“The Day After Tomorrow” – Climate Change Meets Disaster Movie

In the next of my posts about movies which I studied for my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, I am writing about The Day After Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich, 2004). This is another of the environmental disaster movies that I studied. Although the first part of the name is the same as The Day After, which, rather than an environmental disaster per se, was about the impact of a global nuclear war, the result and focus is largely the same – there will be a disaster of epic global scale, but the focus is primarily on the USA and how people still survive despite everything that happens.

A summary about the movie on IMDb is as follows.

As Paleoclimatologist Jack Hall is in Antartica, he discovers that a huge ice sheet has sheared off. But what he does not know is that this event will trigger a massive climate shift that will affect the world population. Meanwhile, his son Sam is with friends in New York City to attend an event. There, they discover that it has been raining non-stop for the past three days, and after a series of weather-related disasters begin to occur all over the world, everybody realizes the world is about to enter a new Ice Age and the world population begins trying to evacuate to the warmer climates of the south. Jack makes a daring attempt to rescue his son and his friends who are stuck in New York City and who have managed to survive not only a massive wave but also freezing cold temperatures that could possibly kill them.


Despite aspects of the focus, this is one of the more enjoyable disaster movies that I studied. I like the way, although predictable in how it is handled at times, that someone whose work focus is on the past is shown to have a relevance to the current. As someone whose research also has a focus on history, it’s good to see this approach being taken. The character, although at times almost descending into the Indiana Jones type of action-hero-alleged-academic, also adds the ‘pillars of truth‘ element to the movie by ensuring that there appears to be some facts to help bridge the more unbelievable parts.

In terms of the revised list of conventions that I developed as part of my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, The Day After Tomorrow has 16 out of the 17, with the only one missing being, as is often the case in Hollywood movies, that no dead bodies were shown.

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