Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#1,416. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Directed By: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum

Tag line: "This year, a sweater won't do"

Trivia: Lindsay Lohan was in talks to play Laura and was close to signing a contract to star in the film. She had to back out last minute due to major scheduling conflicts.

This morning, I had to take my car to the dealership to get it serviced, and as I was sitting in the waiting room, I grabbed a copy of National Geographic off the magazine rack. It was the September 2013 issue, and on the cover was a picture of the Statue of Liberty partially submerged under water. The main article, titled “Rising Seas”, dealt with the melting polar ice caps, which scientists predict will eventually lead to widespread flooding. This got me to thinking about Roland Emmerich’s 2004 film, The Day After Tomorrow, a movie I hadn’t seen since its initial release 10 years ago. So, the moment I got home, I pulled out my DVD copy of The Day After Tomorrow and sat back to watch the world fall apart.

As a result of global warming, the polar ice caps are melting, causing a major shift in the North Atlantic current which, in turn, spawns a series of “super storms” all over the world (from basketball-sized hail in Japan to massive tornadoes in Southern California). Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), a Climatologist working for the U.S. Government, believes these storms are only the beginning. He’s convinced the earth is about to be plunged into a new Ice Age, a theory many of his peers, as well as the Vice President of the United States (Kenneth Welsh), reject outright. While trying to convince the world his findings are correct, Hall learns that his teenage son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was on a class trip to New York, was caught in a major flood, and is now trapped in the Manhattan Public library. To save his only son, Hall sets out for New York City, but with a violent snowstorm enveloping the Continental United States, getting there isn’t going to be easy.

I’m an absolute sucker for disaster movies, especially when they deal with destruction on a global scale. In The Day After Tomorrow, the entire world is in jeopardy, and we watch as a number of big cities fall victim to Mother Nature’s wrath. The sequence where Los Angeles is devastated by a number of twisters is incredible, as is the one in which a wall of water crashes into New York City (the special effects in both these scenes are damned impressive). As with any movie dealing with a natural disaster, The Day After Tomorrow has been attacked by scientists, who claim its story is implausible (the fact that the film also has an agenda of sorts, blaming global warming on mankind’s over-consumption of fossil fuels, makes it an even bigger target for pundits). To be honest, I couldn’t care less if the movie’s scenario is realistic or not. Hell, I hope it isn’t (I’d rather the next Ice Age hold off for at least a thousand years). The reasons I watch disaster movies are: 1. the destruction, and 2. the acts of individual heroism, both of which are there for the taking in this film.

As a filmmaker, Roland Emmerich’s track record is all over the place. Stargate was a decent sci-fi flick, and I enjoyed Independence Day and 2012, but 1998’s Godzilla was a major let-down, and for the life of me, I can’t remember a single scene from 10,000 B.C. Yet thanks to its superior special effects, as well as the performances of Quaid and Gyllenhaal, The Day After Tomorrow ranks as one of the director’s better efforts.

1 comment:

David said...

Wow Doc! This has got to be the most my opinion has diverged from your own.

I didn't have a problem with the apparent scientific inaccuracies of this movie but I just couldn't get past the contrived characters and cringe-inducing dialogue. The whole time I just felt like I was being talked down to when I was watching this.

As always though I respect your opinion and sincerity.

- David