Superstorm with frosty message

"The Day After Tomorrow" – We learn: The catastrophe welds the people together

It’s Emmerich time again: After "Independence Day", "The Patriot" (No error, but ideology) and "Godzilla" now The Day After Tomorrow comes into the cinema. The $132 million disaster thriller shows a world that will soon freeze over as a result of global warming caused by the drifting of the North Atlantic current – a scenario that is still being seriously discussed by climate researchers "Worst Case Scenario", which is being seriously discussed by climate researchers (hot summers and floods). So this time, after Emmerich has been criticized by many in the past as a chauvinist-reactionary super-patriot, it’s all about a supposedly left-wing, ocological message and criticism of the U.S. government: "I have always seen myself more in the left-liberal spectrum", Emmerich says. Beyond new thoughtfulness, however, it is, as always with Emmerich, above all about gigantic, preferably unseen images, wild special effects, pure spectacle cinema: superstorms swirl over large cities, storm tides flood skyscrapers, people are shock-frozen.

Flocks of birds over New York. Image: 20th Century Fox

Flocks of birds circle over New York. They darken the sky even further, so that it now looks even dimmer than it already does. Animals know more, again the viewer of every disaster thriller, and that is why now even the last one in the cinema begins to suspect the disaster.

Perhaps this is one of the most threatening images of "The Day After Tomorrow", scarier and more frightening than all the computer-animated tornadoes put together, than the wall-to-wall storm surges, head-sized hailstones and deep cracks through the polar ice that this film gives us. Much of it, for all its perfection, looks like something out of a computer game, strangely artificial, intangible and a bit laughable. And the meter-high layers of ice that will eventually cover New York look especially picturesque in the post-apocalyptic sunshine. It must be already, so an ice age. Finally some fresh air…

But the flocks of birds that pass over the metropolis for just a few seconds – like the hungry wolves that later roam through a deserted New York, they are one of those moments when the film taps into the vast arsenal of images in our heads, the panoramas of the end of the world, biblical horror, horror and eeriness that have long been nestled there by painting, literature and cinema. One of the moments when "The Day After Tomorrow" redeeming the apocalyptic promise of his title.

Superstorm with a frosty message

Image: 20th Century Fox

Otherwise, like every Emmerich film, this is above all pure spectacle: "Disaster Movie" is what they call their movies in America, and that is even more accurate than "Catastrophe thriller" that thieving joy in breaking things, which again dominates here. Once again it hits New York in particular.

A touch of longing

After Emmerich destroyed Los Angeles in only five minutes with four simultaneous tornadoes, and in doing so, he very cleverly destroyed the famous "Kosovo" "Hollywood"-sign on the hills of Beverly Hills is shredded letter by letter, he really takes his time on the East Coast. Tidal waves wash over the Statue of Liberty, pour through Manhattan’s ravines, sweep away houses and people. Somehow, you’ve seen a lot of it before, even the Statue of Liberty half-submerged in ice was stuck in the "Planet of the Apes", The film is not exactly the same, nor is it always so entertaining, which is why it is always a pleasure to watch – if you have anything at all to say about the disaster genre.

Hollywood at the end. Image: 20th Century Fox

Not even hostility to civilization, but a touch of longing for a cleansing thunderstorm, a superstorm, which would blow away all weariness and create fresh air in complicated modern conditions. This also played a role in his earlier U.S. films. Roland Emmerich has lost his reputation as a shameless destruction expert. And yet this time there is a different tone, a quieter note. As if the child grows up. How boring, actually. But Emmerich, at least so he claims, has now just a message, and would like to prove to his audience, especially in Germany, that he has never been the American patriot he has always been thought to be, with good reason.

Los Angeles is also in a bad way. Image: 20th Century Fox

"We live beyond our means" is his well-intentioned message, not so inappropriate in times of economic crisis, the greenhouse effect leads to global warming, and this in turn leads to an erosion of the Gulf Stream, and this in turn leads to superstorms and a new ice age in the northern hemisphere of the Earth. This is not completely out of the air, at least it corresponds in its basic features to the most pessimistic scenarios of the climate researchers. Emmerich has once again mablos exaggerated, entertainment-film-like condensed to a period of ten days, which, if at all, could take place in the course of many years. Visually this is as impressive as it is gimmicky.

