Global cooling destabilises the climate causing a series of anomalies, eventually leading up to a massive "global superstorm" system containing three gigantic hurricane-like superstorms, which result in an ice age within days for the northern hemisphere. One hurricane is over Canada, one over Scotland, and a third over Siberia. The movie follows Jack, a paleoclimatologist for NOAA; his son Sam, a high school student; and his wife Lucy, a doctor.
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
. Starring: Dennis Quaid
, Jake Gyllenhaal
, Emmy Rossum
, Dash Mihok
, Jay O. Sanders
, Sela Ward
, Austin Nichols
, Arjay Smith
, Tamlyn Tomita
, Sasha Roiz
, Ian Holm
, Nassim Sharara
, Carl Alacchi
. Music by: Harald Kloser
The Day After Tomorrow is one of those movies that comes along occasionally that operates on such a massive scale that it's sure to be a success even if for no other reason than because it takes place in such a massive setting. I think that a large part of the appeal of disaster movies comes from the possibility of seeing somewhere near where you live or a place you've visited. The fact that that place is spectacularly destroyed is just an added bonus. The story is so ridiculous and yet the movie is so entertaining that this HAS to be true!
Here is an odd little factoid -' Steven Spielberg and his crew of special effects wizards were able to put dinosaurs on the screen with startling realism back in 1993. Now, more than a decade later, it seems that special effects teams can't even create realistic looking wolves. Sure, I realize how hard it must be to do those kinds of special effects, but wolves are alive today. These people could have observed how they move in real life rather than indirectly through the movements of other animals, as the special effects teams did for Jurassic Park, but given what they put in this movie, there's no way they bothered to do that. If these animals absolutely had to look so cartoonish, was it necessary for them to ACT so unbelievably weird, too? There's a scene where our hero, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), runs past the open door of a room where the wolves are feeding, and the instant he passes the door, one of the wolves literally shoots out of the room and slams into the wall as Sam goes past, as though the thing were hurled by a catapult at the doorway. I imagine they wanted to make the wolf look furious with this potential invader and desperate to protect its newfound stash of food, but even the most wild animals rarely throw themselves at solid objects, such as walls, with enough force to break every bone in the anterior portion of their body, surely killing themselves in the bargain.
At any rate, the most interesting thing about the movie is undoubtedly exactly what inspired the majority of the audience to see it in the first place, the possibility of massive, worldwide destruction as a result of melting polar ice caps. The logic of the science makes perfect sense. Global warming leads to the melting of the polar ice caps, which in turn leads to astronomical amounts of fresh water added to the world's oceans, which in turn leads to a catastrophic rise in sea level and massive global climate change. What doesn't make quite as much sense is the suggestion that all of this, from start to finish, happens in something like seven days.
If you know anything about geologic history, feel free to skip this paragraph, I just thought I'd throw it in as a curiosity point. Scientists say that if you compress geologic time into a 24 hour period, humans appeared on earth at roughly three seconds before midnight. In geologic time, those three seconds represent millions and millions of years. The point is, NOTHING happens of any worldwide significance in a matter of a week. Even a nuclear bomb, which could effect people all over the world, would not effect the climate on any significant or permanent level. The science in the movie is very different from a nuclear bomb, but it's the kind of thing that, at the very shortest, would take thousands and thousands of years.
Not that I have a problem with something like this being sped up for the effect of a movie like this, but sometimes this idea can be taken a little too far. In one scene, for example, Jake is literally chased down a hallway by an instantaneous drop in temperature so extreme that it will kill him the second it reaches him. Maybe that was the one step too far.
The Day After Tomorrow is famously politically charged, almost overtly blaming Republicans for ignoring the environment until it's too late. Not only is the movie based on global warming, a subject which Republican politicians tend to write off as nonsense, but there is a vice president in the movie that is meant to look and act like Dick Cheney even more obviously than John Travolta was meant to look and act like Bill Clinton in Primary Colors. Another pretty clear knock against conservatives is in the scene where massive numbers of Americans are pushing across the border into Mexico, becoming the illegal aliens that conservatives so desperately want out of America today.
