Natural disaster of a movie

June 2, 2004, midnight | By Olivia Bevacqua | 16 years, 7 months ago

The Day After Tomorrow flounders in formulas and clichés

The Day After Tomorrow is one of those disappointing movies that look amazing in previews but turn out to be mundane at best. It's one of those movies that have awesome special effects—awesome, but not awesome enough to save a slew of one-dimensional characters and a predictable plot. You know the type: think The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions and you'll have a pretty accurate idea.

The Day After Tomorrow is different from apocalyptic predecessors Deep Impact and Armageddon in that the world is not in trouble because of falling rocks from space; instead, the problem lies closer to home. Due to man's increasing pattern of "reckless consumption" and domestic policies that are hardly environment-friendly, a massive climate shift will sweep across the planet, perpetuating a new Ice Age.

As tornadoes rip through Los Angeles and hail the size of baseballs rain down on Tokyo, only one man is able to figure out that global warming has caused drastic changes in ocean currents responsible for stabilizing Earth's climate. Somehow, this will trigger a new Ice Age, preceded by a series of catastrophic natural disasters that occur in the form of a giant superstorm. The clichés are all too obvious: a sole hero who can save the world, mankind's mistakes coming back to bite him in the butt. Just as fitting is the fact that the worst natural disasters all seem to strike the world's major cities: L.A., Tokyo and New York City, to name a few.

The characters are drab and boring. Climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is the dubious hero, whose stoic good looks cannot change the fact that he only has one facial expression throughout the entire film. His son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a bashful but cute nerd who has a crush on Laura (Emmy Rossum), who is little more than the pretty face of the movie. When the movie begins, Sam and Laura have traveled to New York to compete in an academic competition. There, they are stranded as the first sweep of the superstorm hits the city. Sam manages to call his father, who warns him to stay inside at all costs, as the temperature will begin dropping exponentially.

Meanwhile, Hall tries to tell the U.S. President that the climate shift has already begun, and that the southern portion of the nation must be evacuated to the warmer nations located further south. This yields what is undoubtedly the movie's best scene, as thousands of Americans illegally flee across the Mexican border, scaling fences and wading across the Rio Grande.

As the newly flooded New York begins to freeze over, Hall takes on the mission of traveling there to reach his son and prove that there are survivors. Insert more implausible setbacks with even less plausible recoveries. Could he really have travel 40 miles through a blizzard in a single day? Is it really possible to outrun frost? If planes were falling out of the sky because their fuel was freezing, would it actually be possible to run a gas stove to keep warm?

Granted, disaster movies aren't meant to be plausible. But even disaster movies should hang onto some shred of credibility, if only out of respect for the audience. Unfortunately, this movie doesn't deserve much of an audience. On top of the cardboard cutout characters and formulaic plot is a boring script—the romance between Sam and Laura is dull, and I could probably count the number of times I laughed on one hand.

This movie's strongest selling point is definitely the special effects. As waves crash over New York City, the viewer is challenged with the powerful image of the Statue of Liberty being almost completely submerged. The tornadoes in L.A. are also pretty awesome. Alas, special effects cannot save this movie. Flooded monuments, decimated skyscrapers and frozen cities don't make The Day After Tomorrow worth $7.75.

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