THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW review
The hate and spite that THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW is going to get is going to be a rare sight. For me… I enjoy the film as a beautiful work of science fiction along the best George Pal traditions. I enjoy the film as a story of a man enduring the impossible to keep a promise made to his son and working on the faith that his son was smart enough to survive similar impossible odds. I enjoy that the film reaffirms that Austin is the best place to live in the United States. Lastly, I enjoy the film as a Jonathan Swift style black satire regarding the absolutely irresponsible scientific and environmental misjudgments of the Bush Administration, and in particular… I’m quite fond of the portrayal of the puppet President and the incompetent Stromboli Vice President, even though they didn’t go the cheap route of hiring dead on look-alikes… what is there, is an obvious parody of a President that was seemingly on Vacation and doing photo-ops whilst crisis hit the country, with no clue how to respond… and a belligerent Vice-President with no patience or tolerance for any input outside of that of his own personal realm of experience. Obviously this isn’t meant to be Bush and Cheney. Obviously. No, Really it isn’t. They’re even different names. So there’s no reason to get… defensive. Ahem.
Like I said – those four levels of enjoyment are why I dig this movie.
The George Pal tradition of grand science fiction disaster filmmaking being the highest level of reason for enjoyment. You look at his TIME MACHINE or WHEN WORLD’S COLLIDE or ATLANTIS: THE LOST CONTINENT or THE WAR OF THE WORLDS and you can see the obvious parallels. Emmerich has a fetish for enormous scale destruction, and nobody makes the deaths of hundreds of thousands more beautiful to watch. Yes, I know that’s kinda sick to say, but it’s true. It’s like that nuclear blast in L.A. from T2 that Cameron shot… stunningly gorgeous… But compare the beauty and spectacle of Emmerich’s Los Angeles Twister sequence to Jan De Bont’s TWISTER – and there’s no comparison. Roland wins hands down. Compare the beauty of Emmerich’s Ice Aged New York, to that of Spielberg’s in AI… I lean towards Roland again. His skies are so beautiful, the weather spectacle, truly awe-inspiring. In KEY LARGO, when Lionel Barrymore’s character went into his big speech about “making a big wave” – I had always imagined a single big tsunami… now in my mind, I’ll think of the awesome force of the surge that swept over New York. WOW! That’s Spectacle!
In George Pal’s epics – the stars were cautionary scientists that kept cool heads, usually had some damsel that got in distress and a society in the sway of extinction. Well, Emmerich’s contribution to the disaster film is bringing in what I call the Holy Trinity of Science Fiction Character Dynamics, which tend to be defined by the Kirk, Spock & McCoy model. Only, Emmerich applies it to all character dynamics.
In THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, it’s made up of a series of trios. You have Jake Gyllenhaal, the girl he’s sweet on, and his geeky friend. You have Dennis Quaid, the guy he’s been doing science with forever and his geeky friend. You have Ian Holm, the emotional and responsible associate with a new borne and the geeky soccer loving associate. You have the Vice President, the lead science advisor kiss ass and clueless comedic President. You have Sela Ward, her longtime associate and the Peter Pan loving sick kid. You have the head New York Librarian, the longtime traditionalist librarian and the indie-minded feminist librarian type. You have the homeless guy, his dog he loves and the comedic New York Police Officer guy. HOWEVER – sometimes – the dynamics shift around… Like in Dennis Quaid’s central core character grouping – they’re joined by hot Asian NASA Girl, that his geeky friend/associate gets a crush on, meaning the long time science associate is rendered useless and therefore disposable to the “team”. Then there’s alternate groupings of 3’s like Quaid’s father, Sela Ward’s mother and Jake Gyllenhaal’s son dynamic. Or Jake Gyllenhaal, that yummy girl he’s got a crush on and the rich kid making the moves on her dynamic. Again… all in three’s. Does Emmerich know he does this? Or is this some crazed numerology thing… I mean… there’s even 3 super storm systems, 3 astronauts in the space station and a 3 act story structure! If I keep this up, I’ll go insane finding the 3’s in my own life and how all dynamics abide by the Kirk, Spock and McCoy pattern. You may think it is crazy… but look at your own trios… and I’m not talking about that insane cel phone with all the buttons.
Ultimately – the most important trio that comes into play is the structure the film takes after the disaster has hit and the film follows the insular family unit and what each is doing. How the mother is continuing to care for the sick Peter Pan loving kid, How the father begins his epic quest to reach the son, and the son’s desperate attempt to survive the cataclysmic disaster that befalls New York. Personally – I really liked this structure and I like that the film reaches the effects peak at the midpoint, then slows down and narrows it’s focus to these three familial story threads – to show what this family did to try to remain a family even with the epic disaster around them and divided by great distance. This might be a bit schmaltzy for many of you, but I like insular family units, patriotic spectacle and the cinematic deaths of millions.
The reaffirming my belief that Austin is the best place to live in the United States – was absolutely confirmed by the film. As you’ll see at the end of the film from outer space, Austin, Texas is not frozen by the on-coming Ice Age. Not only that – but the librarian that was attempting to save a Guttenberg Bible… well, that was all noble and all… but the two stored at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas would’ve survived – and I have heard they’re in better condition than that one that New York City has. Since Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles were all destroyed… I think this should just underline to future investors to invest in Austin’s burgeoning film community. Hollywood’s studios will be destroyed by cataclysm, as will Toronto’s and New York’s film facilities. This means that Austin really is the key creative place to be, with it’s awesome music, film and arts community, it’s also a political center… so it seems that the Capital of the United States should move here, the intellectuals and creatives should all reside here and I really do recommend that you really hot babes out there that are concerned about survival… that you move to Austin as well.
Lastly – there’s the Political Aspect and the Science Aspect of the film. I fully approve. Sure the speed with which the disaster hits may seem ludicrous to today’s scientific models and data… but if the highly improbable series of circumstances as underlined in this film’s reality were set about to happen… I suppose I can believe in the “fiction” of the film. If a storm system were able to suck down the temperatures from the highest levels of our atmosphere the way their models showed… I suppose that instant freezing thing could happen… and the point regarding how did the Ice Age Mammoth’s freeze with undigested food still preserved inside of them… meaning that freezing was instantaneous… and then extrapolating this as a possibility… well… I don’t know how else to explain it, so this’ll work for now. As for the nose thumbing at the Bush Administration’s Environmental crimes and arrogance… AMEN! But then I live in Austin, we send people to jail for life just for poisoning an old tree… and we come together to save endangered ridiculous animals so the rich can’t golf! And given I used to go door to door for CLEAN WATER ACTION, an environmental advocacy group… well, I’m somewhat predisposed to listen to scientists and consider the long term worldwide implications of modern day scientific and environmental policies. But then, like I said… I’m a proud liberal and this is a proud piece of liberal science fiction done really well, now if only it had Bruce Dern starring and Joan Baez contributing to the soundtrack! That would have ruled!