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 *
. 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!*
(Be fair - Celtic are playing Man U, and HOLDING THEIR OWN... that's the most improbable thing in this movie of very improbable things)
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.
Audible Sharpness: When the frost covers the helicopters and they fall to the ground, their frozen propellers do this.
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." )
British Royal Family: The helicopters on their way to rescue them from Balmoral hit a superstorm eye, froze, and crashed.
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!
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!"
Death by Sex: Weather guy and the girl he was banging while the Tornadoes were blowing through LA.
Deleted Scene: Enough to make a second movie. Three main story lines were cut and one of them included a cameo by Alan Ruck.
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.
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.
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.
Inferred Holocaust: As stated, most of the Northern Hemisphere has become an Arctic wasteland, all surviving Americans have gone to Mexico, which won't be able to hold them all, leading to either an American uprising or Martial Law. Canada, Europe, and Russia are all stated or shown to have suffered a similar fate to the one depicted in the US, only worse (because they're further north). Europe is implied to have got hit particularly hard, as south for them would be the Mediterranean, so they were basically trapped. India and China aren't really mentioned but India at least (and parts of China) are probably far south enough the have escaped turning into an ice cube. So that's goodbye Europe (740 million), Russia (130 million), and Canada and most of the USA (call it 250 million?), plus an unknown amount of people in Asia and the victims of all the typhoons and tsunami around the world. It's not (quite) the end of the world, but you're looking at a death toll of at least a billion, possibly closer to 2 billion, with everything north of about 35' latitude now about as hospitable as the North Pole on a bad day.
And then you consider that the above list includes most of the world's core agricultural regions...
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.