Roland Emmerich seems to have a bone to pick with humanity. He's like a genocidal Irwin Allen, not content with placing a city, state, or entire country in harm's way. No, Emmerich wants nothing less than global devastation of the highest order. In Independence Day his alien invaders vapourised landmarks, fried skyskrapers, and left major cities in ruins. In The Day After Tomorrow, the human race should only be so fortunate. This time out, Emmerich isn't content with extraterrestrial surgical strikes, or giant lizards stomping through gymnasiums.
This time...it's personal.
Jack Hall (Quaid), a paleoclimatologist (say that ten times fast!), warns the world of a series of super storms that will usher in the new ice age as a result of global warming. His claims are scoffed at by the U.S. vice president (Kenneth Walsh, portraying the closest thing to a human villain in the film) at an international summit, but his predictions are soon realised as cities around the world begin to experience bizarre weather anomalies. At first, they are greeted as freak incidents (Tokyo residents being bludgeoned by basketball sized chunks of ice notwithstanding), but when Los Angeles becomes tornado alley, the U.K. an uninhabitable ice box, and New York completely flooded and frozen, the president is ready to listen to Jack. Meanwhile, Jack's son Sam is trapped in New York, and his father makes a harrowing trek up the icey east coast to rescue him.
The Day After Tomorrow is a great piece of eye candy, with an epic story and spectacular special effects, but, once the focus shifts toward it's main characters, the film becomes a third-rate survival drama/love story. Much like Independence Day, once the initial excitement of the destruction is over, things get slow and melodramatic. Jack seeks to redeem himself by rescuing his son. Jack struggles with whether or not to tell Lucy (Sela Ward) that he loves her. I guess Emmerich is trying to show us that, even in the face of extinction, human beings are essentially...well...humans being. Despite the horrible situation Jack finds himself in, there is always room for love, and it's never too late to say you're sorry. It's actually typical disaster movie fare that you'll find in everything from "The Poseidon Adventure" to "The Towering Inferno", and, while this film is of a decidedly bigger scale, it still embraces those conventions.
While the script itself is a bit weak, no one will be lining up for this film expecting David Mamet, and, thankfully, the melodramatic lulls in the movie are few and far between. The movie's politics are obvious, as the U.S. government's lax environmental policies are blamed for the global chaos. It's an obvious swipe at the Bush administration for it's pull-out from the Kyoto treaty, and the film's president is depicted as an imbecilic puppet to his Vice President (just like in real life!!). While I've usually no time or patience for filmmakers who preach their partisan politics on my dime (hello, Michael Moore), Emmerich gets a pass here seeing as how his vision of global warming is science fiction that completely ignores the "science", rendering it little more than a harmless diversion. Still, if people take any of this to heart maybe the world will be better for it.
Audio/Video: Holy mackerel, this one looks good. I’ve seen this film several times (or at least chunks of it; I really just usually tune in for the massive destruction, and then check out when the whole “human drama” thing kicks in), but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that it could look so good. I saw TDAT in theaters, and it looks even better on my bigscreen at home. The opening sequence, where the “camera” does a flyover of the glaciers felt like watching a bloody IMAX film. Unreal! The transfer perfectly handles the contrasts between the glaring whites of the new ice age to the dark gothic interiors of New York City, and everything in between. And the sound…oh, my…the sound. The DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 track provides a better-than-cinema experience through and through. Kudos to Fox for this one!
TDAT sports a mix of new and old extras in its BD debut, including several carry-overs from the special edition DVD, as well as some all new BD features, including an interactive trivia game, global warning trivia track, and nifty new menus. The standard def features include commentary by director/co-writer Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon; commentary by co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, director of photography Ueli Steiger, film editor David Brenner and film production designer Barry Chusid; Deleted scenes with optional commentary by director/co-writer Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon.
EXTRAS :The BD extras are a fun diversion, but the standard def deleted scenes are a bit of a letdown once you see the film in all of its majestic HD glory! The lack of featurettes doesn't help the overall score any.
Whether you believe the "science" behind the film or not, you CAN believe your own eyes (and ears), and The Day After Tomorrow is yet another reference quality disc for the medium. Fox has managed to take a movie I've always considered something of a guilty pleasure, and turned it into a must-see (and see again!) treat for the senses!