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"White-Hot Liberal Porn!"
In the beginning, there is an attempt to document global warming by removing an ice core from the Antarctic. This is made considerably more difficult when the ice shelf collapses under the scientists involved.
A climate summit is held in India. The vice-president (who may not be named "Dick Cheney", but have no doubt of his identity) announces nothing needs to be done. When the conference ends, it is snowing. (Normally, that region of India has a temperature of about 100° F . at the time of year implied in the movie).
The lead scientist involved in the Antarctic expedition, Jack Hall, is considered kooky because he is a paleoclimatologist. He doesn't get along with authorities, and his relationship with his equally genius son could be better.
The genius son Sam Hall is going to NYC for a knowledge decathlon and to try to bond with the girl he joined the knowledge decathlon team for. He's afraid of flying, and this flight doesn't go smoothly. It is one of the last flights at NYC's latitude that goes at all.
In Scotland, another group of scientists is measuring ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic. They aren't paying incredibly close attention when things first go wrong — hey, Manchester United is playing! One of them intends to join his family for a holiday — eventually.
After tornadoes hit LA, America takes this weather thing seriously. Only one weather model seems to have any real predictive power. Unfortunately, it was made by the paleoclimatologist to deal with weather patterns at the start of the last Ice Age, and it wasn't supposed to run anywhere near as fast as the current weather system is running.
- Alternate DVD Commentary: This has a Riff Trax.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version gets a theme song called "More Than a Million Miles" by a band called...Day After Tomorrow.
- Apocalypse How: Class 0 on a large scale, but the Inferred Holocaust pushes it close to Class 1.
- Audible Sharpness: When the frost covers the helicopters and they fall to the ground, their frozen propellers do this.
- Black and Nerdy: One of the funnier characters. ("Hey, guys? There's a whole section on tax law down here that we can burn."), ("Sir, I am president of the Electronics Club, the Math Club, and the Chess Club. Now if there's a bigger nerd in here, please... point him out." )
- Break the Haughty: The Cheney Expy is a lot more humble when he takes office at the end of the film.
- British Royal Family: Apparently all killed; frozen to death.
- Interestingly enough, Roland Emmerich's next big disaster film explicitly shows them surviving.
- Head-in-The-Sand Management: The President and Vice President.
- A Crack in the Ice:
- In the first minutes, a science station has been set up on the Antarctic ice shelf. A crack in the snow appears. Moments later, a crevasse divides the camp in two.
- Later, a sled is sucked into a hole that appears in the snow. Moments later it's revealed that it's actually not a crevasse but a hole in the glass roof of a shopping mall buried in the snow!
- Dead Line News: A reporter in Los Angeles is hit by a billboard. Also, a guy who's in the middle of it is in his car and gets crushed by a flying bus, and the scene is caught on video. Ironically, the commentator from the helicopter says "I hope no one was in that car!"
- Death by Sex: Weather guy and the girl he was banging while the Tornadoes were blowing through LA.
- Deleted Scene: Enough to make a second movie. Three main storylines were cut and one of them included a cameo by Alan Ruck.
- Divorce Is Temporary: Jack and Lucy are broken up at the beginning due to Jack's work taking him away from the family. But he realizes how much he's missed and after risking his life to save his son from frozen New York, he and Lucy move toward reconciling.
- Do Not Follow The Funnel Cloud In A Helicopter From One Block Away
- Downer Ending: A substantial portion of the world's population has been wiped out, most of the planet's fertile farmland is coated in ice, Europe, Russia, Canada, and the United States are uninhabitable wastelands, and no one seems to care.
- Dramatic Landfall Shot
- Exact Time to Failure
- Gaia's Vengeance: The metaphorical flavor.
- Green Aesop / Space Whale Aesop: Although Emmerich was not aiming for a scientifically accurate depiction of climate change, the attitude and actions of Dick Cheney Expy Vice President Becker were intended to be a criticism of the Bush Administration's policies. Giving Becker the moment to apologize to the world for being wrong at the end of the movie is likely why he avoided a Karmic Death much earlier.
- Ignored Expert: Jack Hall. After a freak disaster has just removed Los Angeles from the face of the Earth, the one scientist in the government who's even willing to venture a guess as to what's going on still has to beg for computer time in order to confirm his theory. You would think that after the vaporization of LA, the government would also be interested in confirming the only available theory as to how and why ... but they're just so unreasonable, somehow, and refuse out of nowhere.
