Sunday 30 November 2008

The Day After Tomorrow

Disaster movies were much in vogue in my student days – The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, and plenty more – but they haven’t been quite so common in recent years. But The Day after Tomorrow is a very competent example of the genre, starring Dennis Quaid as Jake Hall, an expert on climatology, who warns a sceptical Vice President of the risk of a climatic disaster. Ian Holm, playing a British scientist, is more sympathetic and needless to say, the dire warnings of impending doom are soon fulfilled.

Jake has a troubled relationship with his son Sam, who together with a couple of friends is in New York for a student event. All of a sudden, freak weather conditions assault the Northern Hemisphere and the US President belatedly orders evacuation to the south – this offers the opportunity for a few ironic thrusts, including the temporary closure of the Mexican border by the Mexican authorities, to deter illegal immigrants from the States. Sam and his pals hole up in a library, following Jake’s instruction that they must not risk going outside in the desperate conditions, while Jake and a couple of colleagues trek up through the snow to rescue them.

I enjoyed this film. Quaid and Holm, as usual, do a very professional job, and the scenes featuring the survivors in New York are memorable – especially when Sam and the others are attacked by a pack of wolves.

The other thought that struck me was this. The disbelieving Vice President says near the start of the film that the world economy is as fragile as its climate. Maybe the next big budget disaster movie will feature the recent catastrophes on Wall Street…..


Anonymous said...

I liked this film, too, despite its poor reviews upon release. I have always liked Dennis Quaid since seeting him years ago in The Big Easy (highly recommended if you have not seen it - witty thriller about corrupt cops in New Orleans) and the remake of that classic (Edward G Robinson?) about the guy who only has 24 hours to live because he's been poisoned (or something) and has to find out who did it before he dies. (The remake was, inevitably, more upbeat than the original. Meg Ryan is also in it and I think this is the movie where the two met and married.)

Anyway, returning to TDAT, one reason I liked it is that the scientists are portrayed as (1) not baddies (HOORAY! how refreshing) and (2) relatively realistically (compared with usual film efforts eg Eddington and Einstein which I saw last night, having recorded it, and was risible in that particular aspect).

My daughters did not like TDAT though, they thought it too dark. Also I think that it ended up being a bit unrealistic, if memory serves. But I did quite like it, though would have preferred to have seen it at tne cinema to get the full effect, rather than on DVD rental, as I did in the event.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm sure there's a book (or series) to be written featuring a modern scientist as hero/heroine. I'd write it myself if it were not for my lack of scientific expertise! Not long ago - belive it or not - I looked at the possibiility of a physicist hero but became rather overwhelmed by concepts like Higgs Boson and so on. So perhaps not.
I've not seen The Big Easy, but I've heard it's good. Nor the remake of DOA, though I did like the original.

Anonymous said...

Ah, DOA, that's it. Thanks, Martin!

Scientists as heroes - has been discussed on various scientific forums quite a bit as you can imagine. "Arrowsmith" is the classic that I have read and which presents a pretty good view of science and scientists, but it is pretty old now.

The lablit website ( is a great source of information about all things science in fiction, if you are ever interested in following up this line. The owner and editor of it, Jennifer Rohn, has her first "science in fiction" novel coming out this month, published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

One recent-ish science-in-fiction novel that was highly regarded but not (yet) read by me is Intuition by Allegra Goodman. Nature reviews occasional novels with a scientific theme.

Crime fiction does not seem to feature scientists very much. John Macken is an exception - you probably remember him from CrimeFest. He is a scientist (JM is a presudonym) who has written 2 (?) thrillers featuring Reuben Maitland, a drug-addicted forensic scientist....

Martin Edwards said...

Yes, I do remember JM from our panel at Bristol. My idea was for science/physics to suggest themes for a book/crime series - a bit like Daniel Kind's historical researches connect to the themes of the Lakes books. I haven't completely given up on the idea, but a snag is that I know a bit more about history than about science!

Jane said...

I love that film although my friend, Jenn ( is a librarian and can't watch the part where they burn the pages of the books!

Martin Edwards said...

Jane, I have to confess that there is a book burning scene right at the start of my current work in progress. Oops!