The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – Roland Emmerich

Happily with this film, my time with Roland Emmerich comes to a close, as I take a look at The Day After Tomorrow for the Sci-Fi Chronicles book. A glossy, A-list star (how does that keep happening in his films?), slick looking piece of filmmaking that renders global warming and catastrophic destruction of our environment into a two hour disaster movie that really doesn’t want to inform as much as it wants to entertain.

Dennis Quaid is front and center as Jack Hall, a paleoclimatologist (yup) who in his studies, realizes the imminent arrival of a planetary superstorm that will plunge the Earth into a new ice age.

Upping the disaster movie quotient from a town, city, or country to the entire world is just an acceptable stake for a Hollywood big budget film. Emmerich packs the film with all manner of celebrity cannon fodder as Hall tries to reach his son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), including Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward, Jay O. Sanders, Tamlyn Tomita and Ian Holm.

The opening of the film is reminiscent of Stargate, with one character (in this case Hall, in Stargate it’s Jackson) waving his arms, and addressing an unreceptive audience about possibilities that conflict with their beliefs, and then is recruited by another party to work together (Stargate is the Army, Tomorrow is Doctor Terry Rapson (Holm)).

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Of course, Hall is right, and things go incredibly sideways for the planet, as storms rise and temperatures plunge, and now, all he wants to do is get to his son. Mass destruction is turned into popcorn fare and any real chance at a message is lost in a nonsensical sequence of events that are merely background to the would-be father-son story that Emmerich’s script (he wrote it as well as directed it) tires to play up.

The visual effects are solid. the film as mentioned does have a slick look to it, but like a bag of popcorn, this light fare is just as quickly forgotten and thrown away.

As always I’m left to wonder what would happen if Emmerich was given a top-notch script. He attracts the talent, if he could just have a solid story…

But sometimes, you just need light fare, in the Poseidon Adventure/Earthquake vein, magnified for a global scale. The special effects are there. The talent is there. Where’s the story?

The film tries to populate itself with small, intimate, human moments, but when you don’t care about the characters it’s hard to give these touches the emotional weight they should have.

Instead, in typical Emmerich fashion, which, undeniably, has its appeal, this one decides to settle on superficial entertainment as opposed to meaningful storytelling.

Still, he does make damned slick looking films.

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