Sunday, November 4, 2012

A little closer to The Day After Tomorrow

Not just yet, but The Day After Tomorrow. 20th Century Fox.
Superstorm Sandy provided an unexpected respite from culture, and a stark reminder of the ever-worsening consequences of global warming. For years, New York City has been one of Hollywood's favorite disaster targets, with its signature Statue of Liberty providing a concise visual and sociological metaphor for aspirational America, and its skyscrapers a symbol of the capitalist firmament, either economically competitive or demonic.

BK/Battery Tunnel this past week. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty
Though it wasn't quite as bad as as the scary scenes from The Day After Tomorrow (with Jake Gyllenhaal) in which the main branch of the New York Public Library is flooded and a cruise ship navigates by on a flooded Fifth Avenue, some of the shots of Battery Park City and the new South Street subway entrance completely inundated show that that end-of-the-world scenario is actually terrifyingly imaginable.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes. 20th Century Fox.
Of course the iconic image of the Statue of Liberty is from Planet of the Apes, where Lady Liberty stands as a proud, defiant symbol of the US/humankind's resilience. (Or, if you're a half-empty kinda person, the demise.)

Storm Sandy was one time when Manhattan actually was not physically connected with the rest of the country, even if culturally it often isn't. Floods took care of the tunnels, and hurricane winds meant the only remaining route—the bridges—were off limits. Long Island, also disconnected; Staten Island too. Not as final as the outcome of Will Smith's I Am Legend, but at least for a few days, the same effect.

Will Smith is Legend, but not in the BK. Still, his office has a great view. Warner Bros.
And despite the many powerless days in lower Manhattan, where at night Broadway was so dark you couldn't see the potholes you were about to step into, there was little crime, due to the constant police presence, and probably also because it was so difficult to get around, so no need for a companion German Shepherd for protection.

I have no doubt that in the future, filmmakers will be inspired to use Barclays Center as a new NY icon, hopefully involving ETs and mothership landing sites. It will also be ripe with potential for mocking Brooklyn as the epicenter of all that is hip, and the inherent halflife of trends—rising and waning.

After nearly a week, we have power back, but still no subway trains rumble directly under lower Broadway, although they're gradually returning to cross-river service. It's been a harsh warning of things to come, things that filmmakers have long imagined on our behalf. If only we—they—used their  resources and brainpower to be proactive about innovations related to our built world, rather than tearing it down, since politicians are ignoring it.

How about it, filmmakers?

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