By Janzen, Ed
Canadian Dimension , Vol. 38, No. 5
The Day After Tomorrow
Directed by Roland Emmerich
20th Century Fox, 2004
In The Day After Tomorrow, the new film by director Roland Emmerich (Godzilla, Independence Day, Stargate), global warming has finally gone too far, too fast. Way too fast.
You see, too much freshwater from melting ice caps causes a warm ocean current, the cyclical Thermohalide Conveyor (Gulf Stream, in English), to shut down, giving rise to massive storms over North America, Europe and Siberia, ultimately leading to a new Ice Age while killing lots of folks in the process. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), the film's leading heroic climatologist (hey, why not?), is the first to suspect something is amiss, but his vain attempts to sound warning bells are widely ignored. By the time the American government wakes up and smells the hot chocolate, it is Too Late.
When people run out of things to talk about, they turn to something neutral: the weather. In The Day After Tomorrow, weather is not a neutral subject; the film is necessarily a conversation about the weather writ large. In that respect, it's unfortunate that movies require plots, skilled acting, creative script writing, and that kind of thing, because the ones in this movie stink. In this conversation, the weather really is all there was to talk about.
It's true: The performances, which are not in themselves totally execrable, are hobbled by astonishingly bad script writing. Heroic Jack, voicing his intention to hike from Washington to New York to save Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), his stranded, estranged son, declares "I've walked that far before in the snow." Sorry to hear it. He perseveres anyway, slogging onward through shrieking blizzards and worse writing.
Sam, shacked up in the New York Public Library with a few geeky pals in town for a high-school trivia bee, lucks out by saving Laura (Emmy Rossum) from an eleven-story wall of ocean swell, thereby acquiring for himself the film's only love interest. And, evidently, the film's part-time philosopher: "All my life I've been preparing for a life that doesn't exist anymore," she remarks, contemplating the harsh reality that North America has been turned into a giant snowbank.
This filmic detritus is no match for the unleashed power of Mama Nature, who, as the movie's real leading character, kicks all the other actors' butts as she takes her CGI-generated vengeance upon the super-consumer citizens of the northern hemisphere. Critics will always claim that spectacle is a poor trade for good writing and great acting, but The Day After Tomorrow proves them wrong. CGI could have carried--does carry--the film by itself. Having watched downtown Los Angeles and the big Hollywood sign (is nothing sacred?) torn to shreds by moody tornado vortices, you've already made back your admission. And when Manhattan is destroyed by the aforementioned towering ocean swell as tall as Lady Liberty's chin, it's just frosting on the cake.
Concentration of media ownership, however, remains unaffected by all the turbulence. In this 20th Century Fox film, intrepid Fox News reporters (coincidence, surely) brave the elements to get that up-to-the-minute coverage for viewers across the nation. No doubt Rupert Murdoch also purchased the tornados, which explains why they only wreck L. …