The Day After Tomorrow (2004) Review

  • Year: 2004
  • Directed by: Roland Emmerich
  • Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Ian Holm, Sela Ward, Dash Mihok
  • Written by: Roland Emmerich, Jeffrey Nachmanoff

The Day After Tomorrow explores the “global disaster” genre in a refreshing way. Instead of a plague or a meteor or zombies, we have global warming causing global cooling. I won’t go into the movie science that explains it, but just know that three cyclonic storms with centers cold enough to freeze gasoline are creating a new ice age across the entire northern hemisphere of the Earth. What’s nice about this global disaster is that there’s nothing to be done to stop it. No crazy contraptions drilling to the center of the earth. No nuclear warheads being detonated. The characters are just surviving.

Dennis Quaid plays Jack Hall, a climatologist who’s more involved with his work than with his family, which causes a bit of love loss with his son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal). Sam and his classmates are competing in New York when the storms strike, stranding him and forcing his father on a rescue mission against impossible odds. The plot is good enough, but being a disaster movie, the film forces the audience to watch tangents that aren’t particularly necessary to flesh out the film.

Before the major storms hit, they are preceded by various weather anomalies, like giant hail in Tokyo, Japan and twisters in downtown Los Angeles. While these scenes are a credit to the visual effects department, they become more of a distraction than a benefit as the actors in these scenes mislead the audience in their importance in the film by basically having too many lines and too much character. After they all die, you’re left wondering why you spent the last five minutes getting to know them. Other times, characters get fleshed out way too late in the film, making you wonder why the heck this seemingly inconsequential person is getting so much screen-time. It almost feels like the writers wrote different parts of the script on their own and then met up and sewed the scenes together.

The visual effects are top notch. You will see buildings torn to shreds, the Hollywood sign destroyed and some of the best ice effects on film. It also seems like the film industry is fond of drowning Manhattan and Day After is no different. This is one of the most realistic submerges of New York you’ll see.

The Day After Tomorrow is by no means a bad movie, but it does feel like some of the conflict was thrown in for the sake of conflict rather than being organic to the story. People sacrifice themselves, wolves run loose and survivors hide their wounds for no good reason, causing problems later. All in the name of giving characters something to do. The script also does get a bit preachy here and there. These moments are so ham-fisted I wanted the speaking character to just start talking directly to the camera with a global warming hotline crawling across the bottom of the screen. If you can forgive these small criticisms, Day After is worth a watch.