Making the Grades
It's been a long while since we've had a disaster epic of these proportions on the screen. Harkening back to the days of Earthquake! and The Poseidon Adventure, The Day After Tomorrow delivers all the right stuff: an impending catastrophe, dozens of locations, mountains of special effects, and the obligatory huge cast that will ultimately provide the required victims.
The alarm bells start ringing when climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) witnesses a major piece of ice breaking off from the coast of Antarctica. Despite a sudden increase of unstable weather on every continent, Hall tries to convince world leaders the event is indicative of a looming ice age caused by global warming. Unfortunately, his efforts fall on deaf ears. Especially adamant in refuting the scientist's claims is US Vice-President Becker (Kenneth Welsh), who feels the economy is more significant and fragile than the environment.
At Jack's Washington DC home, the forecast is just as stormy. Lucy (Sela Ward), his separated wife, is concerned about the estranged relationship gradually developing between Jack and their college-aged son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is heading off to New York City for an academic contest.
Aside from the ordeals faced by the Hall family, others around the world are increasingly affected by the turbulent skies too, including Jack's close associate Terry Rapson (Ian Holm), an ocean current researcher based in Ireland. Meanwhile, an LA weather observer watches his city being devoured by tornadoes, a Japanese man fights to survive grapefruit sized hail, and people in India face a surprise snowstorm.
That's in the first day. By the time the ?day after tomorrow? arrives, Hall's predictions--which he felt could happen anytime in the next century or more--have come to fruition with startling speed. With the northern hemisphere covered in a sheet of ice and snow, the survivors of the quick freeze are forced to move south. But Jack is determined to head north in the hopes of rescuing his son and others who have found refuge by burning books in NYC's central library.
Big in scope, this film is directed by Independence Day's Roland Emmerich. It offers similar great shots of landmarks being ripped apart, like the Hollywood sign and the Capital Records building. Yet the artistic downside is a script with too many people saying obvious things, while ignoring the most obvious solutions. This is especially true of the group holed up in Manhattan. Supposedly the smartest college kids the country has to offer, it is amazing how long it takes the hero, Sam Hall, to discover vending machines full of food.
Perhaps that's just to be expected in this genre, and it's a small complaint for an otherwise enjoyable popcorn movie. Parents will be pleased to discover the film is nearly free of sexual content and has only a smattering of mild profanities. While the destruction is intense, it is seen on more of a global scale. Aside from some vicious wolves, a man falling through a shopping mall roof, and a reporter hit by a flying car, there are few shots of individuals being killed, even though millions of deaths are implied.
If you're yearning for a disaster similar to those 1970s classics, you'll likely enjoy The Day After Tomorrow. Just make sure you bring along a jacket because after two hours of chilling scenes, you may find yourself shivering in your seat.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Day After Tomorrow.
What political statements are included in this movie regarding global warming and the Kyoto protocol? How are movies and other entertainment sometimes used as subtle propaganda devices?
The Day After Tomorrow is a 20th Century Fox movie. Notice what news network all the reporters work for and every television is tuned to. Also note the scene where someone says,“We need to change the channel” What station do they turn to?
What scientific errors can you find in this film? Do you think temperatures of 150 degrees below zero are possible? Can the oceans freeze that fast? Before becoming too cynical, you may want to check the work being done by UK Professor Marshall McCabe. Enter his name into google.com and see what you can find.