Film: The Day After Tomorrow

"This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to transplant surgery."

In the beginning, there is an attempt to document global warming by removing an ice core from the Antarctic. This is made considerably more difficult when the ice shelf collapses under the scientists involved.

A climate summit is held in India. The American vice-president (who may not be named "Dick Cheney", but have no doubt of his identity) announces nothing needs to be done. When the conference ends, it is snowing. (Normally, that region of India has a temperature of about 100 F note  at the time of year implied in the movie).

The lead scientist involved in the Antarctic expedition, Jack Hall, is considered kooky because he is a paleoclimatologist. He doesn't get along with authorities, and his relationship with his equally genius son could be better.

The genius son Sam Hall is going to NYC for a knowledge decathlon and to try to bond with the girl he joined the knowledge decathlon team for. He's afraid of flying, and this flight doesn't go smoothly. It is one of the last flights at NYC's latitude that goes at all.

In Scotland, another group of scientists is measuring ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic. They aren't paying incredibly close attention when things first go wrong — hey, Manchester United are playing!note  One of them intends to join his family for a holiday — eventually.

After tornadoes hit LA, America takes this weather thing seriously. Only one weather model seems to have any real predictive power. Unfortunately, it was made by the paleoclimatologist to deal with weather patterns at the start of the last ice age, and it wasn't supposed to run anywhere near as fast as the current weather system is running.

Yes. Global warming has triggered an instant Ice Age. The Disaster Movie equivalent of hilarity ensues.

