Even Day After Tomorrow director Roland Emmerich admits that there’s only really one disaster movie plot: man overreaches himself, disaster strikes, man (usually with woman trailing ineffectually behind him) must survive. So we have The Poseidon Adventure and Titanic (man builds enormous ship, ship sinks, man must climb up ship to safety), The Towering Inferno (man builds enormous high building, building goes on fire, man must escape) and The Day the Earth Caught Fire (man lets off too many bombs and changes the course of the earth so it’s heading straight for the sun, er, man parties hard until the boffins work out how we can survive). And now, lucky us, we have The Day After Tomorrow: man burns way too many fossil fuels, melts the polar ice caps into the Atlantic and brings on a second Ice Age; man must survive one hell of a blizzard. If only man would listen to the boffins!
In The Day After Tomorrow (funny how that kinda shortens to DAFT.), the obligatory boffin is climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), whose words of warning fall on deaf ears in a world where the fragile state of the economy is of far more significance than the fragile state of the world’s eco-system. Nobody believes him when he claims a second Ice Age is on its way, except English boffin Ian Holm. Quaid, however, has the advantage of an entire building full of sophisticated high tech computer equipment with which to make his forecasts, while Holm, as befits a lowly weather expert in that second rate Hobbiton England, has a shed on a hill with a few blinking screens.
As Hall’s son Sam (played by kooky Tobey Maguire lookey-likey Jake Gyllenhaal) departs for New York to take part in some kind of national Blockbusters geek tournament, the storms begin to hit. Snow starts falling in Delhi and, er, Scotland (but we can all relax, because the Royal Family have been air-lifted to safety), hail the size of bricks pelts down on Tokyo and even LA is experiencing ‘extreme weather’.
Suddenly everybody believes in Hall, but he no longer cares because he’s packing up his Arctic explorer kit to walk across the snow and ice from Washington to New York, where Sam is trapped in the National Library with assorted other misfits, merrily burning books to keep out the big chill, whilst surrounded by wooden furniture. DAFT? You could say that.
Meanwhile, having carelessly lost the chisel-featured, nip’n’tuck Richard Chamberlain lookalike US President in a snowstorm, the Vice President must evacuate the southern states of America to Mexico. And boy is revenge sweet as our amigos close the borders and sit back and laugh while the yanks try crossing illegally.
And the moral of it all? Stop being greedy and selfish and start thinking about the environmental consequences of your actions, folks, or you too could end up frozen to death outside a Wendy’s hamburger joint. Which is a perfectly respectable moral, really – just a shame it’s utterly lost in the sentimental schmaltz of the film’s ‘the sun’ll come out tomorrow’ ending.
But all that aside, The Day After Tomorrow is entertaining. Far more entertaining than that big stinker Van Helsing, I’d say. The special effects are pretty, well, special: from a strangely haunting shot of birds migrating across the New York skyline to cataclysmic tornadoes whipping across the Hollywood sign and a huge tanker sailing up Fifth Avenue (or wherever) as New York is engulfed by a tsunami.
The script, of course, is utter pants, but the bits that are supposed to be exciting (Sam and co. run away from the tsunami, just managing to jump to safety at the last minute; Sam and co. run away from a pack of rabid timber wolves, just managing to jump to safety at the last minute; Sam and co. run away from a sudden instant nitrogen-style freeze, just managing. yeah, you get the picture) well, okay, they’re pretty predictable, but they’re exciting too.
Disengage your brain, suspend your credibility at the height of the Statue of Liberty and forget that WOOD BURNS, YOU MUPPETS. and you might just enjoy this film.