Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:
minor plot points revealed!
First things first, for all you Sci-Fi buffs, The Day After Tomorrow is not the film version of the 1941 Robert A. Heinlein novel Sixth Column (aka The Day After Tomorrow). Although the cover of the book and the posters for the movie do look sort of the same.
For me the most important thing listed on those Day After Tomorrow posters are the words "From the Director of Independence Day". As you may know, despite it's lack of popularity, Independence Day is my all time favorite movie ever. It is the film that my 5 stars +1 score was created for. It is also known as The Perfect Alan Movie. So it is pretty much a given that any film that boasts "From the Director of Independence Day" is going to receive my highest score despite the opinions of the rest of the world.
Having said that, The Day After Tomorrow is awesome! I absolutely loved it! I dragged my 7 month pregnant wife to a midnight showing last night just so that I could be one of the first to see it! And it was totally worth it. Van Helsing and Troy may have been the first movies of summer, but The Day After Tomorrow is the first "summer movie" of the season.
It is pure fun and fun alone. Forget the dialogue, forget the plot holes, forget the scientific incongruence and politico/environmental guilt trip. The Day After Tomorrow is a completely visual experience. Anyone who requires more from a film should steer clear. The entire purpose of this movie is to present large scale special effects that show the cities of the world being destroyed by harsh weather. That's it. That's all there is. Do not expect anything more and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Dr. Jack Hall, a paleoclimatologist, has created a model based on past ice ages that seem to forecast a new ice age in the not too distant future. He warns a global environmental commission but the Vice President of the United States shoots down his theories in front of the other global leaders and Jack's prediction is dismissed as too distant in the future to be of concern. Unfortunately, as he is making his address to the commission, the climate has already begun to change. The changes are rapid and seem to follow Jack's model but it's all happening in a matter of days instead of centuries. It's snowing in New Delhi. There's soccer ball sized hail destroying Japan. There is a cold front moving over Northern Europe that causes flash freezing that drops well over 100 degrees below zero in seconds and kills every living thing. There are a series of giant tornadoes in LA that nearly level the city. A tidal wave hits New York and then is almost immediately followed by a ice storm with flash-freeze capability. A new rapidly approaching ice age is about to encrust the entire Northern hemisphere and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
As expected, the special effects for this movie are so entertaining you want to stand up and cheer. My only disappointment is that there were not enough. The film is somewhat front loaded with longer sequences of all the special effects that you saw in the previews. And that's about it. There are no big surprises in store if you saw any of the previews or commercials. I think, to make it a perfect balance, there should have been at least two other major cities destroyed. The hail storm in Japan was causing great destruction. If that scene was expanded to show all Tokyo being crushed by huge chunks of falling ice that would have been more exciting than the abbreviated street scene we saw instead. Also I would have liked to have seen a major European city, like Rome with it's easily recognizable architecture, destroyed.
The destruction of New York and LA are the centerpieces and you will not be disappointed. The tornadoes that rip apart LA are awesome. It's like the biggest tornado in the film Twister X 10 and in a huge city instead of the countryside. The detail of the debris, including cars, people and buildings is worth the price of admission alone.
Then comes director Roland Emmerich's favorite city to destroy. (Including Independence Day and Godzilla this will be the third time he's leveled it) First a huge tidal surge drowns the city, then it freezes in a blizzard and shatters. Cars and busses are tossed in the wave's wake and huge cargo ships end up floating down Wallstreet.
The actors all do a fine job but in a Emmerich movie the people are just props. I imagine that he writes his movies with only the effects and the visuals in mind then when he's done he goes back and peppers the story with people who will interact with the special effects. It's not important how or why they react and because the effects are so huge the reactions are almost always implausible, but who cares.
Dennis Quaid is great as Dr. Jack Hall. He makes all the science stuff seem reasonable and he cares about what happens to his wife and son. That's all we need. His son Sam Hall, played by Donnie Darko star and possible future Spiderman replacement, Jake Gyllenhaal also plays the role of the teen genius perfectly. Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) pops up as Prof. Rapson. He adds a certain noble credibility to the casting. And Sela Ward rounds out the Hall clan as Dr. Lucy Hall who struggles to save a dying cancer boy. Emmy Rossum plays Gyllenhaal's fellow nerd and love interest and an assortment of other little and unknown actors fill out the rest of the roles. Incidentally, the character who plays the Vice President is unmistakably meant to be Dick Cheney. And President George Bush's real life rebuff of the global environmentalist Kyoto Treaty is called out as well in the film.
I hesitate to recommend this film because so much has to be forgiven before you even go in to the theater. Think of it as an amusement park ride. It's fun and exciting but void of all else. It is a tale... full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, but a great super fun summer movie none the less.