Not to be confused with The Day After.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Having your child trapped in a city hit by a disaster. Also, being trapped in frozen Scotland, and hoping that your wife and infant son made it to Spain in time to be with your mother-in-law.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: This has a Rifftrax.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version gets a theme song called "More Than a Million Miles" by a band called...Day After Tomorrow.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0 on a large scale, but the Inferred Holocaust pushes it close to Class 1.
  • Artistic License Awards: U.S. Academic Decathlon will NEVER offer $1 billion cash prize to the national winners. For comparison, that's about 1/16 of NASA's budget, and the highest jackpot in US history is just $656 million.
  • Artistic License Geography: Ho boy...
  • Artistic License Law: Under National Aeronautics and Space Act, Tokada won't be the only researcher NASA sent out.
  • Audible Sharpness: When the frost covers the helicopters and they fall to the ground, their frozen propellers do this.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: When Jack is giving his conference about the possible effects of the violent climate change, an Arabian ambassador asks him, in his native tongue, what could possibly happen. Jack talks back to him in English.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A substantial portion of the world's population has been wiped out, most of the planet's fertile farmland is coated in ice, and Europe, Russia, Canada, and the United States are uninhabitable wastelands. It's bittersweet only because part of humanity survives, mostly the Third World inhabitants and refugees from the newly frozen regions.
  • Black and Nerdy: One of the funnier characters. ("Hey, guys? There's a whole section on tax law down here that we can burn."), ("Sir, I am president of the Electronics Club, the Math Club, and the Chess Club. Now if there's a bigger nerd in here, please... point him out." )
  • Break the Haughty: The Cheney Expy is a lot more humble when he takes office at the end of the film. It started from the moment Jack advocated the evacuation of the South. By that point, he's only trying to obstruct Jack's plan to save the people in the North.
    General: Sometimes it's necessary to make difficult choices!
    Vice President: I don't accept that abandoning half of the country is necessary!
  • British Royal Family: The helicopters on their way to rescue them from Balmoral hit a superstorm eye, froze, and crashed.
  • A Crack In The Ice:
    • In the first minutes, a science station has been set up on the Antarctic ice shelf. A crack in the snow appears. Moments later, a crevasse divides the camp in two.
    • Later, a sled is sucked into a hole that appears in the snow. Moments later it's revealed that it's actually not a crevasse but a hole in the glass roof of a shopping mall buried in the snow!
  • Deadline News: A reporter in Los Angeles is hit by a billboard. Also, a guy who's in the middle of it is in his car and gets crushed by a flying bus, and the scene is caught on video. Ironically, the commentator from the helicopter says "I hope no one was in that car!"
  • Deadpan Snarker: A vast majority of the characters each manage to riff a snarky one-liner, but out of all of them, Brian is probably the biggest snarker.
  • Death by Sex: Weather guy and the girl he was with while the tornadoes were blowing through LA.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Jack and Lucy are broken up at the beginning due to Jack's work taking him away from the family. But he realizes how much he's missed and after risking his life to save his son from frozen New York, he and Lucy move toward reconciling.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: Do Not Follow The Funnel Cloud In A Helicopter From One Block Away
  • Dramatic Landfall Shot
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: BIG hail. Tornadoes that join together into supertornadoes. Tsunami. Wolves. Frigid cold - Have An Ice Death!
  • Exact Time to Failure
  • Fallen States of America: The US becomes so endangered by a climate change superstorm bringing temperatures down that Americans have to emigrate to Mexico. There is even a speech by the Vice President thanking Mexico for their hospitality.
  • From Bad to Worse: It's not enough that the world is plummeting into an ice age and Sam Hall's crew is trapped in a library while the rest of New York City freezes. They've got to deal with escaped wolves from the city zoo, too!
  • Gaia's Vengeance: The metaphorical flavor.
  • Green Aesop / Space Whale Aesop: Although Emmerich was not aiming for a scientifically accurate depiction of climate change, the attitude and actions of Dick Cheney Expy Vice President Becker were intended to be a criticism of the Bush Administration's policies. Giving Becker the moment to apologize to the world for being wrong at the end of the movie is likely why he avoided a Karmic Death much earlier.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: The President and Vice President.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: One of Jack's companions falls through the snow-covered Galleria's skylight and, knowing his friends will fall as well if he doesn't relieve the burden on the rope that links them, cuts it himself and drops to save the others.
  • Ignored Expert: Jack Hall. After a freak disaster has just removed Los Angeles from the face of the Earth, the one scientist in the government who's even willing to venture a guess as to what's going on still has to beg for computer time in order to confirm his theory. You would think that after the vaporization of LA, the government would also be interested in confirming the only available theory as to how and why ... but they're just so unreasonable, somehow, and refuse out of nowhere.
  • Improbable Cover: They outrun an oncoming ice storm, and escape it by closing a door.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Blood poisoning somehow gives Laura one of these. It's how Sam figures out she's sick.
  • Karma Houdini: The Dick Cheney Expy Vice President tries to shut down any attempt to handle the crisis intelligently long past the point where he should have learned to shut up. See a Karmic Death coming? Nope. Instead, he gets a Field Promotion when the more reasonable president eschews his fleet of helicopters, drives south in a motorcade onto already packed roads instead, and dies in the storm.
    • After seeing the devastation of the movie, he comes to regret his mistakes.
  • Landmark of Lore
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Peter
  • Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo turns blue and a storm starts to appear in the background.
