Probably considered one of his better disaster epics, filmmaker Roland Emmerich’s 2004 entry “The Day After Tomorrow” tackled something head on that hadn’t really been done by major blockbusters at that point – climate change.
Emmerich’s films often command a major budget, but have proven successful globally and in the early 2000s the studios were still falling over themselves to land a new Emmerich film. That said, whilst out promoting “Midway” opening next week, Emmerich told Variety he faced a whole bunch of resistance trying to get ‘Tomorrow’ made.
Most of that resistance it seemed came from the ending, one in which even though the heroes survive the planet is left to deal with an environmental collapse and a new Ice Age. Studios didn’t like that, considering it too bleak and wanting something neat and tidy Emmerich tells the trade:
“When I did ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ one or two of the studios who wanted it when I took the movie to auction said, ‘Can you not explode an atomic bomb or break a dam, [so that] everything gets flooded, and it all goes away?’. The moment we walked out, I said to my producer: ‘Yeah, not them. They don’t understand what I’m doing here.'”
The film ended up at Twentieth Century Fox, but even they had reservations about the ending despite having green-lit the script:
“When they finally saw the movie, they had a little trouble with it. They said, ‘Oh, my God, there is no real happy ending.’ It was there on the page, but it really hit them when they saw it. I said, ‘Guys, I can’t make this a happy ending because if humanity keeps going like this, there will be no happy ending.’ It’s a little bit of what I hate about Hollywood so much right now. They could very easily, in one of the Marvel movies, create a situation which is clearly a climate crisis. But they don’t.”
Releasing in summer 2004, the film earned more than $542 million worldwide and stayed in the top ten for a month. It remains his third biggest global hit behind only “Independence Day” and “2012”.