Before I come off as attacking Republicans and conservatives myself, I should mention that the very name conservative inherently refers to people who want America to remain the way it is. In essence, they don't want change, especially on a cultural level, and immigrants, from whatever country, threaten that desire because they're different. It is not the people themselves that they hate, it's not racism that makes conservatives want these people prevented from coming to America or at least documented while they're here (which I like to think is a goal mostly for Republicans and Democrats alike), it's simply a desire to preserve the culture of America that is separate from the cultures of the rest of the world. This movie suggests that a better situation would be a worldwide culture, a culture of humanity, which doesn't have to worry so much about borders when a worldwide catastrophe strikes.
So anyway, about the plot. The entire situation is predicted in a scientific model created by Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid, not to be confused with Aaron Eckhart, who figured out that the earth's core had stopped spinning in the far more ridiculous The Core), who goes through the usual difficulties in getting anyone to listen to him. When he finally gets access to Vice President Cheney, who listens with one ear while hurrying down a hallway, the VP writes him off as he might be expected to. Not necessarily because he's Dick Cheney, but because he's trying to say that the world's gonna be an ice cube in a few days. Ultimately he gets the attention not only of Vice President Cheney, but the President as well, who he briefs personally when it becomes clear that he's probably right. He write off the entire northern hemisphere (cut off at right about the middle of the United States), saying everyone north of that line is basically lost. His credibility is solidified when it is revealed that his son is in Manhattan.
So here's where the plot stumbles a little bit. Jack tells them to evacuate the entire country south of that line, which horizontally bisects the nation, and while they do that, he sets off to WALK to New York to get his son. There are a lot of obvious questions that arise here, like the fact that we know time is extremely limited, so how long does it take to hike through massive quantities of new snow (inches of powder and base are not specified), even while driving some amount of it? Clearly, the roads are not going to be too navigable in such conditions. Also, what's the point? Wouldn't he just freeze along with his son once he got there, even if he found him? Doesn't the rest of the world need his expertise, since he was the only person who predicted what was happening?
All of this logic is buried under the distractions of seeing snow in New Delhi, hundred-foot (or more) tidal waves flowing around the Statue of Liberty and smashing into New York City, a tornado shredding the Hollywood sign, and a Russian supertanker drifting down the streets of Manhattan. By the way, there's another problem. Did they not learn anything from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? How deep was the water? I don't think New York flooded past about the 8th or 10th floor, and a tanker that size would need a lot more depth than that. Keep in mind that any ship floating anywhere needs to displace an amount of water that is equal to the weight of the portion of the ship that's above water. Maybe it did, I don't know. At least they didn't have that happening in Venice, Italy, which has walkway brides every block or two.
(possible spoilers ahead) Being a movie in which lots of people are killed, it isn't really any surprise that every single major character survives, that's just the way movies work. It may have been a little more effective if at least one person of importance were sacrificed though. Say, for example, a character with a significant enough part to have a name. Not that I like to see people killed, but even a little cancer patient who is really in the movie for no other reason than to be saved. There's an emotional scene where the nurse leaves, hoping to seek survival, while Dr. Hall (Jack's wife and Sam's mother), tearfully stays behind, unable to leave her patient and mentioning that she has sent for an ambulance, which she (and we) knows will never come. Later, a superhuman emergency medical technician walks down the frozen hallway, saying he had heard someone was left behind and that he had brought the ambulance they had asked for. GIVE THAT MAN A MEDAL. Not only did he not abandon his duties even though the vast majority of New York had been killed, he was able to then pick out which of the millions of victims were still alive and even get an ambulance there, despite the fact that New York is under about a hundred feet of snow and solid ice. This man is the biggest hero in the entire movie.
The Day After Tomorrow is hugely entertaining, it fuses all kinds of genres together, and it has stupendous special effects, but the human aspect is so cloying that it unfortunately becomes something that needs to be overlooked in order to enjoy the rest of the movie. At the end, the movie saves itself from total logical annihilation by showing lots of helicopters picking up people from the roofs of the frozen buildings in New York City, so we're not asked to believe that the main characters were the only ones in the city to survive, but the movie still shows the decimation of half of the human race and the start of a new ice age while still making room for a shy romance between Sam Hall and one of his fellow academic decathletes. The necessity of the Romantic Subplot has been taken even past Bruckheimer-esque extremes. Given the extent of the goofiness of this movie, one can only wonder now whether or not it will actually be taken seriously by enough people to have any effect on the upcoming presidential election.
Review by Michael DeZubiria from the Internet Movie Database.