Published Jun 01, 2004Director Roland Emmerich's films (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Patriot) have tended towards oversimplified good-versus-evil scenarios in which aliens or a large monster (or the British) represent some ultimate evil for red-blooded Americans to overcome. So despite any expertise he may have towards the technical side of his craft, his films always end up feeling contrived and alienating. With The Day After Tomorrow and the natural disaster genre, he has finally found a villain (and a genre) grand enough to stand up to his one-note hero.
Dennis Quaid plays climatologist Jack Hall, who discovers that the melting of the polar ice caps (caused by global warming) may be leading to an abrupt and severe global climate change. Even as he presents these findings to world leaders at a summit in New Delhi, changing weather patterns begin to wreak havoc around the world. Within days, a flash ice-age threatens to destroy the human race. In the midst of massive evacuations, Hall embarks on an ill-advised mission to rescue his young son (played with smirking indifference by Jake Gyllenhaal), who is holed up in the New York Public Library.
By placing a scientist at the core of its story, The Day After Tomorrow is able to integrate all of its scientific exposition fairly seamlessly. Unfortunately, Quaid isn't able to pull off the troubled scientist shtick as well as, say, Jodie Foster in Contact or Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. Where both Foster and Goldblum were able to convey a convincing depth of knowledge about their characters' given fields, Quaid seems to barely understand even the basic scientific explanations he has to deliver.
Despite their weak performances, both male leads have enough natural charisma to avoid wrecking the film and they seem to know when to step aside for the film's real star: the extreme CG weather. The special effects sequences are numerous, well-executed and appear to accurately illustrate the phenomenon being discussed. And all quibbles aside, this is 124 minutes of riveting escapism. (Fox)