THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW
Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders,
Austin Nichols, Arjay Smith
2004, 124 Minutes, Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Day After Tomorrow has been promoted as a potentially true story.
Filmmaker Roland Emmerich has tried to attract huge box office returns by
claiming that scientists have predicted something similar to the events
depicted in this film really could happen. I very much doubt it.
The film's theory is rather thin, which may
explain why it is simultaneously confusing. A scientist (played by Dennis
Quaid) foresees a global disaster involving polar ice caps. His theory is
that the earth's natural cycle of heat will be disrupted, resulting in the
"next ice age." Of course, as New York City and Los Angeles are destroyed,
and the United Kingdom is frozen solid, it is considered that mankind is
being destroyed. Really? What about areas south of the US, such as Africa,
Australia, and New Zealand?
Emmerich doesn't deal with any other
countries than the US and UK, which will serve as fuel for those who claim
the United States is ignorant when it comes to other countries. But
regardless, we are supposed to believe that the next ice age is occurring.
Temperatures drop at rapid paces. Tidal waves roar across cities,
destroying everything and everyone in their path. Tornadoes demolish large
buildings and blow debris into cars and humans as they grow larger. While
this happens, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is trapped in Manhattan's public
library. His father (Quaid) tells him to stay put, and that he'll come get
him. There are some fine action sequences prior to the rescue, such as
when Sam finds himself trapped in a large vessel with a pack of wolves
that have escaped from a zoo (don't ask). Great special effects and tense
sequences are ultimately what make silly scenes like this so fun.
is notorious for his big-budget disaster flicks such as the colossal
Independence Day and equally gargantuan
Godzilla. Neither of those two movies worked
for me. Independence Day was rather stupid and Godzilla was
both stupid and inept; a totally joyless B-monster movie homage complete
with a multi-million dollar budget and famous stars. If Godzilla
was an homage to those cheesy cult monster flicks, then The Day After
Tomorrow is Emmerich's ode to the disaster flicks of the 1950s and
'60s, when the Cold War had just begun to settle, and when novels such as
"Alas, Babylon" depicted vivid images of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Indeed, Independence Day contains all the fundamental elements of a
B-movie, but happens to boast one of the largest budgets in cinema history
as a counter to this summary.
Emmerich's best film, so far, has been the
one in which he abandoned disastrous activities for a touching story in
The Patriot, which starred Mel Gibson, and which I highly recommend
despite its historical inaccuracies. However, The Day After Tomorrow
also comes with a recommendation (albeit a half-hearted one) because it
has one vital ingredient that Emmerich's other disaster movies sorely
lacked: A sense of fun and bouncy spirit.
Yes, The Day After Tomorrow, while
admittedly stupid, is also a very fun movie with some of -- if not the --
best CGI sequences I have ever seen. Many people might argue that the
Lord of the Rings trilogy boasted superior visual
effects, but I beg to differ. Here, we see New York City demolished before
our very eyes. Tidal waves pour across Manhattan -- most of them seemed so
real that even my very cynical perception failed to trace them.
Independence Day represents a
breakthrough in computer generated images -- I had a hard time spotting
quite a number of them in this film. I am usually rather anti-CGI. I
consider it to be a generally sloppy way of filmmaking for directors too
lazy to put effort into making more realistic stunt sequences for their
films. But here, one of the only reasons I can recommend the movie in the
first place is because of its CGI. The New York City sequence (roughly ten
minutes long) is worth the admission price alone.
acting is fairly impressive. Quaid does his best with the dialogue he is
given. Gyllenhaal (who frequently demanded dialogue re-writes on the set
of the film) makes his character likable and a relatable hero. The movie
is not great by any means but the performances are far better than those
in Independence Day.
On the downside, Emmerich's film is so
blatantly liberal that it almost ruins some of the fun. The President of
the United States bears an uncanny resemblance to Al Gore. He is depicted
as the "good guy." When he dies, the Vice President (who looks
like Dick Cheney!) takes over. He is the
"bad guy" who ignores the warnings of scientists and is responsible for
the deaths of millions. Towards the end of the film (without ruining all
of it) he apologizes to America for being ignorant and declares that we
have been stealing from Mother Earth too long, and should have been more
careful with our resources, yadda yadda. I feel like I've seen this movie
before. And I feel like I've seen this same sort of speech before. Could
it be from Independence Day? Maybe. Either way, The Day After
Tomorrow has some of the best special effects I've ever seen. And that
is really all I expected from this movie, and I was surprised to find a
fair amount of humor, fun, and tense scenes that I really didn't expect at
all. I think Emmerich is finally learning how to make a good disaster
movie -- hopefully his next will be as good as this.
- John Ulmer