The Day After Tomorrow Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/19/2004
Last month, I complained about how preachy the tiger movie Two Brothers was. That was mainly because, aside from the animal action, it didn’t offer much else. A month before that, another preachy movie came out called The Day After Tomorrow. This one lectured us about the environment, but at least it offered up some impressive special effects.
Climatologist professor Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), along with assistants Jason Evans (Dash Mihok) and Frank Harris (Jay O. Sanders), have come to the conclusion that long term global warming is going to disrupt the world’s weather patterns so much that it will create another Ice Age. They came to this conclusion when a colleague, Professor Terry Rapson (Ian Holm) from the Hedland Climate Research Center in Scotland, along with his assistants Simon (Adrian Lester) and Dennis (Richard McMillan), verify Jack’s data. Oh…that and also because he almost falls through a giant crack in the ice outside of the Larson Air Force Base in Antarctica, making him think that global warming had melted the ice so much that it cracked. Despite overwhelming proof that he is right, which he presents at the Global Warming Conference in New Delhi, India, no one believes him, including Jack’s boss Tom Gomez (Nestor Serrano), President Blake (Perry King), and Vice President Becker (Kenneth Welsh.) Back in his hometown of Washington D.C., Jack is an absentee husband and father. He is separated from his physician wife Lucy (Sela Ward) and is hardly ever there for their 17-year-old son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal.) Sam is a genius student who is going to Manhattan for an academic competition with teammates Laura Chapman (Emmy Rossum) and Brian Parks (Arjay Smith.) He likes Laura, but is too much of a wuss to tell her. Lucy is headed for the cancer ward of the hospital she works for where she is specifically caring for a cancer-stricken boy named Peter (Luke Letourneau.) As Jack works with weather expert Janet Tokada (Tamlyn Tomita) to gather more evidence of his theories, weird things begin to happen. The plane that Sam and his friends are traveling on experiences severe turbulence, huge chunks of hail fall in Japan, tornados demolish Los Angeles (including the Hollywood sign and the Capitol Records building), and a colossal tidal wave overtakes New York City. This goes along with Jack’s theories, though it is happening even quicker than even he had thought it would. He finally convinces the President to evacuate the Southern United States into Mexico, while telling them that the Northern states will have to wait out the worst of the new Ice Age. Sam and his friends, who were now in NYC when the tidal wave hit, first take cover with academic competitor (and rival for Laura’s affections) J.D. (Austin Nichols) in his father’s penthouse, but then end up stranded in the New York City Public Library after their attempt to leave town fails. After talking to his dad on the phone about the world’s situation, Sam decides to stick it out in the library. Everyone except for his three friends, the atheist head librarian Judith (Sheila McCarthy), a homeless man named Luther (Glenn Plummer) and his dog, and a handful of other people, decide to leave against Sam’s advice (boy, these people never take experts seriously!) While in the library, Judith guards the Guttenberg Bible from being burned, Luther teaches people how to stay warm, and Laura hides an injury for some reason. The weather conditions get worse and the floods instantly freeze the city, killing anyone caught outside. After the phone call from Sam, Jack realizes that Sam can’t make it out of the city, so he and his two assistants trek all the way from D.C. to NYC on foot to rescue him. He hopes to get there before Sam freezes to death.
It laid the global warning sermon on thick. There were parts where they actually took time out to say something like, “if we had only paid more attention to the environment, this wouldn’t have happened”…or something like that. It was so gratuitous that it made me want to go to the grocery store, buy some aerosol cans, and spray them directly into the sky.
That being said, I loved the movie. I have been waiting for the proper follow-up of director Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day for eight years. 1998’s Godzilla was stupid, and 2000’s The Patriot was good, but it wasn’t an effects-heavy sci-fi thriller like this one. I’d like to say that this one is freakier because global warming is real, but since it is not actually going to happen in our lifetime, it’s about as realistic as the aliens in ID4. I’m getting more and more impressed with special effects as the years go on, because there wasn’t anything in the movie that looked fake (at least to me.)
I only had two complaints, other than the lecturing. First, there was no comic relief cool Will Smith-type character. Gyllenhaal was okay as a lead in this action movie (it almost made me wonder how he would have fared if he had replaced Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2), but he was mainly playing the gawky teen-type, which, at 23-years-old, is an act that’s getting harder and harder to believe. Second, there’s an incredibly ridiculous scene half way into the movie involving some wolves that had escaped the city zoo and were now attacking the main characters. Why hadn’t they frozen over with the rest of the city?
If you can get past the guilt trips presented, The Day After Tomorrow is an awesome movie. Is it going to make me more protective of the environment like ex-Vice President Al Gore hopes it will? Umm…no. Does it make me look forward to the next big budget Emmerich disaster movie? Oh yeah!
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