Hollywood's already given us earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, floods, meteors, and perfect storms. What's left? Would audiences soon thrill to natural disaster flicks with titles such as Stiff Wind or Pollen Count? With Hard Rain, I had thought that the whole "nature's wrath" genre had finally fizzled itself out. But that was yesterday, because today comes The Day After Tomorrow!
In The Day After Tomorrow, director/writer Roland Emmerich takes extreme weather to the extreme, as Mankind's ignorance of global warming results in a new ice age. Is this the same Roland Emmerich who was responsible for 1998's Godzilla? Difficult to believe, as the problem of global warming is an issue well worth exploring! Unfortunately, any desirable impact to the environmental cause is negated by The Day After Tomorrow's complete ignorance of hard scientific data. Ah, right... it is the same Roland Emmerich.
You see, climatologist Jack Hall, played by Dennis Quaid, has discovered that, due to global warming, the Earth's weather patterns are changing, and that, if nothing is done about it, the planet will eventually experience another ice age. No big deal? Wrong, since he also discovers that this change is taking place faster than expected... over 1,000 years faster! As strange as it may seem, no one in a position of power is willing to listen to him.
The result? It's the end of the world as we know it, complete with snazzy computer-generated effects that destroy Los Angeles and New York City! Hurray! Now, that's what movie audiences like to see! Or, at least that's what Emmerich seems to think audiences like to see, since, in his movies, New York City has now been destroyed three times. Come on Emmerich, can't you destroy Cleveland instead, just once?
Oh, and guess what? Hall's teenaged son, Sam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, just happens to be visiting the Big Apple when all Hell freezes over. What rotten luck! Looks like good old dad will have to come to his rescue! Yes, between each thrilling attack by Mother Nature, we follow a dramatic journey across the frozen tundra of the American Northeast, as Hall desperately searches for his lost son. But what about mom? Why, she's a dedicated doctor, staying behind at the hospital to care for some cute little kid who's dying of cancer. Meanwhile, caught in the eye of the storm is poor Sam, along with the girl he's too shy to admit he'd go to the ends of the Earth for.
You may wonder why so much melodrama was wedged into an effects-laden Summer blockbuster. Well, I'll tell you why. It's because all of those amazing special effects carry absolutely no emotional weight. The destruction of Los Angeles is particularly anti-climactic, or anti-climatic as the case may be. Once again, Emmerich has created a movie in which the story only exists to serve the visual effects, not the other way around. To supply drama, Emmerich simply trots out nearly every tear-jerking stereotype in the book. Combined with characters who, in order to manufacture suspense, must always take the most idiotic course of action possible, the movie plays more as a cartoon than as a condemnation of Mankind's abuse of Earth's ecosystem.
Of course, even cartoons can be quite entertaining, and some of the devastation shown in The Day After Tomorrow is visually impressive. I found it oddly amusing, with so much death and destruction going on, that my only reaction was, "Whoa, that looks pretty cool!"
What I found most amusing was that, after all of the incredibly illogical events in the story had come to pass, Emmerich has the audacity to end the film with a ludicrous flurry of last-minute eco-friendly rhetoric. Geesh! What a ham-fisted attempt to shame the privileged populace into environmental activism! Oh, well... so much for taking the issue of global warming seriously. But hey, as far as I'm concerned, unintentionally funny still counts as funny. The end of this movie was hilarious!
Put simply, if you're looking for a film that will give you something to think about, this is definitely not the one to see. It has some fun doomsday thrills, but otherwise, it's complete drivel. The Day After Tomorrow? Yeah, I think I'll have forgotten this flick by then.
Directed By: Roland Emmerich
Written By: Roland Emmerich (story) &
Roland Emmerich / Jeffrey Nachmanoff (screenplay)
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok,
Jay O. Sanders, Sela Ward
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense situations of peril.