I mentioned to a co-worker that if it got much colder, they were going to have to send Dennis Quaid to rescue us.
I got nothing. Obviously, he didn’t remember the movie that came out 10 years ago, The Day After Tomorrow, starring Quaid and his scene-stealing co-star, a new planetary ice age.
What put this in my mind, obviously, was all the talk this week of the “polar vortex,” which sounded a little like the massive arctic cyclone - or whatever the heck it was - that basically blanketed most everything in the movie from the Raleigh Beltline to the Hudson Bay under a mountain of snow and ice.
Quaid played a paleoclimatologist, a guy who studies ice ages of yesteryear, and he had to snowshoe to New York City to rescue his son, the sulky but whip-smart Jake Gyllenhaal.
This was a highly watchable disaster movie. All you had to do was ignore the writer-director Roland Emmerich’s loathing for the Bush administration and dial down your IQ a few points. (Remember, this was 2004, perhaps the zenith of the left’s intense dislike for George W. Bush.)
The central villain of the movie is the vice president of these United States, a man who is a dead ringer for Dick Cheney. He mocks Quaid’s insistence that global warming caused by mankind has messed up the oceans so badly that the climate is going through a massive - and really, really sudden - transformation. Quaid wants the VP to order an evacuation of the northern states. The VP says, yeah, no possible way.
Sure enough, Quaid is right, and, presto, a new ice age.
The president in this movie is basically a weak-minded puppet controlled by the vice president. Get it? The president doesn’t make it out alive, by the way. His motorcade gets polar vortexed somewhere.
The VP has relocated in a hurry to Mexico, where he is now trying to run things from the U.S. embassy. Americans are flooding into Mexico illegally to escape the storm. (A message from the director to the anti-immigration crowd that you never know, one big apocalyptic superstorm and Americans might be the ones without proper documents.)
The VP has to make a deal with the Mexicans to let Americans in that involves writing off the debts of developing countries. So his buddies, those greedy New York bankers, get their comeuppance, if there are any of them left after the tsunami hit Wall Street in an early and remarkable scene.
The vice president - who has gotten a promotion since his predecessor bought it on I-95 - goes on TV and admits that he was wrong, oh so wrong, about global warming and stuff like that. He is one remorseful dude, with The Weather Channel logo in the background.
(I guess it was one of the few networks to make it out. That’s our future, post-apocalyptic basic cable package. The Weather Channel. Maybe Lifetime.)
After all this - the northern half of the U.S. basically under a new ice cap, cities destroyed, hundreds of millions dead or displaced - the film shows a bunch of astronauts looking down at the U.S. from the International Space Station.
One turns to another and says: “Look at that ... Have you ever seen the air so clear?”
So, hey, maybe the U.S. is mostly gone, but we’ve cleaned up that nagging smog problem caused by fossil fuel emissions. The view is spectacular.
A Duke researcher said at the time: “This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery.” It was voted by Yahoo! as one of the top 10 scientifically inaccurate movies of all time.
And it grossed more than a half-billion dollars, by some accounts.