The Day After Tomorrow

A Film Review By The Mike

Rating:RATED PG-13 for Storms
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum
Directed By: Roland Emmerich

Final Grade:

Do you remember that girl (or guy, for those of you who aren’t down with the ladies) in high school? The one that had no redeeming qualities in personality, had no depth, and never said anything worth hearing? The one that did all that, and still looked so good that you couldn’t help giving them a chance, over and over, despite their obvious idiocy? I’m sure you do. And if you’re like me, you’ve noticed a trend in Hollywood, the trend to make big budget spectacles that represent the embodiment of that person transferred onto a piece of film.

The Day After Tomorrow is one of those movies. From Roland Emmerich, creator of the mega-hit Independence Day and the mega-flop Godzilla, the new film about a climate change that threatens the fate of humanity is filled with marvelous storm sequences, beautiful overhead shots, and attractive and interesting actors. Yet it lacks any originality, any non-blatant message, or any intelligence in its script. It’s a film worth looking at, but not worth thinking about.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh. The smartest thing about the plot of the film, once the storms system is divulged, is that it does not look at ways to stop the storm, but ways to survive the storm. Sure, there’s the scientist (Dennis Quaid) who is the only one who seems to “get it”, but he’s more involved with a plan of escape than a plan of attack. The film is wise to not try and formulate a absurd method to try and stop the oncoming chaos, probably remembering last year’s debacle The Core or the late 90’s hit Armageddon as guidelines. The feeling of helplessness against Mother Nature adds more depth to the story than the aforementioned films, which is a good touch. The problem is, it’s handled rather poorly.

We follow Quaid’s scientist some of the time, traversing through political mumblings and scientific blueprints that never appear too technical. We also follow his wife (Sela Ward), a doctor who’s left in her hospital alone with a young cancer patient she won’t leave behind. We also follow another group of scientists, led by Ian Holm, who are in the middle of nowhere, yet seem to get any information on the storm before Quaid does in Washington. We also follow his son (Jake Gyllenhaal, in his first blockbuster role after several small budget dramatic gems) and his prospective girlfriend (Emmy Rossum, who’s quite adorable) through New York City tidal waves and snowstorms (which are easily the film’s best sequences). Most of these characters, especially the side characters they encounter, have no depth or meaning in the story. There’s also a large bit of irony when we’re introduced to the U.S. President, who in three scenes manages to give one of the most emotionless and uncharismatic performances I’ve ever seen, and who might as well have been portrayed by a cardboard cutout of a politician with a voice box connected to it. They all seem to be caricatures instead of characters, which is strike number one against the film.

Strike two comes late in the film, when things have already gotten as bad as they can get, at least in our eyes. Emmerich didn’t see it that way, and continued to up the ante until the point of ludicrousness, with action pieces that remove the storm from a role of antagonism and places other items, whether they be weak glass, wolves, or a taxicab bumper, in its place. These touches take away the awe of the story at crucial moments, and though they could occur in the situation, they don’t seem to be the tools needed to tell this tale.

Of course, the biggest question I kept asking myself while watching this film was “How can they end it?” Therein lies the third and final strike against the film. I won’t divulge into details for the sake of future viewers, especially because I can see how the ending placed on the film works in completing the story. Again, I simply didn’t think it was the method the story deserved.

Despite these numerous shortcomings, The Day After Tomorrow never ceased to keep my eyes glued to the screen with amazing effects, a fair amount of tension, and a surprising amount of humor, which is much appreciated even late in the film when the jokes are revolving around burning books and foreign policy. It’s a premise that could have been handled much better in the story department, but Emmerich’s flair with effects and camerawork make it succeed in being passable entertainment.

I can’t recommend or condemn The Day After Tomorrow, I can only advise you to make up your own mind on whether the spectacular sights and lack of plot are worth your time. If you can accept that, head to your local megaplex now, because this is a big-screen spectacular you won’t want to miss. If not, skip it.

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