The Day After Tomorrow
By Johnny Bray
As far as disaster movies go, The Day After Tomorrow is the most disastrous yet.
It features some of the best destruction scenes ever done, but the movie itself is pretty terrible.
After witnessing a big chunk of the polar ice caps breaking off, climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is worried about global warming bringing about a new ice age. He says it shouldn't happen for another 100 years at least, but he changes his mind when he sees Los Angeles destroyed by a series of tornadoes. Before long, the entire Northern Hemisphere will be completely covered with ice.
When Jack gets word that New York City has been flooded, he decides it's a good idea to go rescue his son, even though the entire city will be frozen solid soon. For the rest of the movie, it's basically a race against time to see who can survive.
The Day After Tomorrow is a tough one to call. On one hand, the special effects and disaster sequences are really cool. On the other hand, it sucks. Like previous Roland Emmerich films, the first act is pretty hardcore and only hindered by its story (which in this case is extremely politically correct and not very well written). In the second act not much happens, but you keep on truckin' because you want to see more of what you got in the first act. And finally, the third act has some intense moments, but is an ultimately unsatisfying climax.
It's always nice when filmmakers are kind enough to tell us how much we suck for destroying our planet. Movies are a great, expressive form of art, so a certain amount of your own agenda in your own movie is fine. But you have to be sure not to insult your audience, especially with a case like this in which there are so many people not jumping on the global warming bandwagon. One could generally forgive the lackluster story and writing if only if weren't so dang preachy. It seems there was more time and money spent on finding a subtle Dick Cheney look-alike to play the evil capitalist Vice President than there was on script editing.
Nevertheless, with such a film, chances are you've turned off your brain early on and aren't susceptible to such minute details. Some great special effects causing equally great destruction crossed with by-the-numbers action sequences and lame dialogue will be no match for a fun-loving, napping brain.
Having only gotten into the whole Blu-ray thing in the last month or so (and loved it), it's only fair to admit that I was actually excited to watch this sub-mediocre film again - if only to enjoy the mass destruction in glorious high definition. Unlike the feature, however, the disc only disappoints a little.
Presented in 2.35:1 1080p HD resolution, it looks pretty sweet. Comparing it with the DVD, I noticed you could see more detail in the special effects in HD, such as with the buildings crumbling in L.A. (via the tornadoes) or New York City's rapid submergence. It's good to see just how precise the effects team got, and it sure does blow your mind
Really, though, to go into hardcore details about the differences in picture would be silly because, well.everything looks better. That's the thing about high def. It takes the DVD quality image that we until now thought was awesome and actually makes it awesome. The Day After Tomorrow looks a little soft during some of the boring scenes, and the ones that feature a lot of snow and ice are just a bit too much (a tad washed out is, more specifically, what I mean by that). It looks great overall, but not quite as spectacular as we were expecting.
Unfortunately, I don't yet have a receiver capable of handling the HD audio tracks, but I did notice the subwoofer was a little more prominent this time around. The audio on the original DVDs was beautiful, and we can't notice much difference the way we have it. This is okay, though, 'cause it still rocks.
Most of the bonus material seems to have been re-hashed from previous DVD incarnations. First we get the same two audio commentaries (one by director/co-writer Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon, the other by co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, director of photography Ueli Steiger, editor David Brenner and production designer Barry Chusid). Neither track is any better than it was last time, though the second is a bit more technical and less preachy, and therefore more favorable.
Deleted scenes: the film is too long as it is. More of a bad thing does not make it better. But here's where some newer stuff comes along. We're treated to a "Global Warming Trivia Track," which is just like that old "Pop-up Video" fad. This thing is chock full of propaganda like "the Earth is getting warmer, therefore it's our fault and we should all suffer as a result." Alright, so I'm embellishing a little, but I did find it amazing as to how many of the "facts" were straight-up conjecture (kinda like what I've seen of "An Inconvenient Truth"). There's also a Global Warming Interactive Game on the disc, but I'm willing to admit that I didn't even go there. One can only stand so much.
The bottom line is that if you happen upon some "free Blu-ray" offer and The Day After Tomorrow is part of it, it's worth watching on the format just as an example of what it can do. But if you've seen the movie, you've still seen it.
The Day After Tomorrow, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.