  • Mexico Saves The Day: Played straight and averted during the film. In a deliberately allegorical scene, Americans trying to flee the disaster are seen crossing the border illegally across the Rio Grande into Mexico, rather than the other way around. Mexico closes its borders to prevent Americans from coming in. A brief snippet of news footage glimpsed during the library scene implies that at the last minute, the White House negotiated permission for all American survivors to cross over into Mexico and the rest of Latin America in exchange for all Latin American financial debt being forgiven. Later in the film, the new President, who had served as Obstructive Bureaucrat to the extreme throughout the entire film, gives an address from the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.
    • Although, how exactly would Latin American debt to the United States and other Western countries still exist after the Northern Hemisphere has been rendered uninhabitable?
  • Monumental Damage: It wouldn't be a Roland Emmerich film without it.
    • The Hollywood Sign gets shredded by a tornado.
  • Mood Motif
  • Motor Mouth: Mark Gordon in the Audio Commentary. Not only he talks fast, he also impersonates while talking fast.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Al Gore and Dick Cheney have counterparts in this film.
  • No Mere Windmill: Type C, where the main character gets ridiculed for a prognosis that is far less lethal than the situation they are really about to face.
  • Novelization: By Whitley Streiber, of Wolfen, Communion, War Day, and The Hunger fame. Incidentally, Streiber was the co-author, with Art Bell, of the book The Coming Global Superstorm, which provided the basis for the movie.
  • Ominous Crack: Loads of examples: the Antarctic ice shelf, the Galleria roof, every window in downtown Manhattan fracturing from the frost...
  • Outrun the Fireball: Inverted by outrunning a tsunami and outrunning an advancing killer frost line.
  • Police Are Useless: During a city flood, where a cold tsunami is about to enter, a family is trapped inside a cab, banging on the window pleading to be let out in French. Meanwhile, an English-speaking cop stands outside the cab, telling them, "I'm sorry, I can't understand French!"
    • Of course, this makes more sense once a person who speaks French comes to the scene. It isn't that the cop can't understand they want to be let out, it's that he lacks the means to tell them they need to stop pounding on the windows and cover their eyes so he can safely break it and help them out.
    • Also, the same cop leads most of the survivors out of the safe library, in hope of being found by rescue teams. There are no rescue teams. The policeman and the other survivors' frozen bodies are found later on.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When things get bad, the President is fully willing to listen to Jack and takes his advice. It's fairly clear that if Jack had been able to gone to the President first (and not through the Vice President), things wouldn't have gotten as bad as they had. The general who mentions the concept of "triage" also counts.
  • Red Shirt Reporter: Features a reporter giving up-to-the-minute reports on the tornadoes rampaging through downtown Los Angeles. He ends up flattened by flying debris at the exact moment that he looks at the camera instead of his surroundings, of course.
  • Romantic False Lead: J.D. is initially set up as one and seems to be getting in the way of Sam getting with Laura. However, this is suddenly dropped not long afterwards, and J.D. switches to being a Shipper on Deck for them.
  • Run for the Border: Type B instance, involves entire national populations doing this.
  • Scenery Gorn
  • Serkis Folk
  • Soul Brotha: Luther, the Black beggar with the dog. Cool, wise, self-assured, never panics and also he speaks in a suspiciously cultured and polite way, like he is far better educated than the usual homeless person.
    • This is because in a Deleted Scene, he mentions actually being a successful businessman, working in a nice office and everything. He lost his job because he was caught fooling around with various different secretaries.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: In a low-tech variant, the climatologist-hero uses a map of the continental U.S. to convey the scope of the danger, drawing a horizontal line across it and proclaiming that everywhere below it must be evacuated south: there's no realistic hope of saving people north of that line.
    • Also, the weather prognostication maps that show the three superstorms expanding to cover all three northern continents.
  • Strawman Political: Everything, everywhere, that happens at any point in the entire movie.
  • Sunken City: New York
  • Surveillance Station Slacker: The aforementioned Scotland shack full of Brits. The "What weather? It's LA" guy, too.
  • Those Two Guys: A male-female version with the two assistant librarians, especially when they start to banter over certain reading material.
  • Throw-Away Country: All of Europe freezes over except Spain and Portugal. Maybe the old European saying "Africa starts at the Pyrenees" was right after all.
    • Don't forget Japan getting a patented Death from Above in the form of MASSIVE hail.
  • Teen Genius: Also, a bad case of The Worm Guy.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Several characters die to sheer lack of common sense. Two that particularly stand out are the helicopter pilot escorting the British Royal Family, who notices his instruments beginning to freezing over and decides to open the door, as well as the policeman who leads half the survivors to their death, trying to find non-existent rescue teams.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Believe it or not, but in 1912, an Australian adventurer and two of his colleagues traveled to the North Pole as a part of the Australasian Expedition. One fell down a crevasse with half of their supplies, and the other one fell ill and died after Mawson personally pulled him along. Mawson was the only one to survive. In the movie, the protagonist and his two friends experience a nearly identical fate when they travel to the Big Apple Sauce (one breaks through the glass roof of a mall and falls to his death and the other one falls ill for the protagonist to carry him around). In the movie, however, casualty two actually recovers.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The head librarian disappears, with no explanation in the end of the movie... unless she was the only one in the library who didn't survive.
    • J.D's little brother. They leave J.D's house to go and get him, but they get trapped in the library, and he's never mentioned again.
    • It becomes reversed for the French woman and her child: they disappear completely after NYPD start evacuating people from the library, but then they suddenly reappear in the end when Jack and Jason finally make it to the library.