Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow 

I've seen the film everyone's slagging off. And, like the Tophet with Troy, I'm going to go against the current and say I was quite impressed. Not with the real action of the film, which was clichéd in exactly the way I expected, but with some of the 'subtle' points it made and side-jabs at the US administration.

Firstly, I've never thought that realism in films was particularly important (these three and films count together as three of my favourites) so I'm not interested in criticising the environmental details as many have done. I think it was simply good that it did bring the climate message to the fore, particularly in explicitly criticising US policy, by attacking their stance on Kyoto, and having the vice president - who personifies real-life US government attitudes - explicitly admit he was wrong about it at the end of the film.

Second, it implicitly criticised US immigration policy. At one point in the film, everybody is instructed to head South to avoid the catastrophe, in response to which the Mexicans close their borders, forcing many Americans to cross over illegally across the Rio Grande. All of which I found quite amusing.

Next, I quite like any film that can chuck in a quick discussion over whether it's ethical to burn Nietzsche books for warmth since he was a chauvinist bastard. Even if they do pronounce Nietzsche to rhyme with peachy. Another book point - librarians are useful people. The movies now tell you so.

Not only librarians, but homeless people are also useful. I really expected the homeless man to end up freezing suddenly or being hailed to death. But no. He made it through and even instructed others how to stay warm, something he was used to needing to do.

One thing I found particularly interesting in the film was its strong emphasis on self-sacrifice. Not just one lover for another, as most blockbusters have happen at some point, nor even just a parent for their child or vice versa. No. The self-sacrifice was something that was happening over and over again, throughout the film.

Connected to which, and finally, there was also an emphasis on global awareness - the president's (otherwise nauseating) speech at the end of the film focusses on how people from the Northern hemisphere have, all over the world, been given refuge in countries previously considered 'third world'. This point obviously ties in with the environmental focus, too. But further than this, the last point of the film is to show how it wasn't just one heroic group of people who sacrificed themselves and made it through against the odds. There were lots of them, all over the world, who'd made it through the ice age. The overall message there was that self-sacrifice is something we can all do, and that the human race is resilient. Which is as nauseating as any other message, but at least we are led to care about someone other than the main small group of hero figures.

Now, all these points aside, the film was sexist, melodramatic and highly, highly clichéd. But that was what I expected, which meant that finding something else in it too was pretty surprising, and pretty impressive. For a blockbuster.

UPDATE: There's a more intelligent review from Raj here.

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