrayal of weather phenomena that stopped at national borders, and finished by saying that it was “to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery”, as quoted in New Scientist.
However, Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, expert for thermohaline ocean circulation and its effects on climate, was impressed how the script writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff was well informed about the science and politics of global climate change after the talk with him at the preview of the film in Berlin. He stated: “Clearly this is a disaster movie and not a scientific documentary, the film makers have taken a lot of artistic license. But the film presents an opportunity to explain that some of the basic background is right: humans are indeed increasingly changing the climate and this is quite a dangerous experiment, including some risk of abrupt and unforeseen changes. After all – our knowledge of the climate system is still rather limited, and we will probably see some surprises as our experiment with the atmosphere unfolds. Luckily it is extremely unlikely that we will see major ocean circulation changes in the next couple of decades (I’d be just as surprised as Jack Hall if they did occur); at least most scientists think this will only become a more serious risk towards the end of the century. And the consequences would certainly not be as dramatic as the ‘super-storm’ depicted in the movie. Nevertheless, a major change in ocean circulation is a risk with serious and partly unpredictable consequences, which we should avoid. And even without events like ocean circulation changes, climate change is serious enough to demand decisive action. I think it would be a mistake and not do the film justice if scientists simply dismiss it as nonsense. For what it is, a blockbuster movie that has to earn back 120 M$ production cost, it is probably as good as you can get. For this type of movie for a very broad audience it is actually quite subversive and manages to slip in many thought-provoking things. I’m sure people will not confuse the film with reality, they are not stupid – they will know it is a work of fiction. But I hope that it will stir their interest for the subject, and that they might take more notice when real climate change and climate policy will be discussed in future.”
In 2008, Yahoo! Movies listed The Day After Tomorrow as one of Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies. The film was criticized for depicting several different meteorologicalphenomena occurring over the course of hours, instead of the possible time frame of several decades or centuries.