Guilty Pleasure: The Day After Tomorrow

Sometimes, even for film nerds with concentration on depth and thematic power, you’ve just got to indulge in a reboot flick that explodes, wrecks, and demolishes stuff for the sincere indulgence of it all. Many cite Transformers, Armageddon, or even Roland Emmerich's own Independence Day -- all flicks I cannot stomach -- as their little “blow-‘em-up” pleasures; instead, I look to the zany environmental disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow for my fix. For most, it’s the thunderous, billowing explosions that ignite their little untapped need to witness demolition, similar to the effect of slowing down traffic on the highway during an accident. Instead, the icy presence of crackling ice, thunderous boulder-sized hail and spiraling tornadoes of Emmerich's flick get my popcorn mojo flowing.

A pre-requisite for a film of this type is a ludicrous storyline, something that The Day After Tomorrow succeeds at in absolute spades. In an atmospheric anomaly, global warming causes extreme climate disasters that range from a tsunami-like flushing of New York City, tumultuous tornadoes scattered across the world, as well as a sharp decline in temperature that renders a new Ice Age. Dennis Quaid’s doctor character knew it all and pushed for measures to pre-empt this issue, but in a not-so-blunt shot at government bullheadedness they eschewed his ridiculous theories. As a result, the world now must scurry across ice-filled buildings for food and shelter, struggling to survive without necessary heat, water, and nourishment.

Yeah, it gets a little “thick” at many points, seeming nearly implausible and downright ridiculous many times. But boy, is it a riot to watch all the CG-rendered disastrous chaos! Looking at a list of all the technicians that worked on The Day After Tomorrow’s visual effects is an exercise in glancing at near endlessness. But, even with all the credits, it’s easy to see how all of these talented digital filmmakers were put to use in Roland Emmerich’s icy adventure. Though everything is obviously digital recreation, even to the frozen image of the Statue of Liberty, it all glistens with highly-refined precision.

Aside from having solid computer-generated effects, it also takes took the lower-road at the time and steered clear of any gigantic names in the mix. Sure, Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid highlight the cast, but their presence doesn’t swallow the film whole in the tradition of Will Smith and Bruce Willis. Instead, their well-presented charismas -- not really characters because, hey, it’s obviously Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid -- plug enough energy into the story for easy consumption. There's the weepy father-son theatrics, the son-love interest flickers of romanticism with Emmy Rossum, the dazzling savior heroics, the sacrifice abound for each character's life -- it's all sappy, chaotic indulgences in acting, but they achieve everything that they're supposed to do without much groaning whatsoever.

All the science and ideas behind The Day After Tomorrow, as ludicrous as they may be, are still fun whimsical glimpses into scientific lunacy. They don’t really insult intelligence too far, which helps preserve audience intelligence. Conversely, it creates a dynamic where people can pick-and-choose what scientific “side-dishes” they want with their apocalyptic main course without losing any of the story’s meaning. Whip up a bowl of popcorn and drag out the beverages with this one, because all of the percolating action within Emmerich’s action flick about nature’s wrath is best suited for fun and spirits -- but a lot of fun indeed.


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