DAY AFTER TOMORROW, THE
Global warming triggers a sudden melting of the polar ice, setting off wild climactic change. Tornadoes rip into Los Angeles; a snow storm pounds New Delhi; hail the size of the grapefruit batters Tokyo; and in New York City, the temperature swings from sweltering to freezing in one day. Paleoclimatologist Professor Adrian Hall (Aiden Quaid), tries desperately to save the world from the worst effects of global warming, and is equally desperate to get to his son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is in New York City as part of a scholastic competition. But Dr. Hall has to battle the extreme arctic conditions.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Day After Tomorrow (meaning what?) is what I call a 'gee whizz' film: it's not a genre so much as a style of film, and could belong to any genre. The gee whizz elements in this case are the giant disaster kind, as the earth plunges into an ice age so rapidly people don't have time to thaw their fridges. New York under water! Gee whizz! Giant hailstones in Tokyo! Gee whizz! And look at the snowstorm engulfing Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty half hidden! Gee whizz! The scenario is far fetched, but that's another gee whizz element, so you pay your money and takes your seat knowing exactly what to expect.
And as you'd expect, there's not an out of work special effects employee in Hollywood to be seen, with a dozen firms hired to help create lots of gee whizz stuff, so much so that I even felt the icy winds shooting across the cinema (or was that just a Hoyts cinema touch?). The howling wind and icy streetscapes create a wintry mood alright, and the disaster unfolds by the book. First, the intimations of bad things coming as a giant crack in the polar ice cap interrupts our hero, Dr Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), during an ice gathering expedition.
Then his colleague, Professor Rapson (Ian Holm, to add gravitas) confirms his worst fears about the weather showing signs of going feral on a global scale. Dr Hall's warnings to the VP of the US are brushed aside in typical stupid style. We know this will come back to haunt said VP of the US. (And the sermon about ecology is given at the end.)
Now well primed, we're flung into the sample storms around the world, returning quickly to New York, centre of the universe, where we see the catastrophe through the eyes and experiences of a handful of people. We see the Earth from space, and how the Northern Hemisphere is covered in snow and ice, but the camera never takes us there to see how the Europeans, say, are doing. Let 'em eat ice.
In New York, a perfunctory romance between Dr Hall's son (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a smart lass, Laura (Emma Rossum), is given a quick airing, as are other humanistic elements. But Roland Emmerich is a focused guy, and it's the global disaster that's at centre stage. How the rising oceans swamp NY; how frost bites Manhattan and how a giant Russian liner - a ghost ship with no-one on board - floats downtown between the skyscrapers. Later, the ship will be used for some welcome dramatic action when the survivors look for medicines on board, to be attacked by escaped, hungry wolves.
Finally convinced that evacuation is the only option, the President gives the order and the army goes off to make it happen. (More of the old perfunctories.) Hordes of Americans pour illegally across the border into Mexico in one of the film's few humorous moments.
And while the world is fast freezing to death, Dr Jack is expediting with two buddies across the US towards the Manhattan Public Library to get (Finding Nemo-like) to his son Sam, who is bunkered down with Laura and a few friends. "I made Sam a promise. I'm going to keep it," he is made to say in a not so original moment. But let's not forget this is not a dialogue film: it's all about setting us down in an extraordinary new world that changed overnight from home to inhospitable, and making us whisper 'gee whizz' for two hours.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its stupendous effects that make eyes pop and jaws drop, The Day After Tomorrow sweeps us away in an extravaganza of a disaster movie. This is Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) at his comfortable best, dazzling us not only with a high dose of thrills, but offering a satisfying emotional heart. Working from every perspective, Emmerich ensconces us in the terrifying midst of this end-of-the-world reality - from the ground, the air and even outer space. We know the premise - and we want to be blown away (literally) and be touched by the plight of the characters.
These are established and there's a sense of expectation as the overall scene is set. The film begins by offering a global view of the climactic environmental issues, before turning the spotlight on North America. Emmerich takes great pains with authenticity for the spectacular visuals, and allows his characters in some cases to be typified by caricatures. But that's not a bad thing. The script works well (although it is sometimes hard for some of the clichés not to sound rather cheesy), and there are welcome touches of humour to break up the tension. (I like the scene when the students are debating the pros and cons of using specific books as fuel for the fire.)
As the big picture condenses to the small, the focus is on family. The emotional gravitas centers on the love between a father and son, with the promise of new love and the bonds of mateship. There may not be much new with any of these themes, but they are well executed, and we are emotionally involved.
Denis Quaid is solid as the central hero, who goes to superhuman efforts to save his son - and the world. But it's Jake Gyllenhaal whose performance as the love-sick student with a fear-of-flying who steals our hearts. (Try to avoid flying on planes for a short while after seeing this film.) Gyllenhaal is a great talent (who can forget his tortured performances in Donnie Darko and The Good Girl?) and here he displays great charisma with his wry smile and determined gaze as both action and romantic hero. There's a welcome assortment of character types - the rough homeless man with a dog who knows a trick or two about survival (the man, not the dog) is a nice surprise and there's Ian Holm's weather specialist professor who prefers to drink his 12 year old malt whisky rather than use it as fuel for the generator in the face of frost.
The effects utilising water are astonishing: the New York flood sequence is particularly impressive, when more than 400,000 gallons of water (recycled at a rate faster than 5,000 gallons per minute) gush between skyscrapers. Stomachs lurch and that paralysing look of fear registers. It is a matter of witnessing the unimaginable: a Russian liner making its way up Fifth Avenue, the half-submerged Statue of Liberty, the destruction of the famed Hollywood sign.
It's ironic that in this spectacular that focuses on freak weather patterns with hailstones the size of oversize oranges, hungry hurricanes, tornado twisters tidal waves and ferocious floods, the visual effects supervisor is a woman. But there are hundreds of names credited for the visual effects - after all, it's the effects that are the film's major star.
Interesting to note that Australia (and the Southern Hemisphere) is unaffected by events in Emmerich's blockbuster. Maybe Australia has been earmarked for the sequel!
Email this article
DAY AFTER TOMORROW, THE (M)
CAST: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward, Arjay Smith, Tamlyn Tomita, Austin Nichols
PRODUCER: Roland Emmerich, Mark Gordon
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich
SCRIPT: Roland Emmerich, Jeffrey Nachmanoff
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anna Foerster, Ueli Steiger
EDITOR: David Brenner
MUSIC: Harald Kloser
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barry Chusid
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 27, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: October 6, 2004