It was a self-inflicted double feature. I’d been pondering movies about the weather. Tons of movies have the weather in them, sometimes even as a significant plot element. Few films, however, take the weather as their central thesis. These movies verge on horror as the weather is something much larger than we are and which is deadly. Let’s face it, a film about sunny skies and light breezes doesn’t have much of a hook. I began by watching The Perfect Storm. I’d seen it before, of course. Not much like its book, which is nonfiction, it follows the loss of the sword boat Andrea Gail in the eponymous storm of 1991. Not all members of the crew get a backstory, and since nobody knows what really happened, it was a chance for special effects to drive the story just as massive waves drive the boat. The weather, while central, is seldom commented upon. The characters are motivated by trying to make a living but there’s not enough time to give all six of them adequate stories. Add to that another boat with no backstory and the movie become disjointed and smoky.
The next feature was The Day after Tomorrow. Again, I’d seen it before, but you know how one thing leads to another. Like The Perfect Storm, The Day after Tomorrow introduces more subplots than the movie can handle, even bringing a Russian freighter up Fifth Avenue in order to have a wolf-chase scene that is simply dropped after it’s discovered that wolves can’t climb ladders. Still, the latter story has an environmental message. Aware that human activity does lead to global warming, it tries to picture what would happen if it were speeded up into a matter of weeks rather than years. No matter how long it takes, the weather will get you.
As I’ve contended before, the sheer scope of the weather practically makes it divine. Although we live in different climatic zones we’re all tied together under a single, volatile, powerful atmosphere. Early humans realized that their survival depended on the weather. Drought kills as readily as sudden ice ages. The key, it seems, is balance. Nature isn’t kind to species who assert too much dominance. One of the means of nature’s control is the weather. Until the development of meteorology, and even after its first tentative steps, the weather was considered a divine bailiwick. We may proclaim it entirely natural, but it still commands its share of awe and majesty. And it can easily claim a few weekend hours searching the skies for some kind of meaning.