Roland Emmerich. Does one really need any information other than this to determine that the film you are about to see features horrendous dialogue, over-the-top special effects, and millions upon millions dying? Not me, and The Day After Tomorrow continues his disaster sagas, starting with the now-infamous Independence Day.
Jack Hall (Quaid) is an expert climatologist who believes that the government (Okay, let’s get this out of the way now; the Bush Administration) needs to pay more attention to the effects of global warming on weather patterns. He predicts at a briefing that if we continue to ignore the problem, we could enter a new ice age in a few hundred years.
The Vice President, a dead ringer for current VP Dick Cheney, scoffs at the idea, as I suspect most reasonable people would. But this is a Roland Emmerich movie, meaning that the scientist is always wrong until it is too late.
Shortly thereafter, strange weather begins taking place all over the world. We have volleyball-sized hail in Tokyo, four tornadoes in Los Angeles (that take out the Hollywood sign in the most graphic of detail), and days of thunderstorms in New York City. They won’t stay thunderstorms for long, as the disasters in New York City are the centerpiece of the film. The rain turns to snow, then to ice as the entire Northern Hemisphere is frozen solid. Right.
The thread holding all of this death and destruction together is a howler. It just so happens that Jack’s son, Sam (Gyllenhaal), is holed up in the New York Public Library with a group of other survivors. Now he must travel from Washington, D.C. to New York City to reach him. Right. Being a climatologist and well aware of the impending ice age, would one really want to trek that far in minus one hundred and fifty degree temperatures and even stand a chance of surviving? Don’t even ask.
There are also a few subplots, namely one involving Jack’s wife, Lucy (Ward), being stuck in a hospital with a cancer patient. Not only is this totally unnecessary to the plot, it is shameless sentimentality. Since Lucy is never really put at any great risk, what’s the point?
Like any other Emmerich movie, this one is loaded with humor, mostly unintentional. As with Independence Day and the nearly unwatchable Godzilla, people have seeming no reaction at all to the news of millions of people being killed. Unintentional humor is aplenty in the form of plot holes, ridiculous situations (hey, the whole scenario is ridiculous), and absolutely atrocious dialogue. My favorite part was when Jack tells Sam to “ride it out” in the library. I thought an ice age lasts for 1000+ years, Jack?
Despite this, the film looks awesome. The special effects are top notch, especially in the opening scenes and the eventual freezing of New York City. This is the first film that I have ever seen where characters outrun ice, so props there. The illusion is complete except for the helicopters flying around the tornadoes in Los Angeles with seemingly no turbulence.
Perhaps what is funnier than the movie itself is the amount of press it has been receiving. All over television we see science experts touting this as realistic and could possibly end the world, while others take this for what it is: dumb summer action. To entertain the fact that people are taking this seriously is hilarious. It is stated in the film (if you trust it) that the possibility of anything remotely like this happening is at least hundreds of years away, and an ice age could last for thousands of years. But then again, knowing that Al Gore and moveon.org are the main perpetrators of this tells me all I need to know.
On a B-movie level, I recommend this as it did keep my attention for the two hour plus runtime. There are plenty Mystery Science Theater 3000-caliber moments, and those in need of that will be satisfied. Ignore the mumbo jumbo on TV and take the movie for what it is: another Roland Emmerich disaster film, in more ways than one.
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Length: 124 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense situations of peril.
Theatrical Release: May 28, 2004
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Roland Emmerich & Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders, Sela Ward