Saturday, October 23, 2004

Movie Review: The Day After Tomorrow

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 5/28/04 (wide)
RunningTime: 2:04
Rated: PG-13 (Disturbing images)
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders, Austin Nichols, Tamlyn Tomita, Kenneth Wals

Director: Roland Emmerich
Producers: Roland Emmerich, Mark Gordon
Screenplay: Roland Emmerich & Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Music: Harald Kloser
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Posted by Hello
Roland Emmerich is a director who most people typically associate with destruction. In his past films, including Independence Day and Godzilla, he has absolutely annihilated New York City with both a giant lizard and an enormous alien spaceship. Here, with The Day After Tomorrow, Emmerich uses various apocalyptic means of weather to destroy the Big Apple—as well as many other large metropolitan areas. Just call him the master of disaster; not that his work is masterful, but boy, he sure can obliterate cities as well as a sizeable amount of the human population—main characters aside of course.

With Emmerich's latest effort, The Day After Tomorrow is not exactly his crowning work. Its special effects provide more entertainment than anything else. The main portions of the plot are as formulaic as they can get, and the characters are as paper-thin as one of those cheap pieces of loose-leaf that you can practically see through. For the most part, we (as the audience) have trouble sympathizing with the main characters because they are not given enough screen time to develop. We know bits and pieces about each of the leads, but not enough to separate them from all of the other human beings who fall victim under Emmerich’s merciless arm.

Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is a climatologist who has developed a new means of predicting weather patterns. After witnessing the polar ice caps crack due to global warning, Jack’s system calculates that the onslaught of the next ice age will occur in 50 to 100 years. Jack tries to relay his research to the Vice President (Kenneth Walsh), but his claims are dismissed, and the country is left undefended from an unexpected climatic catastrophe.

Meanwhile, Jack’s son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is stuck in New York City with his high school academic team—a team that Sam signed up for only because of Laura (Emmy Rossum), a young girl that Sam has a crush on. Consequently, the storms come sooner than expected. After a series of tornados rip through L.A., and an excess of hurricanes, floods, and blizzards terrorize the entire Northern Hemisphere, Jack tells Sam to remain inside the New York Public Library, and that he will be there soon to save him.

After many years of Jack allowing his career to take precedence over his family, Jack finally realizes how his neglect of Sam has virtually ruined their relationship. So naturally, now that the world has been subjected to disaster, Jack drives from D.C. to Philly through the world’s worst blizzard (Are there even roads anymore?), and then, after the truck crashes into a snow drift, Jack and his two helpers simply get on their walking boots and stroll from Philly to Manhattan in a few days. In this case The Day After Tomorrow's plot can be considered laughably ridiculous. I mean, I know Jack is an Artic researcher who has hiked vast distances before, but come on—one-hundred miles in a few days through the worst weather conditions mankind has ever seen? I don’t know.

In this sense, The Day After Tomorrow becomes Finding Nemo all over again, only this time it’s Saving Sam—the son whose handicap is not a “lucky fin” but rather a lack of emotional expression. During all of this “end of the world” stuff, we are given the side-plot of Sam trying to muster up enough courage to let Laura know how he feels. It seems almost uncalled for considering millions of people worldwide are dying by the minute.

People typically want action, Action, ACTION (not immature romance), and with The Day After Tomorrow, Emmerich gives them exactly that. At the same time, with its already over two-hour running time, it looks as if Emmerich said, "Keep the effects, and as for the central players’ emotions, we can do away with them." This is why The Day After Tomorrow managed to rake in $186.7 million during its 18 weeks in the theatres; it gives guys a monsoon of action, a few scenes of high tension, and many creative ways of afflicting eradication, and it gives girls Jake Gyllenhaal to look at—all else was apparently rendered unnecessary.

If it happens to be action you are after, you can't go wrong with The Day After Tomorrow in a home viewing setting. It may contain extremely exaggerated science, lack tremendously in the department of character depth, and rely too much on special effects, but as a whole, the movie works with what it has. With The Day After Tomorrow you positively get a generous serving of mass destruction; knowing that, as long as you don’t expect much of anything else, you’re for the most part forecasted to enjoy. (**1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004