The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

10 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Well here it is—a movie that tries to warn us about what would happen if we mess up our lovely planet any longer. We use up our resources, we’re partially responsible for global warming, and we may be headed for a nightmarish, cataclysmic future. “The Day after Tomorrow” is a movie that tries to warn us of that, and it cannot be taken entirely seriously, but it’s an entertaining, touching, and scary apocalyptic drama from Roland Emmerich, who apparently loves the planet in many ways to destroy it. In his previous movies, he blew up the White House (“Independence Day”) and set a giant lizard monster loose on Manhattan (“Godzilla”). Now he brings upon the Ice Age in North America. It may be as scientifically accurate as “Godzilla” (those who are new, that means “inaccurate”), but “The Day after Tomorrow” works for me.

We all hope that North America doesn’t freeze over, but if it does, you might want to move away from national monuments because Roland Emmerich has a tendency to destroy those. The very best things about “The Day after Tomorrow” are the special effects. Tornadoes rip through Los Angeles and rip apart the Hollywood sign. A tidal wave crashes through New York, barely putting the head of the Statue of Liberty underwater. All the buildings in the major cities freeze up and their windows crack. Snow nearly buries all the major cities. They look so real, they’re scary. Oh, and there are also shots seen from a space station of the Earth with violent storm fronts.

And we all know from previous disaster movie experiences that the characters the camera and story focus on are going to survive and the rest—billions of the rest—are going to perish in the catastrophic events that occur due to global warming finally threatening humanity. We meet Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), a climatologist who sees it all coming when his computer models the new ice age. Then we are introduced to his teenage son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is headed to New York for an academic decathlon with his schoolmates Laura (Emmy Rossum) and Brian (Arjay Smith). Then we meet another kid in the same competition—a nice kid named J.D. (Austin Nichols). Then we meet Jack’s divorced wife Dr. Lucy Hall (Sela Ward), who is treating a young cancer patient. And then there’s Jack’s friend Jason (Dash Mihok) and an old Scottish meteorologist named Prof. Rapson (the always reliable Ian Holm). The movie switches tracks on who to follow and when Sam and his friends are trapped in a library in New York, Jack and Jason are forced to walk across the snow to rescue them.

Jack tries to warn many people. Of course they ignore him. Here’s a lesson we can all take—US government, if a scientist, geologist, or, in this case, climatologist tells you that the world is headed for disaster and there’s a chance for evacuation, then for goodness sake, just listen to the guy! What if he isn’t crazy? What if he just knows what he’s talking about? Just listen, Vice President Becker (Kenneth Walsh)!

But can Jack and Jason really trek across the snow from Philadelphia to New York? Well they believe they can. And we can too. It’s ridiculous, I know, but the movie has enough good energy to make us almost believe it. And then, there’s the whole plan of evacuating everyone to Mexico. But if North America was to really freeze over, would Mexico really be a safe place to be? And also, is it really worth trying to get your passports when a tidal wave? And then there’s a scene in which Sam and his friends encounter wolves that escaped from a zoo which is also ridiculous.

I am recommending “The Day after Tomorrow” for three reasons. 1) The special effects are downright fantastic. 2) All of these characters are likable and we actually want them to survive. And 3) The movie works as a cautionary tale. It delivers a pro-environment message that I think worked well, despite the possible scientific inaccuracies. I am not quite sure I believe that global warming is real but I do not want to start a statement of my own about it so let’s just leave it at that. I do know that if North America does freeze over, I’ll have only one mind on my mind: stay alive. And thank goodness “The Day after Tomorrow” doesn’t go for the easiest ways out. There are no groups of scientists or astronauts racing to stop it from happening. Nothing could have prevented this from happening. We did this to ourselves. All the main characters have to do in this movie is stay alive. And when the movie ended, I just had to smile. The music builds up, (possible spoiler alert) we see the characters moving forward to new lives (end of possible spoiler alert), and we feel like it’s going to be all right again.

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