Colder than a witch’s nose
The Day After Tomorrow
I gotta tell ya … sometimes I’m just in the mood for the glossy junk that director Roland Emmerich tries to pass off as movie. His Independence Day was an above-average kookfest, I’m one of about three people who liked Godzilla, and those decapitating cannonballs in The Patriot kicked ass.
The Day After Tomorrow is one of those movies that I’m almost embarrassed to admit I like. Ridiculous in nature, containing the standard plot gimmicks and stereotypes found in your garden-variety disaster films, and full of some of the worst dialogue that will hit screens this year, it is still a crowd pleaser. That’s because director Roland Emmerich has a knack for making trash smell good for two hours. Some directors are magicians when it comes to polishing turds, and Emmerich is certainly among the best.
Set in the present, Tomorrow hypothesizes what would happen to Earth if the phenomenon of global warming were to be ignored. The opening scene has paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) on a an expedition in Antarctica where, due to warming temperatures, a large glacier breaks in half, creating the oceanic equivalent of an ice cube being dropped into a full glass of vodka. The shifting ice stirs things up and starts changing oceanic currents, causing weather systems to go haywire.
Hall tells a Cheney-esque vice president to start making preparations for big trouble, but the V.P. shrugs him off because preparation takes time and money and because it’s supposed to be a far-distant hundred years or so before any of our abuse will have a real effect on the Earth.
Even if the V.P. were to embrace Hall’s words and start supporting some “Save the Earth” legislation, it’s too late. Large baseball-sized chunks of hail start falling from the sky, making auto-body shops prosper. Twisters tear Los Angeles a new one, and tidal waves ingest Manhattan. Land-based storms causing drastic temperature drops bring about a new Ice Age, all within a convenient couple of days.
The destruction scenes are incredible filmmaking, with motorists getting crushed by flying buses in the tornadoes, and freighters sailing down Manhattan streets in the wake of the tidal wave. It’s here that the film delivers its best thrills.
The second half of the movie deals with Quaid’s Hall trudging across the frozen tundra to rescue his son (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is burning books in a Manhattan library to keep warm. While this second half doesn’t pack the punch of the first, I’m a sucker for those ‘70s disaster films like The Poseidon Adventure, where disaster survivors—Ernest Borgnine often among them—must overcome obstacles to reach a safe haven. I especially like how Quaid is able to escape a powerful, freezing storm, containing temperatures so cold that it would cause the body to freeze instantly. How does Quaid escape the deadly freeze? He runs inside and closes a few doors.
Quaid and Gyllenhaal, while not delivering epic performances, help to lend the production some credibility. As a weather expert trapped in a very unfortunate coastal location, Ian Holm brings some warmth to the film, right before his character freezes to death.
If you go into this film ready to discredit the filmmaker if he fills his script with inaccuracies and exaggerations, than you’re bound to spend a lot of time nitpicking at The Day After Tomorrow. This is an Emmerich blockbuster, and it’s bound to be brain-dead, yet pretty looking. And, of course, billions of people perish while the cute dog manages to stay warm and happy until the credits roll. (CPL, CR, CS, ER, NM)