A DAY AFTER “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW”

(Considering the amount of people interested in seeing this film here is a warning that numerous spoilers are included. In fact the whole piece is primarily a spoiler. If you have an intention of seeing this movie, govern yourself accordingly. That advice also applies to reading any article penned by Mr. Slager.)

Fox Studios took a curious turn with their blockbuster “The Day After Tomorrow” in preparing its release. Few, if any, test screenings were made, and the press did not get their first crack at the epic until the week before its debut. Truthfully they had no reason to hold these marketing tactics given the media blitz they received for free. For the past month we have been subjected to a blizzard of stories covering the political ramifications, practically a maelstrom of import, as news cycles were flooded with details, and we endured many other meteorological metaphors of journalistic excess.

Activists groups lathered at the opportunity to get the word out to the masses. The hyperactive hand-wringers at MoveOn.org were set to blanket our theaters with 8,000 volunteers who would pass out literature to movie patrons, as were those working on behalf of the Sierra Club. Not to be outflanked the cursed-with-free-time folks from RightMarch.com also were providing a rebuttal of sorts with their own paperwork. Two hours of sensory overload isn’t enough, you can hear the organizers say, these people need pamphlets! Then we had Al Gore throwing his void-like charisma behind town hall meetings to discuss the problems forwarded by the movie. Like millions of others all of this deeply felt concern and slavish media coverage provoked one thought from me:

“Why are they are getting worked up over a Roland Emmerich film?!”

Emmerich is the cinematic embodiment of the animosity felt across Europe towards the U.S. His strain of Bavarian xenophobia targets all-too familiar American landmarks in bloated, grossly over-the-top summertime extravaganzas. In “Independence Day” aliens vaporize the White House; his Godzilla had reptilian renovation of key portions of Manhattan. “The Day After Tomorrow” now allows Roland to move from low-key sucker punches to a broader form of vandalism with jack-booted élan, under the guise of a global catastrophe. However, his trademark visceral thrills are being buried under a torrent of over wrought concern and this leads to a bigger tragedy—Emmerich’s moviemaking being called “important”.

This debate made for a tremendous build-up, a build-up made all the more remarkable by one simple fact–the movie is unremittingly, and unapologetically, stupid. I’m not even referring to the scientific leaps, flips, skips, and bypasses identified in numerous editorials. It was the relentless fatuous imagery that had me shaking my head. Exactly who in the hell would attach themselves to such a buffoonish display and then wish to sit in quorum afterwards to kick around its importance? The MoveOn.com crowd for starters, but their energy was sapped in the past seven days. After they had been crowing about a dire future they later softened their message by acknowledging the unlikely events on screen, hedging that the underlying message was still important. This was a result of weeks of Chicken Little palaver from them when in fact their organizers never got to actually sit through the film until the Sunday before release.

For those who see “TDA” (as the hip kids refer to it) you begin to understand the protestors are people likely to demand the abolition of dynamite and TNT after watching a “Roadrunner” cartoon. The Coyote is a comic foil, he is not a cautionary metaphor against the military complex, and Roland Emmerich is not an environmental prophet, he is a contemporary Irwin Allen (an idol of his) with top notch computers that make really bitchin’ graphics. These groups may as well discuss prevention methods of alien life forms, while there is still time. Al Gore can stage a town meeting next week to address the mounting problem of mutated thunder lizards that our grandchildren will certainly be faced with resolving.

The story continues in part two of A DAY AFTER “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW”>>>




Posted on June 15, 2004 in Features by

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