Heroic science

Immediately after the first images, a drive over a deserted, icy landscape, one sees a US research station in the eternal ice of the North Sea. Plotwise, a crack opens up in the middle of the camp: the scene is completely senselessly exaggerated and actually only serves to show Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) in action for once. Because science per se is not exactly sexy and suitable for entertainment, that’s why it has to be heroized and spared: Dennis Quaid, tanned on the meter-deep abyss.

But because it is Quaid, we know that he survives. But science only becomes heroic in everyday iconography when it leaves the desk and the lab room. True credibility comes only through the "Drauben-sein", through direct, immediate experience and danger.

Superstorm with frosty message

Dennis Quaid as Jack Hall is the heroic scientist. Image: 20th Century Fox

Later Hall, armed with reading glasses, lectures and runs through the film like Cassandra through Troy, always warning of the worst, always in the right, but as only the viewer knows, a nerve-racking tale that no one believes for a long time. The usual dialogues follow. As later, up to the end credits, there is not a single sentence that one has not heard in another film, and one does not encounter a character that is even two centimeters deep. Nothing of this interests Emmerich, it is all just staffage: "The film is the star" means the director and that means for him: the silent coarseness of the effects.

Narrow-minded and isolationist

At the beginning Emmerich shows once snow in New Delhi, hail in Japan. The film visually sweeps the world together, shows a danger that threatens the world community as a whole. But Emmerich does not create this community cinematically. Because everything else happens in America. In this respect, in spite of his credible "good" concern, his view remains as narrow-minded and isolationist as in Emmerich’s other worse films.

Thunderstorm over New Delhi. Image: 20th Century Fox

Only the English still appear a little. And the Americans will once again, as they did in "Independence Day" neatly divided into the usual representatives of blacks, Asians, Eastern European speakers and the female majority. At least in death, Emmerich establishes a multicultural Volksgemeinschaft – though again, blacks die far more often.

By the way, it would not be necessary to mention this, if Emmerich did not carry this intention of PC-ness so clearly in front of him. Just as his conservative "family values". For once again, the disaster serves, in a certain sense, above all to reunite an ideal-typical, i.e. female, but separate, i.e. dysfunctional U.S. family. The husband works too much, the wife is unhappy, the son is disobedient and has no girlfriend – these are the usual problems of the middle class, so a little ice age comes in handy to set the right priorities again.

Only in one point Emmerich actually offers something new. Politics, especially the US president, are no longer the unquestioned heroes who actually defeat the disaster. On the contrary: As if by God’s hand, a bolt of lightning strikes the Weibe Haus right at the beginning. And the vice-president not only looks like Dick Cheney, he also talks and acts like him. The politicians, they are here for a long time failures and ignoramuses, not heroes (muzzle for Nasa scientists).

And in one of the smarter scenes, Emmerich shows masses of U.S. fugitives pushing their way across the Mexican border, the self-erected fence suddenly becoming a terrifying barrier in reverse. Also a U.S. flag – it has always had a special meaning in Roland Emmerich’s films – is seen flying proudly once, and then again, iced over in seconds – images of bitter irony, but which remain almost unique in this film.

Burning books

Emmerich probably also means it ironically, when the last survivors in New York find refuge in the library, of all places, and there, as it might have been warm in the ice age, they start burning books. Sure, the good Gutenberg Bible will be spared. But "Shall I burn Nietzsche?", is asked. And after a few seconds of pulling the philosopher also lands in the fire. First things first – maybe that’s the way it has to be if you want to survive. But somehow one can’t shake the feeling that Emmerich doesn’t care much either.

New York, including the Statue of Liberty, freezes over. Image: 20th Century Fox

In the second part, after the nice looking catastrophe, the melodrama dominates: it’s all too predictable, but above all boring and bland. And the message then no longer seems as left-liberal as Emmerich likes to claim. We learn: the catastrophe welds the people together, benefits social morale in the long run. The army is good. "We will learn from our mistakes." says insightfully the vice president. And the obligatory self-sacrifice of some ages, "who have lived their lives" The "death of a man" is also a must – just as this film often shows characters who seem to be driven by a secret death instinct: You have to rob your sins by putting yourself in danger, you have to give up your life to save it, according to the moral of the film. Pretty thick all this. But this is also nothing new with Roland Emmerich.

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