The Day After Tomorrow Review
With the big Godzilla under his belt, and big space-craft with Independence Day Roland Emmerich obviously likes to go large. He's brought the disaster movies from the seventies so it was only a matter of time before he put pen to paper to initially script, then direct, a disaster of global proportions. It's big weather time with The Day After Tomorrow.
Scientists Jack Hall (Denis Quaid) and Terry Rapson (Ian Holm) have been evaluating the effect of ocean currents and the effect they would have on Global Warming. Both undoubtedly agree that should the warming continue and melt the polar ice-caps, the currents would alter to such an extent that it would in fact, paradoxically, produce another ice age.
Some governments, predominantly those who fear their economy more than their environmental responsibilities, ridicule their assumptions and it's not long before their research proves to be correct. The weather patterns change; hail as large as tennis balls drop, New York is flooded and three major weather systems collide to drop the temperatures to such a degree that anyone exposed freezes instantly. The next ice age has arrived for mankind and it's now a race for Jack to find his son in the deserted frozen wastes of New York.
Don't expect to be looking at the scientific reality behind The Day After Tomorrow because whilst it does have some basis in fact it can't exploit those theories for any entertainment value. What would in fact take hundreds if not thousands of years to come to fruition begins and ends within a matter of days. It's Hollywood though and timescales have to be compressed to produce the drama required to put bums on seats.
It seems as though this was just the next major vehicle for the Emmerich Disaster Zone. And that in itself is no bad thing per se; it's just that Emmerich here doesn't really exploit it to its full potential. It's hinted upon all too briefly with the major powers discrediting the scientists research - putting an economy over long term survival the mass exodus of people from one country to another - but these aspects are touched on only briefly and should have been, in my opinion, the main thrust of the feature. What we're left with is a couple of characters who have to deal with their own relatively minor inconveniences.
Jack's supposed to have a distant relationship with his son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), but this is never explored to its full degree either and really comes across as a normal father son relationship with no real tension between them. Sam and his school friends are attending an inter school quiz held in New York and once the weather hits it is this group of 16 year old teenagers who yet again, as in so many films these days, save the day. Obviously the target audience for this feature is the teenage youth and on that level it appeals to the cinema going public, but too often in movies these days are these inexperienced people left to pick up the pieces and it rarely gels.
Ian Holm pads out the scientific aspect with his small team providing valuable support to Jack but once they themselves realise that this will be the last winter they see there's no exploration of their feelings other than a glib statement by Brian Parks (Arjay Smith) on wishing he had the time to see his son grow up. Another missed opportunity.
The main thrust of the film then rests upon Jack's overland trek to reach New York and save his son. This intermediate section of the film is purely a vehicle for the special effects riddled throughout this film. And this is where The Day After Tomorrow must show its hand. The trailers showed destruction on a major scale and the public were not left wanting when they came to see the real thing. The effects work particularly well from the rising seas off the statue of liberty to the helicopters over the beautiful Scottish landscape. Seamlessly integrated into the film the effects are the one aspect of this film that makes that slight difference. The difference between a thin storyline and you walking out to a thin storyline with eye candy which will make you stay to see the next big event.
The actors play their parts as best they can but then there's not really anything there to tax them or two show the potential they have. Ian Holm is a fantastic actor with great depth of character, can we see any of that here - not really. I have a lot of time for Jake Gyllenhaal thinking he has been excellent in some earlier work and one to certainly keep our eye on in the future. In The Day After Tomorrow though he's a shallow vehicle only designed as the goal his father must seek, there's absolutely no depth or reason for this character at all. His father might as well have been searching for valuable scientific data, social dignitaries or even the family dog.
It's a pop corn movie for a couple of hours and I've seen a lot worse, especially recently. OK so the story line, the interaction between the characters and the lost opportunities all add up to not a lot, but the action's thick, fast and visual enough to keep you firmly in that seat. And who knows perhaps even some of the message got through to some of the people, even if it was unintended.