First I'd like to thank the following people/entities:
(1) Consolidated Theaters for providing a comfy chair.
(2) The makers of "I Robot" for providing a preview which
caused me to think "however bad this is, it isn't 'I Robot'".
(4) Those who contributed to the charity marathon.
(5) And above all, those who did *not* contribute as above.
The best summary of the movie comes from "The Simpsons"
"It's cold and there are wolves" - Abe.
The movie is at its most stunningly accurate in its portrayal
Paleoclimatologists are notoriously brave and of course
very fit. Nary a one of us would hesitate to jump a widening
crevasse - twice - while wearing arctic gear - to recover
some ice cores which would take 2-3 hours to re-drill. We're
watching out for *your* tax dollars. Score one for the movie.
Paleoclimatologists are also notoriously handsome/beautiful,
indeed, the envy and despair of other scientists (because
frostbite gives the skin such a youthful appearance). I
cannot fault the producers for failing to cast realistically
good-looking people in these roles (Dennis Quaid barely
qualifies as handsome enough) but I suspect that there
just aren't enough good looking actors in Hollywood to
populate a typical paleoclimatic working group.
Also, we think nothing of writing 50,000 lines of flawless
code in 48 hours. Unlike Jeff Goldblum we don't do it while
drunk. We could if we are allowed to, but NOAA has fallen
victim to "alcoholic correctness".
Now I'm through saying positive things.
The silliest thing in the movie is probably intentional,
and has has nothing to do with science. Our spunky group
of survivors (three high school students, a street person
and his dog, a librarian, etc) are stuck in the NY public
library, their only source of heat an old fireplace. They
have to burn something, but what? The camera pans lovingly
over long wooden tables, chairs, paneling. But what do
they burn? Books, books and only books. And it's a roaring
fire. True, they do burn the tax code first.
At one point we see them breaking up chairs, and I felt that,
perhaps, one of them had read in a book somewhere that wood
will burn, but I should have known better. Who reads fuel?
They use the backs of the chairs for snowshoes, and as far as
I can tell never bother to burn the leftover fragments.
Perhaps *this* film should have been titled "Fahrenheit 451".
Or "Fahrenheit -151". Both work.
One character does cling closely to a Gutenberg bible, lest
some pyromaniac decide it would burn real good.
After the introductory crevasse broad jump we skip to a
climate conference in Delhi - where it is snowing and,
far less likely, Dick Cheney (I forget the name of the veep
in the film, but it's Cheney, no doubt) is in attendance.
Almost the first thing Quaid's character says is (paraphrase):
"We know that North America and Eurasia are only habitable
because of the thermohaline circulation".
Now, kudos to the producers for getting the words "thermo-
haline circulation" into a movie, but even they must know
that much of North America and Eurasia was inhabited, indeed,
*during* the last ice age. By people without central heating,
for that matter. And while we all learned, incorrectly, in
school that "Europe would freeze except for the Gulf Stream",
I don't recall reading anywhere that, say, North Carolina
just doesn't get enough sun to keep warm (looks out of
window - well, it *is* cloudy).
The event Quaid is talking about, a cooling about 8000
years ago, is real. It's severity is exaggerated, but
I find that acceptable. Nobody's going to watch a movie
where it gets slightly cooler in Wisconsin and outdoor
pool sales plummet in Edmonton.
Conservation of energy? Violated. Wide swaths of the North
Atlantic cool by 13 degrees (as scientist is talking to
scientist one would assume Centigrade, but the number is
actually Fahrenheit taken, I believe, from a model study of
thermohaline collapse by Manabe and Stouffer). Where does
this vast amount of energy go? Not into the storms (mechanical
equivalent of heat is inadequate). It just goes away.
