When Good Environmentalism Goes Bad (on film, that is)

Anyone who knows me knows that I love hilariously bad movies. A particular category of bad movies I love would have to be really inaccurate environmental films. It’s kind of hard not to be amused by them; right-wingers can laugh at the preachy messages, and environmentalists can laugh at how bad the science is!

So, for those of you who want some recommendations for a “Bad Movie Night”, have my top three favorite bad environmental movies.

3. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

I first saw parts of this movie in my eighth grade science class. This just confirms my long-standing opinion that the teacher for said class was the worst science teacher ever.

So, we all know that global warming can cause some pretty devastating storms, right? Well, in this movie, every single storm ever hits the North American continent (Because, in movies, disasters only hit North America. Or Tokyo.) all at once. And New York City is completely submerged. And then a new Ice Age starts. In the span of a couple DAYS.

Okay, if you guys were paying any attention to the discussion on climate change in class, you know what’s wrong with this picture.

Roland Emmerich, the director of this movie, actually admits he didn’t let pesky things like “facts” bother him while filming this mess. I’d like to know his excuse for the scene where, in order to keep warm in a library, several characters burn books instead of the wooden furniture surrounding them.

2. The Happening (2008)

I am not going to lie, this is one of my favorite comedies ever. Problem is, it’s supposed to be a horror movie, and I’m not laughing at the few parts that are meant to be funny. It’s also proof that M. Night Shyamalan just needs to step away from movies for a while, unless he wants to make me laugh my butt off at things that he thinks are scary.

The premise starts out creepy enough: people all across the northeastern United States are randomly up and killing themselves. Granted, most of the suicides depicted are waaaaaaay over-the-top (example: a guy feeds himself to lions in a scene that looks like it came out of a particularly dark Monty Python sketch), but so far, nothing too wrong here. But then we start dipping into “bad science” territory when we’re given part of the reason: some kind of neurotoxin is causing the survival instinct to shut off in the brain. I would argue that this would just make everyone much more accident-prone rather than outright suicidal, but we’ve only hit the tip of the crazy iceberg here. You want to know the reason for all this?

Plants. Plants are pissed off at us for…existing, I guess. The movie never settles on what, exactly, caused every single plant in the area to start emitting neurotoxins that they biologically shouldn’t even be able to produce. The best answer we get is in a scene where Mark Wahlberg’s character, a science teacher who later talks to a plastic plant (no, really), asks his class to guess the reasons for Colony Collapse Disorder. After hearing reasonable answers like “global warming” and “pollution”, Wahlberg gets the “correct” answer from a student who clearly wasn’t even paying attention: “An act of nature, and we’ll never fully understand it”

Yeah, that’ll fly in the scientific journals.

And speaking of flying, here’s my number one pick…

1. Birdemic (2008)

Do we have any Digital Film students in the class? If so, please watch this movie on Netflix and be assured that, no matter what, nothing you produce here could ever be as bad and amateurish as this movie.

This ripoff of the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds centers around a software salesman named Rod, no doubt named for his wooden acting ability, and his girlfriend, a model named Natalie, who becomes a Victoria’s Secret cover girl despite the fact that she only seems to model at 1-hour photo studios. The first half of the movie centers around their budding relationship and Rod’s company becoming so successful that he retires early and starts a business selling solar panels (or, as he pronounces it, “slrpls”). Also, they randomly go see An Inconvenient Truth.

And then, at the halfway point, everyone gets attacked by animated birds that look like .gifs taken off a GeoCities site from the late ’90s.

The movie weakly uses “bird flu” (Remember when that was a big issue? Anyone?) and global warming as a reason for why the birds are attacking. I’m pretty sure that’s not what bird flu is supposed to do, and I’m also sure it doesn’t result in birds exploding or spraying yellow acid on people.

No, I didn’t make any of that up. Those are actual ways that birds kill people in this movie. I say that’s overkill, considering that the best melee weapon our main idiots try to attack them with are freaking coat hangers.

Again, I didn’t make that up.

The whole thing looks like it was shot on someone’s cell phone (and considering this was released in 2008, that’s not a compliment), the sound mix is awful, the acting is wooden and uninspired, the music is repetitive and bland, the effects are something I would’ve made in high school…and I love every single minute of it. Seriously, check this movie out if you need a good laugh.

Also, there’s a sequel coming out. With zombies. Aw, yeah.

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3 thoughts on “When Good Environmentalism Goes Bad (on film, that is)

  1. Oh wow. Yeah, I’ve seen about half of these and they were all as laughably bad as the last. The Day After Tomorrow I can excuse as an eye candy visual effects film, but the others that take themselves seriously (like The Happening) do not get a free pass. It’d be great to ground some of the nonsense going on in reality and facts, so you could at least learn something while you spend 2 hours looking at crazy VFX and CG.

  2. There’s a slew of movies that take the enviro-scare strategy too far (and they’re all glorious.)

    On par with Birdemic: Troll 2, in which vegetarian goblins seek to transform people into plants so that they can eat them. They don’t even sustainably farm us.

  3. I’ve only seen The Day After Tomorrow and The Happening. I agree that while the visual effects in Day After Tomorrow were good; besides that, there really wasn’t much else to hold onto in terms of scientific accuracy..maybe with the exception that with rising sea levels, storm surges would be much more massive, but I don’t know if it’d be as intense as the movie portrayed. Everything just happened too quickly and it was too exaggerated.

    As for the Happening, the only link to relevance was the bees , and if you’re going to make a case on that, don’t get all crazy with this Mother Nature turning on, and subsequently killing perhaps billions of people. The sad thing is while environmentalism in movies could be used a an educational and motivational tool to better our planet, usually it just gets skewed at some critical point

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