Hollywood Global Warming Film Set To Turn Heat On Bush
May 28 sees the worldwide release of The Day After Tomorrow, the eco-armageddon story to beat all others. The studio behind the movie: 20th Century Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch. The director: Roland Emmerich; no Martin Sheen-style bleeding heart Democrat but the brawn behind Independence Day.
Hollywood disaster film set to turn heat on Bush
Movie depicting horrors of global warming could boost votes for Democrat challenger
Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Saturday March 13, 2004
Here's the pitch: a dullish candidate, outflanked by his opponent's serious money, attacked for his liberal leanings, is swept to an unlikely victory thanks to a blockbuster movie that focuses on the effects of big business and the agro-industrial complex.
Audiences throw their popcorn aside, pick up their ballot papers and realise that they too can make a difference. The studio behind the movie: 20th Century Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch. The director: Roland Emmerich; no Martin Sheen-style bleeding heart Democrat but the brawn behind Independence Day.
It sounds unlikely, but this summer might just see an alliance of commerce, populist entertainment and feel-good concern combine to weaken President George Bush and hand votes to his expected Democrat rival John Kerry.
On the other hand, the film could tank, like one of its director's other monster-budget summer openings, Godzilla.
May 28 sees the worldwide release of The Day After Tomorrow, the eco-armageddon story to beat all others.
The first trailers for the film, released on the internet last week, give a taste of the scale of the eco-horrors to come. Filmed in a combination of slick computer generated special effects and faux newscast verité, tidal waves sweep across cities and snow piles halfway up the towers of Manhattan as disjointed voices articulate the chaos around them.
"What you are seeing is happening now," says a breathless newsreader. "Look over behind me," shouts a TV reporter, "that's a tornado, yes, a twister." The film cuts to a volcano erupting next to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. A huge flock of birds flies across the sky, a mass of people is seen crossing the Rio Grande between Mexico and the United States.
Filmed with a budget of more than $100m (£55.6m) and special effects said to be the greatest thing since, well, since the last big budget movie, the film has one other difference from other Hollywood blockbusters: it has a conscience.
"At some point during the filming we looked around at all the lights, generators and trucks and we realised the very process of making this picture is contributing to the problem of global warming," the director and producers say in a statement on the film's official website. "We couldn't avoid putting CO2 into the atmosphere during the shoot, but we discovered we could do something to make up for it; we could make the film carbonneutral." By planting trees they will take out the CO2 the production put in.
The film's website includes a lengthy list of internet links to organisations that have researched the effects of global warming. During filming last year, Emmerich described the film as "a popcorn movie that's actually a little subversive".
Whether this is the typical hype that surrounds a Hollywood blockbuster or the heartfelt statement of a tortured artist does not really matter. What seems certain is that the film will help to propel global warming and the environment high up the political agenda.
President Bush is known to be sceptical about the possibility of global warming, while the environment is a traditional strong card for the Democrats. With issues such as oil drilling rights in Alaska playing strongly among some voters, the president's opponents have regularly attacked him for the favouritism he is perceived to have shown to the fossil fuel giants that dominate the US economy.
The Pentagon even got in on the act, releasing a study last month that suggested that one outcome of global warming could be the rise of mass civil unrest. In one scenario, drought, famine and rioting erupt across the world, spurred on by climate change. As countries face dwindling food supplies and scarce natural resources, conflict becomes the norm.
"Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life," says the Pentagon study. "Once again, warfare would define human life."
"The climate is going to play a significant role in the campaign," said Luke Breit, chairman of the Democrat's environmental caucus in California, where the environment is traditionally a key political issue. "John Kerry is mentioning clean air and water at every opportunity. It's going to be on the first tier of issues. Our job is to make clear how anti-environment the government has been."
But while it can be fortuitous for an event such as a mass appeal movie to come along and propel an issue to the forefront of voters' consciousness, there are also pitfalls. "The danger is it could make it look more trivial," said Mr Breit. "My guess is that people in the environmental leadership around the country are holding their breath. I'm hoping that it's going to be very good and that we have great entertainment value but that at the same time it treats the science seriously."
One US environmental pressure group has already enlisted the help of one of the film's stars, Jake Gyllenhaal, to help promote its agenda while promoting the film.
The Day After Tomorrow's advance publicity suggests a typical Hollywood mix of fact, fantasy and hype: fake weather reports and testimonies from fans about where they would like to be the day the world dies are mixed with earnest exhortations to help avert global warming.
And Hollywood has been here before. The Perfect Storm, Armageddon and Twister all combined Hollywood's love of little people battling insurmountable natural - and unnatural - powers while giving great special effects.
"In Independence Day Roland Emmerich brought you the near destruction of the earth by aliens," says the website. "Now, in The Day After Tomorrow, the enemy is an even more devastating force: nature itself." It'll have them voting in the aisles.
address: The Guardian
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article