Tuesday Three: Fictional New York Weatherpocalypses


As Hurricane Sandy (known to some of you as FRANKENSTORM and to the more pedantic of you as THE METEOROLOGIST'S MONSTER) swaddles the Eastern seaboard with an extremely wet blanket, my thoughts turn to fictional New York weatherpocalypses past. These are their stories. DUN DUN.

1. The Day After Tomorrow


My greatest Frankenstorm pleasure (apart from a couple of extra "work-from-home" PJ days) derives from a lingering memory of a bunch of Oxbridge holier-than-thous snickering through a screening of The Day After Tomorrow at an environmental agency I once worked at.

"New York city shalt not be graced by a hurricanous monstrosity in any reality!" they exhaled, along with hearty fumes of red wine and superiority.

Now I'm not going to pretend that The Day After Tomorrow offers a portrait of anything approaching reality, but complaining about a lack of verisimilitude in a Roland Emmerich film is a bit like complaining that an orange tastes of citrus. What The Day After Tomorrow DOES give us, in order of priority, is a shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal (at a time when he still belonged to the indie kids), and amazing special effects shots of the New York Public Library drowned in a snow-pocalypse (Brangelina aint got NOTHIN' on weather-related portmanteaus...).

2. AI: Artificial Intelligence

Screen shot 2012 10 29 at 3 04 49 PM

Because it's never quite obvious that the weatherpocalypse has already happened long before the start of the movie, AI's controversial coda hits you in the face like a sickly sweet rhubarb pie. When I first saw the movie, I was the classic "love the movie, hate the ending" viewer, until I watched it a second time and suddenly got it.

Setting plays an important role here, implying that Kubrick's overall intent was something closer to Tree of Life than to his usual bleakness. It's the the crisis of human existence boiled down to its most fundamental battle: the creations of man vs. the creations of nature. And the beauty of AI is that it's impossible to figure out exactly who's winning between those dueling spawns, though humankind clearly lost. Poor David clings to the last vestige of what once defined humanity, until even that's lost.

3. Planet of the Apes


Planet of the Apes was a great obsession of mine as a kid (that includes all the offshoots, even the tv show, which inspired my first fanfiction, written as a lonely 10 year old in Jakarta, Indonesia). I haven't revisited the classic films since my tweens (I watched them so many times I can still see every scene in head), and as my mind developed, I came to realize that the films are microcosms of mankind's worst tendencies, especially the first film.

Planet of the Apes basically amounts to a wet dream for xenophobes, operating on the premise that as white men become the minority, the new colored overlords are barbaric murderers, concerned only with the downfall of the white men. (I'll take this opportunity to point out that the human women left in this particular white supremacist nightmare fantasy land LITERALLY HAVE NO VOICE).

But none of that dulls the impact of the incredible reveal at the end of the film, the only scene left from Rod Serling's original script for the movie. Taylor and Nova finally make it to the Forbidden Zone, only to find out that the "alien planet" he's landed on is, in fact, post-apocalyptic Earth. We don't know the exact circumstances that led to our Great Lady's semi-burial, but it's a decent guess that the climate had a fair bit of impact in the 700 years since Taylor and his fellow astronauts left Earth.


Weatherpocalypses fast and slow have long been a Hollywood obsession, so there are FAR more films that I haven't even touched upon. What are your favorites, whether New York or not?

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