Some people have the will to survive. No matter the situation, this small group of humans will find a way to make it out alive. In the case of “The Day After Tomorrow,” this seems to be every major character. A simple yet spectacular looking disaster movie in the first hour, the film takes a wild and totally incomprehensible turn in the second half all while leaving logic out of the script.
Climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) predicts significant atmospheric changes for the planet unless more is done to prevent the erosion of the ozone layer. While his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is in New York for a competition, Mother Nature finally has enough and lets loose some previously impossible disasters. Now stuck in the New York Public Library, Sam must fight to survive the coming cold while his father makes a desperate rescue attempt.
Wisely spacing out the key moments of destruction, “Day After” does a fine job of keeping audiences in their seats for at least 60-minutes. The CGI here is generally unforgettable, producing sites that most of the 70′s disaster films tried so hard to produce. Never has worldwide devastation been shown in such a form.
Sadly, once everything calms down and Jack Hall with some friends begins his trek from Pennsylvania (I think; the movie is not very clear on the location) to New York on foot to rescue his child, the movie becomes absurd. Swallowing some of the science is expected, but when this intrepid group comes across body after body frozen to death and they seem to have little trouble surviving, you just can’t accept it. It really is just flat out stupid.
Worse, there is little reason for him to even make the journey. He really has to figure his extremely intelligent kid is smart enough to start a fire. The best the writers could come up with is a meager promise from a phone call that Hall swears to keep which is a ridiculous attempt at adding depth to shallow characters.
Logic is also at a premium. In a scene in which Sam makes an attempt to secure penicillin from a ship that has rolled into the middle of the street (conveniently just outside the library where they are trapped) due to the tidal wave, where the water is frozen completely solid, all of the liquid medications are not. It is entirely baffling how Jack manages to contact the president in the end. Considering the president has now evacuated to Mexico, how did Jack get the number? Better yet, how did he even find a working phone?
This is a movie that is supposed to scare people, putting the idea in their mind that this could really happen. Any and all realism is lost thanks to the second half turning this decent disaster movie into a lackluster version of “Cliffhanger.” This one is admittedly worth an overnight rental; just don’t watch the entire thing. You’ll actually come out one I.Q. point lower. (** out of *****)
Available in both 2.35:1 widescreen and a deplorable pan & scan version, “Day After” looks surprisingly good. Early scenes feature brilliant color that doesn’t bleed and remains sharp. Once everything goes haywire, the film becomes shaded almost entirely in blue, generally a disaster itself on DVD since compression problems are very noticeable with the color. Amazingly, compression artifacts are nowhere to be found, the solid blacks really making sure of that. Some minor noise and grain are really the only detractors and this is hardly a major complaint. (*****)
For a movie so hell-bent on destroying everything, the sound mix is rather weak, even though the attached DTS track would suggest otherwise. Things start off well enough (much like the movie itself) with a hailstorm in Japan, but when the tornados begin dropping in LA, the rear speakers suddenly get the day off. Even the massive tidal wave ripping through the streets of New York remains firmly centered in the three front channels. There is some nice ambient work (howling wind, helicopters), but the big scenes the movie is counting on really disappoint. (***)
The only way to get the most out of this disc is to watch it three times; first for the movie and twice more for the commentaries since the other features are lacking. Director Roland Emmerich along with his producer Mark Gordon leads the first. Gordon actually seems to do most of the speaking, though make sure the kids don’t hear this one. His language is terrible. The second is four members of the crew and it mostly focuses on the special effects. None of the actors are featured on either track.
Listed as deleted scenes, these are actually just alternate takes. The first is of the ice storm in Japan while the other is just after the eye of the storm hits New York. The real feature is a look at how the audio comes together featuring eight separate elements. The chosen scene is a good one, the helicopter crash, but it’s hardly an informative feature. Finally, a sneak preview for the new Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie vehicle (which look ridiculous by the way) “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” rounds out the weak assortment of features. (**)
This is a movie that seems like a bunch of energetic computer animators got a new toy and just went nuts with it. Then once the initial thrills wore off, they just didn’t do anymore work leaving the director with no choice but to write a ludicrous rescue mission into the story. Hey, if you have a better explanation as to what went wrong here, I’d love to hear it.