Dir: Roland Emmerich. US.2004. 125 mins TBA.
The box office fate of TheDay After Tomorrow was sealed the moment its trailer hit theatres.Eye-popping scenes of the beleaguered streets of New York City being engulfedby a tidal wave or Los Angeles ripped apart by tornadoes created ripples ofexcitement among audiences itching to see the newest CGI disaster to tear ourworld apart.
Do we care that RolandEmmerich, the man who wreaked the same havoc eight years ago in IndependenceDay, has created a concept and plotline as riddled with holes as the ozonelayer' Does it really matter that critics will shake their heads with dismay atthe 2-D soap opera being played out against the popcorn catastrophe' Shouldhigh brow film critics even review movies like this'
The fact is that, of the newbreed of video game-meets-rollercoaster ride blockbuster event films, TheDay After Tomorrow is a superior specimen. It's a cheesy A-scale budgetB-movie blockbuster which not only delivers on spectacle but delivers thevisceral thrills and set-pieces that Troyand Van Helsing were short on.
ID4 scaled dizzy box office heights - surpassing $800mworldwide - and The Day After Tomorrow is unlikely to rival that.
But Emmerich's expertise isa rare one. He is a master at updating the 50s B-movie, ensuring a sense ofunreality and glee in the proceedings while going for broke with the effects.That's why the sight of New Yorkers running for their lives from the tidal wavecarries no eerie echo of 9/11. Or why the fact that he focuses on a father andson's estrangement in the midst of a million deaths is not offensive. It's alljust for fun, and audiences who felt cheated by the clinical package of VanHelsing or the hollow pomp of Troy will be comforted by elaboratediversion of The Day After Tomorrow.
Emmerich's last two films - Godzillaand The Patriot made $376m and $215m respectively in global grosses.Fox's global assault on theatres this weekend - it's the largest day-and-dateopening in history - should guarantee first five day grosses of well over $100mand final grosses in the $400m-plus region. As is customary with event picturesof this size, the international box office should sell more tickets thandomestic.
The film imagines that theworld is on the brink of a new ice age. Hunky climatologist Jack Hall (Quaid)has discovered through drilling ice cores in Antarctica that global warmingtriggered an abrupt shift in the planet's climate 10,000 years ago and that itcould happen again. He warns the US vice president (a Cheney-esque KennethWalsh) of his findings at a summit in New Delhi, but is summarily dismissed.
Meanwhile a series of severeweather events start hitting the planet. Hailstones the size of grapefruit peltTokyo, hurricane winds pound Hawaii, snow falls in New Delhi and a series ofdevastating tornadoes rampages through Los Angeles.
Enter Terry Rapson (Holm),an esteemed professor holed up in a monitoring station in Scotland, who callsHall in Washington DC to warn him that melting polar caps have poured too muchfresh water into the oceans and disrupted the currents that stabilise theclimate system. A new ice age is imminent and will happen during a globalsuper-storm.
Whether any of this isplausible is entirely irrelevant. New York City is submerged by a tidal wavethat hits the east coast. And more important than that, Hall's estranged sonSam (Gyllenhaal) and the teen he loves Laura (Rossum) are trapped there in theManhattan Public Library. Leaving his ex-wife Dr Sela Ward behind to tend to ayoung boy dying of cancer, Hall sets out on foot through the treacherousconditions to reach his son.
Emmerich's politicallycorrect packaging is almost comic in its rigour. Black, white, Latino and AsianAmericans are all represented in the key cast. Even more humorous - andintentionally so this time - is the exodus of Americans to Mexico which thedisaster precipitates. The sight of the Mexican border being besieged byAmericans trying to get into Mexico is a clever reversal of the norm whichleads to the film's almost touching concluding sentiments - that we are all thesame fragile humans regardless of nationality. In today's twisted politicalclimate, a sledgehammer reminder that we should care for our environment andeach other is not as corny as it sounds.
Prod cos: Centropolis Entertainment, Lions Gate, Mark GordonCompany
W'wide dist: 20th Century Fox
Exec prods: Ute Emmerich, KellyVan Horn
Prods: Mark Gordon, RolandEmmerich
Scr: Roland Emmerich &Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Cine: Ueli Steiger
Prod des: Barry Chusid
Ed: David Brenner
Mus: Harald Kloser
Main cast: Dennis Quaid, JakeGyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Jay O Sanders, Sela Ward, Austin Nichols,Arjay Smith, Tamlyn Tomita, Ian Holm, Glenn Plummer, Adrian Lester, Perry King,Kenneth Walsh