Get ready for nature getting back at us. In "The Day After Tomorrow,"
Roland Emmerich's latest doomsday film, the next ice age arrives so
abruptly that the movie doesn't have time to develop a real story.
It just gets right into the special effects from the first frame.
But that's ok; the effects are worth the price of admission, even without
traditional film elements, like an engaging plot or character development.
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The plot is simple enough: climate change has caused the polar ice
caps to melt to the point where the sea water's salinization is diluated
beyond the balance where major temperature changes are kept in check.
This imbalance causes the next ice age, which happens overnight. It's so
fast, that one really connects the dots to figure out why this is happening.
Not that it would have mattered; nothing could have been done to avert
the problem in the short term. Dennis Quaid plays the scientist that
tries to warn a mock Bush Administration about it, but of course, they
don't listen. Quaid's son is in love with a girl, a relationship that
flowers into... wait, you don't want to hear about this. It's silly. Let's
get back to the interesting stuff.
The special effects are so cool, I have to tell you about them. Namely,
the multiple tornadoes over Los Angeles, a huge tidal wave flooding
Manhattan, and not least of all, the world freezing over. There are
scenes so fantastic and so real, you can't believe they aren't real.
It's as though you don't even have to imagine a reality anymore.
Better still, the visuals last long enough for you to really stare
and indulge yourself in the fantasy. You don't think of it as a disaster
movie; you just see an amazing visual art.
The movie's not great by any means, but it's not a complete failure.
Its humor is tongue-in-cheek enough that you feel somewhat better knowing
that the filmmaker isn't taking himself all that seriously. Indeed,
Emmerich's "Independence Day" was done in the same vein, although
much better in this reviewer's mind. In "Day After Tomorrow," much of
the humor is political, which some consider to be far left, but still
within mainstream perceptions by today's standards. Jabs at the Bush
Administration are clear, but the second half of the film finds a fanciful
turnaround, with admissions of ignorance and tables turning between
first and third world nations helping to give the movie a soft landing.
Whether or not "The Day After Tomorrow" does well at the box office
is unclear. The reviews won't be nearly as complimentary as mine, so
expectations aren't high, but it could be saved if enough of its target
audience shows up for it: the younger crowd, special effects enthusiasts,
and those who consider "Shrek 2" to be just beneath them. That said,
"Tomorrow" is sure to be a huge hit when it comes out in DVD so you can
see the scenes over and over again. In fact, they'd be a great animated
computer screen saver! More compelling still, there are scenes clearly
missing from the film that may be in the DVD release, such as disasters
striking parts of the world other than the USA, scenes which are not found
in this theatrical release. (You see them in previews and promotional
posters, so I figure they must exist somewhere.) The theater version is
still worth seeing because it's so big, but don't tell anyone I recommended
it. It'll just be a secret between us.
You can hear the audio version of this review
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