Which brings up the question of just what *is* powering the
three Arctic hypercanes which bring on the new and improved
ice age. As they spend much time on land, the ocean heat
loss can't be doing the job. They are more avenging angels
than storms. Actually, could all that fluffy white cloud
(seen from space) be intended to evoke an angel's white
robes? Which would explain why the storms stop at borders,
freezing out the evil, polluting Americans and Europeans, while
not touching Mexico or North Africa (the Atlas mountains
are snow free, Spain covered). Cyclonic avenging angels.
There are almost too many minor errors to mention: A
storm surge is *not* a tidal wave. People, particularly
if already in water up to their waists, *cannot* outrun
a tidal wave. The New York public library building will
not withstand a tidal wave. Und so weiter.
The funniest scene in the movie (and I'm sure it was
intentional) has our friends outrunning frost. As the -150
F air hits Manhattan, we see its motion by the rapid formation
of instant frost in the corridors of the NY library. Frost
moves, like most movie monsters, just slowly enough for
our heros to escape. And like other movie monsters, when
the characters are able to close a door just before being
caught, the Frost Monster does its best to get through.
The inside of the door turns white (apparently wood has
taken on the conducting properties of superfluid helium
but the air in the room is a sufficient insulator).
As to that -150 F air. The hyperhyperhyper Arctic hurricanes
draw air rapidly down from the tropopause to the surface, so
rapidly that "it doesn't have time to warm up". This is like
the old joke, "I have to write this letter fast before I run
out of ink". Descending air does not warm because it gains
heat from its surroundings, it warms because it is compressed.
And as the surface pressure in the eye of the storm doesn't
seem to cause anyone shortness of breath, I'd guess it to be
at least 700mb. So the air would be warm. As a matter of fact
tropopause air isn't at -150 F anyway. More of a balmy -90.
OK, that's a rather esoteric point for a movie, even one
that uses phrases like "thermohaline circulation". They
had to flash-freeze the Mammoths somehow.
The characters in the movie would have to be massively
deepened to be called shallow. The major conflict is
that of the Quaid character, who has missed much of his
son's upbringing owing to his penchant for jumping crevasses
on remote ice shelves. His wife's anger at this I rate at
137 MilliPeeves, where one Peeve equals the feeling you get
then the coffee shop runs out of your favourite creamer, and
you have to use your second favourite. This is understated
This guilt drives him to extreme stupidity. After telling
his son, stuck in the NY public library, to on no account
go outside he decides to make the trip, alone, from snowy
Washington to icy NY. I'm not sure why, other than so he
can die with his son (he doesn't seem to be carrying arctic
gear for the three students he knows are there), but note that
he has to make much of this trip *outside*. Nobody seems to
note that the trip is utterly unnecessary, resulting only in
the death of one of his friends, who foolishly decline to
let him go alone. In the end they are evacuated by
helicopter when the storm ends *just as he had predicted*.
Not to be outdone in heroism the wife remains behind in a
Washington hospital with a young cancer survivor who can't
be moved except via ambulance. Though the president doesn't
make it out alive, she and the kid get safely to Mexico.
Where Dick Cheney, now converted to environmentalism, says we
will treat the planet better in the future.
Nobody seems to wonder why, with much of Arizona, New
Mexico and Southern California snow free, the US government
had to set up shop in Mexico city. I'm sure Puerto Rico
felt most offended.
The son is having typical teenage trouble telling an
attractive girl that he is kinda-not-attracted to her.
There's almost some plot here when she meets a too-rich,
too-handsome too-tall preppie, but he turns out to be
a good chap (everybody is good except Cheney and a few
people we see for a second or two). She gets sick, they
find out what is wrong via a book they somehow failed to
burn, and get medicine for her in the movie's most surreal
scene (via a Russian ship that has been frozen in the ice
just in front of the library). The helpful Russians have
labeled their antibiotics in English.
In short, This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is
to heart transplant surgery.
But there's some intentional humour (most of which I have
spoiled for you now, I guess), unintentional humour, fun
pictures of disaster, destruction of the remaining part of
the "hollywoodland" sign, ice, and snow, lots of things
falling down, freezing (chills, if not thrills), and loud