film that bears the credit "directed by Roland Emmerich" is not going
to be particularly deep. It's likely to be a vapid, two-hour waste of time. It's
too bad that "The Day After Tomorrow" continues the trend.
The film begins dramatically, with the climate of the Earth
rapidly shifting. Tornadoes devastate Los Angeles, severe hailstorms batter
Tokyo, snow covers New Delhi, and a tidal wave covers New York City. Storm
clouds form, enough to cover an entire continent. While governments and
scientists struggle to find a solution to save the human race from extinction, a
paleo-climatologist (Dennis Quaid) must overcome the impossible conditions to
rescue his son, who is trapped in the New York Public Library.
To its credit, "The Day After Tomorrow" does have
some stunning visual sequences. The scenes of tornadoes destroying Los Angeles
and a massive tidal wave that sweeps over New York City are jaw dropping.
Likewise, the massive bird migration is also well executed, foreshadowing the
doom that is to come. If a movie was merely a bunch of cool looking scenes
edited together, then this film would be fantastic. But except for only a few
exceptions, there's more to a movie than just visuals.
obvious problem with "Tomorrow" is the plot. Besides being
scientifically improbable, it has no obstacle for the heroes to overcome.
Co-writers Roland Emmerich and Jeffery Nachmanoff have created a scenario so
devastating that the characters can do little except stand by, watch, and worry.
They come across as passive, able to monitor events but unable do anything about
them. Another major problem is the second half of the film, which gets a bit
boring. After witnessing an hour's worth of carnage, watching the characters
interact for another 60 minutes doesn't cut it. You can't help but feel that the
rest of the film is anti-climactic, and that the most interesting parts of the
film are over. You feel worse when you realize you're right.
"The Day After Tomorrow" is essentially an
ensemble piece, with a large cast that does little to stand out. There are a few
exceptions: Dennis Quaid ("The Rookie") gives a forceful and compassionate turn as
the scientist fighting to reach his son in New York. Quaid makes you believe he
truly loves his son, and would do anything to rescue him.
his pride and joy, Jake Gyllenhaal ("Donnie Darko") is adequate except for one scene that is
pure brilliance. While trying to persuade the other survivors against leaving
the library (which would result in their deaths) Gyllenhaal's character gives
the most heartfelt performance of the entire film. When speaking to them, you
see the panic and desperation that plays across his face, as well as hear the
urgency in his voice. He's a high school kid whose knowledge makes him
responsible for the lives of everyone around him, and his performance conveys
his burden and efforts superbly.
Veterans Sela Ward (TV's "Once and Again") and
Ian Holm ("The
Lord of the Rings") play their parts well, but both have little
to do. Holm mainly sits in his lab monitoring and awaiting the inevitable, while
Ward is a nurse taking care of a young cancer patient. Aside from looking
worried and reading the patient "Peter Pan", Ward's character hasn't
much to do. In both cases, the film wastes the talents of two excellent
With an environmental theme, neat sequences, and
undoubtedly a hefty budget, "The Day After Tomorrow" showed a lot of
promise. Too bad the promise was an empty one. What this film amounts to is an
overly long and overwrought disaster film that can't generate enough
entertainment to justify the price of a ticket.