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Face-Off: 2012 vs. Day After Tomorrow

01.03.2013by: Paul Huffman
We paid tribute to a true comedy gem in last weeks Face-Off, in a match between Jim Carrey's Lloyd Christmas against Jeff Daniels' Harry Dunn courtesy of Dumb & Dumber. Although Lloyd took the final verdict both with the column and reader votes, I was pleased to see some said votes swung towards having affection for Harry Dunn as well.

This week, we are going to switch it up a bit. The year 2012 came and went with the spirits of the Mayans laughing at us, and when 12/21/2012 hit I couldn't help but think of the king of the disaster film Roland Emmerich. Over the last couple of years Roland has churned out films that cover the threat of global warming and the mans ridiculous take on this joke of an apocalyptic superstition. I have to say, both turned out pretty bad in my eyes, with one being more redeemable than the other and we'll get to that. So that switch up I mentioned? The final verdict this week will be based on which film is WORSE. When you drop your two cents, that's what we're looking for as well.
Story
It's the year 2009, a geologist and an astrophysicist discover that a huge solar flare is causing the temperature of the earths core to increase like a son of a bitch...they warn the powers that be that the affects will be none to pleasurable, and so begin preparations. When shit hits the fan, the film becomes one long rescue/make it to safety mission. The idea of the cover up, and the process of picking and choosing who gets to live, and more of an emphasis on the scientific aspect of all this I feel would have been a better story to focus on. I hate to say, that superman John Cusack was a little too much to ask me to wrap my head around.
You know when Jack Hall came to that UN conference with his scientific findings on the pending threat of global warming, f*cking idiots should have listened. Add in natural disasters that result in a new ice age with some family drama, and fight for survival sprinkled here and there and you've got yourself a cookie cutter Emerich disaster flick. The father son relationship and Jack's determination to get back to him was a bit more touching than what we got in 2012 so points for that. Several scientists have bashed the film for it's depiction of a new ice age that they know is impossible. Points taken away for that, but not enough to lose to 2012 in this category.
Disaster Sequences
I have to say, the destruction of LA was great to watch in this film. From there we have that damn volcano that took out or beloved Woody Harrelson (and that Cusack miraculously made it out of). Add in the wrath of water that took out monks, cruise ships, Washington DC, and pedestrians. That's the redeeming element of this film, Emmerich knew that when you're dealing with the end of the world you can't get it all out of the way in the first thirty minutes. Disaster was sprinkled throughout the run time and it was appreciated. Interestingly enough, the scene that terrified me the most was the doom of the cruise ship on the open sea. Just something about the idea of the that, hell naw.
Tornadoes (and a shit load of them), hurricanes, and floods. That is the extent of what were presented with in this film but damn was it entertaining while it lasted. That said, the disaster scenes were short and sweet and we got to the part about marveling that the world was all of a sudden in a new ice age. While the moments of peril were indeed entertaining, the amount of which we see it in 2012 has got to give the edge to that film in this particular category. Don't worry though Day After Tomorrow, you've got more heart.
Cast
Let's focus on the cast and the roles I dug in 2012. Chiwetel Ejiofor gave us a fantastic and passionate performance that I was into every step of the way, he carried most of the emotional weight (and he was the scientist). I dug Oliver Platt and he was interesting character as far as what his motivation and priorities were. Danny Glover and Thandie Newton were great in there performances although they didn't have much meat on their roles. Cusack, Peet, and the child actors were okay...maybe it was their unnatural talent for survival in impossible circumstances that pulled me out of their struggle a bit. Or maybe it was that I thought Ejifor was the superior performer here.
The always awesome Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal in an intriguing father son relationship made for an emotional investment that much needed in this movie. We have a great love interest in Emmy Rossum that has the beauty with the talent to back it up. Also, a short but memorable turn for the great Ian Holm. At the risk of sounding redundant, I have to give the edge to Day After Tomorrow here solely for the fact that I identify with the relationships more. I respect Quaid's determination to find his son and Gyllenhaal's determination for survival. No reflection on the 2012 gang they are a talented bunch of performers, but Emmerich wrote his characters better here.
Overall
2012 to me, as a whole, was a train wreck. What could have been an interesting film had they focused more on one aspect of the story than another, it could have been a win. But to focus on the journey of a writer and his family (with kids that often annoyed me) who have virtually no hope of surviving LA let alone everything they survived afterwords, I just couldn't buy in to. This is the ramblings of a moviegoer with certain preferences. I doubt the the idea of a story focused on the scientific and political aspect of the end of the world might not be that bankable and pulls away from the popcorn blockbuster feel of it...that may have been the route to go to make this better.
Day After Tomorrow was blasted for its scientific inaccuracies, while being praised by those same critics for addressing the issue in the first place. I was raised with a love for science so the ridiculousness I found in the film lied solely on said scientific bullshit, but the film worked for me on other levels. I dug the characters more, and when you have outlandish shit like this it can be a films saving grace and it's for this reason that Day After Tomorrow has ultimately avoided being a complete disaster (see what I did there?)
2012
So there you have it, while both films suffer from some faults I find Day After Tomorrow to be a bit more enjoyable for a couple of reasons. 2012 had had some promising ideas, but suffered from quite a bit of stupidity and too much effort was spent on that, when you had a more compelling approach they could have worked with. But that's just me. Where do you stand?

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which disaster film do you find WORSE?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

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