- Inferred Holocaust
- It Got Worse: It's not enough that the world is plummeting into an ice age and they're trapped in a library of death as the entire city perishes in the cold--no, no, they're not in quite enough danger yet. LET'S ADD WOLVES!
- The Jimmy Hart Version: The theme when Jake Gyllenhall and his buddies go inside the Russian ship to look for medicines sounds exactly like the main theme from "Panic Room"
- Karma Houdini: The Dick Cheney Expy Vice President tries to shut down any attempt to handle the crisis intelligently long past the point where he should have learned to shut up. See a Karmic Death coming? Nope. Instead, he gets a Field Promotion when the more reasonable president eschews his fleet of helicopters, drives south in a motorcade onto already packed roads instead, and dies in the storm.
- Landmark of Lore
- Littlest Cancer Patient
- Mexico Saves The Day: Played straight and averted during the film. In a deliberately allegorical scene, Americans trying to flee the disaster are seen crossing the border illegally across the Rio Grande into Mexico, rather than the other way around. Mexico closes its borders to prevent Americans from coming in. Later in the film, the new president, who had served as Obstructive Bureaucrat to the extreme throughout the entire film, gives an address from the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.
- Monumental Damage: The Hollywood Sign gets shredded by a tornado.
- Mood Motif
- Motor Mouth: Mark Gordon in the Audio Commentary. Not only he talks fast, he also impersonates while talking fast.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Al Gore and Dick Cheney have counterparts in this film.
- No Mere Windmill: Type C, where the main character gets ridiculed for a prognosis that is far less lethal then the situation they are really about to face.
- Outrun the Fireball: Inverted by outrunning a tsunami and outrunning an advancing killer frost line.
- Police Are Useless: During a city flood, where a cold tsunami is about to enter, a Hispanic family is trapped inside a cab, banging on the window pleading to be let out in French. Meanwhile, an English-speaking cop stands outside the cab, telling them, "I'm sorry, I can't understand French!"
- Also, the cop who leads most of the survivors out of the safe library, in hope of being found by rescue teams. There are no rescue teams. The policeman's and the other survivors' frozen bodies are found later on.
- Red Shirt Reporter: Features a reporter giving up-to-the-minute reports on the tornadoes rampaging through downtown Los Angeles. He ends up flattened by flying debris, of course.
- Romantic False Lead: J.D. is initially set up as one and seems to be getting in the way of Sam getting with Laura. However, this is suddenly dropped not long afterwards, and J.D. switches to being a Shipper on Deck for them.
- Run for the Border: Type B instance, involves entire national populations doing this.
- Scenery Gorn
- Serkis Folk
- Shaggy Dog Story: Jack Hall hikes across frozen America to reach his son, loses his best friend in the process, almost dies numerous times. When he gets there the storm's breaking up, and the Army has arrived to airlift everyone to safety.
- Strawman Political: Everything, everywhere, that happens at any point in the entire movie.
- Surveillance Station Slacker: The aforementioned Scotland shack full of Brits.
- Throwaway Country: All of Europe freezes over except Spain and Portugal. Maybe the old European saying "Africa starts at the Pyrenees" was right after all.
- Don't forget Japan getting a patented Death From Above in the form of MASSIVE hail.
- Teen Genius: Also, a bad case of The Worm Guy.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Believe it or not, but in 1912, an Australian adventurer and two of his colleagues traveled to the North Pole as a part of the Australasian Expedition. One fell down a crevasse with half of their supplies, and the other one fell ill and died after Mawson personally pulled him along. Mawson was the only one to survive. In the movie, the protagonist and his two friends experience a nearly identical fate when they travel to the Big Applesauce (one breaks through the glass roof of a mall and falls to his death and the other one falls ill for the protagonist to carry him around). In the movie, however, casualty two actually recovers.
The Riff Trax of this movie features examples of:
- Black Comedy: Hollywood, it's Armageddon here in Hollywood. Apocalyptic hijinks here in L.A, but its a swell day, more fun then they academy awards...
- Running Gags
- Shout-Out: There's a shout out to Prince of Space in during the scenes set in Japan.
- 38 °C