This movie puts me in mind of a great truism: "Instant gratification isn't
fast enough." And, when it comes to science, let none of that interfere with
the requirements to hype nature up a bit to satisfy the need for a little
drama. And, let's not let ittie things like conscience or integrity restrain
the quest for a boxoffice bang.
This is a monster movie that's no better than any that have come from the pen
of Stephen King. It's not a scarecrow or a car or some other inanimate
inanity with an evil spirit. In this outing, it's monster storms set loose by
the mechanisms of global warming. But, the notion of getting on the bad side
of mother nature for a spot of mass death in order to provide some conviction
and deep meaning is a premise that sputters with false foundation.
As though to let us know that they're aware of the scepticism with which
their concept is likely to be greeted, (and maybe head off some laughs)
director Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day"), who wrote it with Jeffrey
Nachmanoff, has his central figure, climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid),
inform fellow scientists and the vice-president of the U.S. that the timeline
for the impending ice age is on the order of 100 to 500 years. Since this is
not science fiction (which it is, of course), we're not going to lap dissolve
into the future. Instead, we're going to make it happen within days.
As more data come in from northerly regions of the globe, more scientists are
coming around to take Jack's fears seriously, though the VP continues to
resist his attempt to mobilize the country against it. That's right, take a
shot at an inflexible politician who won't listen to reason!
The home folk chosen for the human warmth running against the waves of
catastrophic storms and rising seas consist of Jack's brilliant son Sam (Jake
Gyllenhaal) who, with beautiful and bright Laura Chapman (Emmy Rossum), takes
off to New York for a Science Decathlon, becoming flood-bound on the
northerly island of finance where venturing outside is an invitation to
freeze to death.
Jack and wife Dr. Lucy Hall (Sela Ward) are frantic over his safety amidst
the increasing danger, ultimately leading to Jack's taking off to New York on
a rescue mission that's a study in recklessness and insensibility. So,
Emmerich has the image of a devoted father driving across the country going
to the aid of his son, but after barely being able to get there, what's he
supposed to do about saving the kid--or himself for that matter? Too
embarrassing a question--one which Emmerich dodges completely with an instant
miracle on the order of the instant ice age that started the whole mess.
Be that as it may, this film is worth seeing. For me, its outstanding
virtues are the exemplary computer graphics that gives it almost-convincing
images of a great chill, and the casting of a too-little seen actress who
might, through this appearance, gain many more offers. Emmy Rossum was Sean
Penn's daughter (the one who was murdered) in "Mystic River." She was also Appalachian folk-singing
Deladis Slocumb in "Songcatcher" back in the day (2000).
Assisting in whatever success this adventure is able to pull out is an
ensemble of sympathetic characters. While their travails and relationships
might be built on thin ice, as long as we can buy into the shaky premise
behind their plight, it works on a human level. After all, a monster movie
needs its warm blooded surrogates acting and reacting in our behalf. It
helps that they're more plausible than their situation.
~~ Jules Brenner