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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Disaster > The Day After Tomorrow – All Access Collector’s Edition

The Day After Tomorrow – All Access Collector’s Edition


Picture: B     Sound: B+     Extras: B     Film: C-



I have a complex relationship with this film.  Because my dissertation research is on the role fictional films play on framing issues of science, I invariably must view and study films like The Day After Tomorrow.  In fact, the amount of attention that The Day After Tomorrow received from the scientific community, in particular climatologists encouraging a public response to global warming, forced me into dedicating an entire chapter on the film.  Yes, the Day After Tomorrow provides a stunning and frightening vision of runaway global warming and yes, the public conversation on climatic change has reached a fevered pitch (evidenced by Al Gore’s new documentary and the scores of television specials that highlight to overwhelming scientific evidence of global warming), however the film’s over-the-top depiction of the Northern Hemisphere turning into an ice cube within days and its pedestrian acting (by a rather talented cast) could jeopardize its environmentally conscious message.


In the tradition of The Day After and The China Syndrome, Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla) combines exciting cinematography and engaging special effects with a politically astute storyline to render a narrative to shake the public from its apathetic state.  The story follows a humble paleoclimatogist, Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) who has enough scientific evidence to suggest that the Earth may soon experience a rapid climatic shift.  His theory: our voracious appetite for fossil fuels has polluted the atmosphere with so many greenhouse gases that the continued warming will trigger global superstorms that rapidly triggers a new ice age.  In typical Hollywood fashion, Dr. Hall warns the United States government of the risk associated with continuing our policy of environmental irresponsibility and dedication to economic growth based on oil consumption.  Expectantly, the Vice President (bearing a striking resemblance to Dick Cheney) eschews Dr. Hall’s call for an environmentally friendly economic policy.  Shortly after getting rebuffed, the Earth shows signs of extreme weather changes.  The global superstorms quickly follow.  These storms are so large that air from the upper levels of the atmosphere is quickly pulled down to the Earth’s surface creating a flash freezing effect (the deep freeze serves as the blob/Jaws character).


Aside from a hokey story of Jack Hall attempting to rescue his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) in New York (which experiences a heavy dose of our frozen menace), the film barters in dramatic, yet scientifically suspect occurrences.  The film is correct in suggesting that we have ample evidence to prove the existence of global warming and that there exists the possibility of global warming precipitating a climatic change that could usher in a new ice age.  Likewise, the film properly isolates the political dynamics that often relegate scientists’ warming of impending danger absent a more sustainable energy policy to the margins of political discussions.  However, global warming skeptics profit from arguing that the film’s depiction of global warming is so absurd that its proves that the fears of global warming are just products of alarmist rhetoric (virtually every credible scientists suggests that rapid global warming would take place over decade, not weeks let alone days).


The special effects are indeed good. I understand why scientists and other activist groups (MoveOn.org) adopted The Day After Tomorrow to spread word about the dangers of global warming: climate science is based in informed predictions about environmental changes that occur over a long period of time, and order for the public to appreciate the necessary sacrifices to wean ourselves from unsustainable fossil fuel consumption, you must clearly demonstrate the consequences of failing to act.  The destruction of Los Angeles with tornadoes and a tsunami that freezes New York City certainly accomplishes that goal (many of our blockbusters quench a thirst for destruction, but Roland Emmerich’s penchant for disaster elevates the forces of annihilation to hyperbolic proportions).


This DVD is replete with special features.  However, I am not certain the number of extras warrant a new special edition (like many of you, the studio’s money grabbing racket of releasing a “special edition” months after a bare-bones version really chaps my hide).  With that said, the extras are quite good.  There are two feature length commentaries: one with the director Roland Emmerich and Producer Mark Gordon and another with special effects and production design folks.  Furthermore, the film takes its environmental message quite seriously.  The DVD includes an hour-long documentary where climatologists discuss the film and its scientific veracity.  Moreover, they explain the mounting scientific evidence that demonstrates the existence of human-induced global warming and the dangers of inaction.


The two-hour film boasts an exceptional widescreen presentation in its anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1, though the Super 35 shooting and digital work are more common now.  This holds up well enough.  The best soundtracks are fine 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, but the DTS is superior and marks yet another Emmerich film with demo-quality sound along the lines of Independence Day and The Patriot.  Overall, the movie is what it is: fun, spectacular, silly, and mildly ambitious.  With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Emmerich delivers what he does best, eye candy that satiates a public’s mild sadistic tendencies.  This time, he hopes the saccharine treat provides mild intellectual nourishment.



-   Ron Von Burg


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