The Day After Tomorrow
Roland Emmerich, Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders, Sela Ward, Austin Nichols, Arjay Smith, Tamlyn Tomita, Sasha Roiz, Ian Holm, Kenneth Walsh
PG-13 (For intense situations of peril)
Courage and brains serve several figures well in the face of a disaster of epic and unimaginable proportions in The Day After Tomorrow.
It’s an event scheduled for no sooner than 100 years from today if conditions do not change. Global warming has caused great rifts in the environment that may spawn a new ice age in several hundred years. The Day After Tomorrow however, takes the scientific concepts and expedites the process to make the need for change more urgent.
Dennis Quaid plays climatologist Jack Hall whose expedition team has been researching climate changes in Antarctica. Returning from the frozen desert, he attends the Kyoto conference in Japan where he makes a speech about the need for decreasing the global impact on climate shift.
Projections he must cite to Vice President Becker (Kenneth Walsh) come crashing down when hail tears up parts of Tokyo and tornados rip through downtown Los Angeles. His models are the only thing that can predict the potential chaos but with his icy relationship with Becker, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to prevent widespread destruction.
Meanwhile, his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is in New York City as part of an Academic Knowledge Bowl team that he joined only to be closer to a pretty girl named Laura (Emmy Rossum). When a storm cell larger than Antarctica whips up above Canada, Europe and Siberia, a global panic occurs as tidal waves drown New York and frigid winds bring snow while Sam and other brave souls must take refuge from the impending ice age.
The performances are adequate. None of them are exceptional and none are horrendous. Even the scientific fact used to support the sudden weather shifts is well founded. However, it’s when director Roland Emmerich ( Independence Day and Godzilla ) tries to make dramatic use of Jeffrey Nachmanoff’s pedantic dialogue that the film fails. Scenes that could easily have conveyed their meaning to the audience with simple looks of panic, relief or anguish are supplemented by heavy-handed dialogue that tell you what the characters are thinking making them seem more generic than real.
Even the names of the characters are weak and unoriginal. Jack, Sam and Laura are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s Dr. Lucy Hall (Sela Ward), Jason Evans (Dash Mihok), Frank Harris (Jay O. Sanders), J.D. (Austin Nichols), Brian Parks (Arjay Smith), Janet Tokada (Tamlyn Tomita), Terry Rapson (Ian Holm) and the list goes on.
The Day After Tomorrow is saved only by the power of its visual effects. These are the most vivid and realistic effects for a non-fantasy film in years. It puts the effects in Emmerich’s other grand picture Independence Day to shame. CGI technology shows that it’s come a long way as we watch tornados tear apart office buildings, walls of waters wash through New York’s downtown skyline and skyscrapers freeze quickly as the temperatures drop. Every effect has a purpose and, while they are serving the plot as best they can, they overpower whatever delicate relationships have developed between its characters.
An audience looking to escape modern conflicts and relax in a film where their base desires to destroy are assuaged will find much to enjoy in The Day After Tomorrow. Performance aside, the effects will keep people coming back for awhile. But, without even the appearance of complexity, it’s destined to disappear into the landscape of popular disaster films whose time have come and gone.
June 6, 2004