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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.

Special Features reviewed by Craig Miller:
Generally speaking, anyone genuinely excited by filmmaking always comes across honest and revealing on a DVD commentary, and director Roland Emmerich's commentary here is certainly that. Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon detail their account of making this picture so well, that it is hard not to become so audibly immersed that the picture takes a back seat. No mean feat when you are watching such a visually impressive feature like The Day After Tomorrow.

Much of the rest of this notable two disc set is the same. There is plenty of visual stimulation to keep the eyes darting around the screen but, also, the information detailed is staggering.

The second commentary delves much deeper into the technical side of the picture and, coupled with Emmerich and Gordon's, this would have amounted to a pretty decent package if there were no other extras included. But, thankfully, there is more, and flipping to disc two, provides enough material to keep you busy for an entire day!

The two feature-length documentaries are the big draw cards, with the Force of Destiny doco delving into the dangers of climate change on our way of life, how the Earth has warmed due to human activities and offers solutions on who, how and what we as a planet can do about it. The second doco, Eye of the Storm, is more a making of feature and contains much of what we've come to expect of DVD making-ofs, just longer and far more professionally put together.

The interactive featurettes continue with the disaster theme, with Global Watch showing brief snippets of info and footage of some of the word's biggest and most recent storms, while City Freeze allows you to check out what could happen in different global cities if a worldwide climate shift caused a massive global super-storm. Sure, kind of gimmicky, but you do get to see what our beloved Sydney Opera House and various other recognizable monuments from around the world might look like if pummeled with an ocean of water or snap frozen.

Axed sub-plots, alternate scenes, unneeded character back story and unused and unfinished effects shots make up the bulk of the 18-minute deleted scenes package, plus the featurettes on visual effects, pre-visualisation and pre-production meeting footage, give a wonderful insight into the depths of this mammoth project.

There's also a short featurette on the film's score which is basically footage of an orchestra playing to movie footage (as they do!), a couple of audio featurettes showing a demo of how they layer audio tracks over one of the film's key scenes, and behind-the-scenes footage from a dubbing stage.

It may be spring, but this is a massive summer block buster of a DVD package!

Published October 7, 2004

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(US, 2004)

CAST: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward, Ian Holm, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders, Austin Nichols

DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich

SCRIPT: Roland Emmerich & Jeffrey Nachmanoff

RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 2.45:1, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Audio commentary with director Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon; Audio commentary with co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, cinematographer Ueli Steiger, editor David Brenner and production designer Barry Chusid.[BREAK]Disc Two: The Force of Destiny: The science and politics of climate change - documentary, Inside The Day After Tomorrow: Previsualisation featurette, pre-production meeting footage, storyboard gallery, concept art gallery, Eye of the Storm: Filming The Day After Tomorrow - documentary; Visual effects, scoring & audio featurettes; Deleted scenes with optional commentary, Interactive Global Watch featurette; Interactive City Freeze featurette.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: October 6, 2004

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