The Day After Tomorrow and Sunshine both have similarities: both depict “possible” future disastrous events that dangerously impact life on Earth, and ultimately, both end in triumph and the saving of human life on earth.
However, despite the broad plot similarities of the two films, I found that the underlying intent of each film is different. As I discussed earlier, the plot of sunshine Sunshine is largely centered around the psychological effects of a disaster—specifically, the dying of the sun. From the very beginning of the film, before the audience even has a full idea as to what the disaster is and the purpose of the space mission, the characters’ personalities and interpersonal conflicts are clearly introduced and begin development that carries the audience through the entire story. For example, we first see the captain’s unhealthy fascination with the sun while he is in the viewing room. Later on we witness his eventual surrendering to the sun, allowing himself to float into space, toward the heat of the sun, and burn. Additionally, conflicts between characters are depicted, particularly through the characters of Cappa and Mace. For example, Cappa takes too long recording his message to Earth, and Mace instigates a physical fight in response. Because such a response is out of proportion with the circumstance that triggered it, we can infer as an audience that it is the result of longer-term, cumulative conflict that has been building between the two during the many months they have lived in close proximity on the spaceship.
On the other end of the spectrum, The Day After Tomorrow focuses more on the cause of the events, rather than effect. Serving as a social commentary, the movie focuses on human’s direct link to the disaster depicted. In the beginning of the film, the climatologist Jack Hall is trying to devise a way to save Earth from an intense and rapid pattern of global warming. When he initially tries to alert people of the disaster at hand, he does not receive much attention or concern. Finally, once the effects of global warming are extreme (such as nonstop rain for three weeks among various other weather anomalies around the world), the public recognizes global warming as an actual problem, and pays attention to Jack’s warning: an ice age will occur in the near future.
This societal commentary focuses on individuals’ tendencies to ignore the fact that every cause precipitates an effect of some sort, especially if the effect manifests itself gradually rather than instantly. It is understandable that people tend to be much more reactive and concerned about disasters that strike immediately and leave observable damage—for example, Hurricane Katrina (I need not mention that despite the initial fervent concern, the public does tend to forget about these quickly; many people in New Orleans are still struggling to get their life back in place—but that is something I could go on about in another, or multiple other, blog entries). However, when the damage is done over a long time span, and recognition of the subject as a cause of concern requires abstract, long term, and critical thinking, we as a society do not realize until we are faced an imminent ice age.