Ok. An opening disclaimer. We all know how ludicrous the premise of this movie is. That one can condense a climatological epoch into a single week is patently impossible. I'm sure every nerd with an internet connection (that's about all of them, no?) has already beat this topic to death, or at least gruesome insensibility. That being said, we'll leave tearing apart the science of the movie to those who are more capable and less attractive, and thus simplify things immensely. We're going to dock 3.0 points off the score of 'The Day After Tomorrow' right off the bat, for making science cry, and leave it at that. In fact, we'll keep a running total for you in the square brackets [-3.0, 7.0], so you can see how we came up with our magic number (honestly, we just felt like it. but we don't use nearly enough bold type...). Here we go.
In this mindless offering from Roland Emmerich, the mastermind of mindlessness (Godzilla, Independence Day...), Dennis Quaid tries to convince the world he's still (well, not still) a viable movie star [-1.0, 6.0]. He sets out to do this by playing the prophetic beatnik paleo-climatologist Jack Hall. Mr. Hall is convinced that global warming will lead humanity towards another ice age in a couple centuries, and tries to warn the politicians of the world. Politicians such as the American Vice-President (Republican, and proud!) who refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement, and condemn Hall's attractive presentations as nonsense [+0.5, 6.5].
Jack Hall is pretty caught up with his work, and never has enough time to spend with his family. Jack's even late taking his son to the airport, where he's headed off to New York for the geek equivalent of martial arts. As a result of gaffes like this, his young son (a wooden Jake Gyllenhaal [-1.0, 5.5]) no longer really trusts his dad. Never fear! There's nothing like an apocalypse to bring a family closer together. Luckily, Mother Nature's been brewing up just that. Jack's the only one who realizes what's going on, but soon it's apparent that the planet is headed towards an ice age sometime in the next couple days. Luckily, this opens the door for some true entertainment, Emmerich style [+0.5, 6.0].
As you've no doubt heard, seen in the previews, or the movie itself by this time - 'The Day After Tomorrow's true allure has little to do with its cast of inept meat puppets [+0.5, 6.5]. The real stars here are the visual effects, and for the most part they perform quite admirably. Without a doubt the highlight of the movie is Los Angeles ' destruction at the hands of a multitude of fearsome tornadoes [+1.0, 7.5]. The twisters have been created and inserted almost flawlessly, and the destruction they wreak upon the city is truly horrific. Emmerich has a finely tuned sense when it comes to wrecking things, and this movie showcases that admirably [+0.5, 8.0]. Honourable mentions go out to New York 's flooding/freezing, which turns out to be much more impressive than one may have expected. Although eschewing any sense of rationality (I know... I promised...) it's still a visual delight.
And that about wraps it up for the enjoyable parts of the movie [-0.5, 7.5]. In some type of attempt to turn this into a meaningful human drama [-0.5, 7.0], Emmerich steers the movie away from the apocalyptic chaos and carnage that defines the movie [-0.5, 6.5]. Instead, 'The Day After Tomorrow' generates into a wholly predictable and utterly empty narrative about Jack Hall's journey across the glacified (yeah, what are you gonna do about it?) surface of America to save his son [-0.5, 6.0]. The entire premise of the movie really just takes a backdrop to a rather mundane survival adventure, complete with zoo wolves on the prowl. Neither Quaid nor Gyllenhaal are convincing enough that the audience really cares about their fates, and their situations (though interesting) can hardly compare to the first half of the movie.
Emmerich really only addresses the bigger picture in passing. The evacuation of the southern states into Mexico isn't explored as well as it might have been [-0.5, 5.5]. A pity, since it offers so many possibilities to build an engaging narrative. With the entire northern hemisphere getting its ass kicked by nature [+1.0, 6.5 - that's hardcore!], it seems trivial to devote the movie to a relationship that was never developed. 'The Day After Tomorrow' could have been a seriously entertaining movie, if only it had taken a wider focus.
It didn't though. As a result, we get to see some great visual pieces in the first half of the movie, and very few thereafter. What starts out as a truly ambitious plot quickly degenerates into a collection of tired clichés [-0.5, 6.0]. Emmerich would have been better served by dealing with the truly significant events rather than the more personal ones. After all, this is a summer blockbuster, not a winter Oscar contender. He really should have stuck with blowing things up. As it is, it'd be nice just to watch the highlights of 'The Day After Tomorrow'. The entire affair is long and drawn out, and ultimately boring [-1.0, 5.0]!