U.S. Release Date: May 28, 2004
Distributor: Fox
Director: Roland Emmerich
Producer: Mark Gordon
Composer: Harald Kloser
Cast: Ian Holm, Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum
Running Time: 2 hours and 4 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense situations of peril)

by Scott Holleran

Prepare for more religious propaganda: The Day After Tomorrow is the New Left's doomsday evangelism with ecology as its religion. Junk science is sacred to director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla) and most of his cast; the press notes read like Earth First! talking points. The Day After Tomorrow does not pretend to be anything else and, whatever one's view of how and whether global warming poses a danger to man, this disaster movie is undeniably bad.

The plot presumes environmentalist premises, which leads to wildly irrational notions that the world will end in a week's worth of climate change. What man might have done to prevent the end of the world is left unanswered, though a government-subsidized electric car does make an appearance. It is driven by Dennis Quaid's climatologist, who's been warning about catastrophe caused by global warming for years.

The lone voice warning of impending doom is a staple of disaster movies—Burt Lancaster in Airport, Gene Hackman in The Poseidon Adventure, Victor Garber in Titanic—and Quaid's is steady if unconvincing. But he is also limited by the character. Whether debating in India, discussing his theories with Ian Holm's aging professor or pleading with his 17-year-old son (lifeless Jake Gyllenhaal), Quaid's eco-hero is a bland savior.

This is the primary problem with The Day After Tomorrow, which features some eye-popping effects for those who separate sound and pictures from plot. People's lives are not the standard of value—the earth is an end in itself. So the people who move about in the movie are like robots—wired with ecology's corollary view, multiculturalism—they feel, they speak, they act, and they don't count.

With Sela Ward's warm ex-wife as the exception, humans are depicted strictly as the earth's inhabitants, a means to the end of Earth as God. Day After trivializes its characters—as Emmerich did in Independence Day and Godzilla—by rendering them weak. The cast, from the high school science club stuck in Manhattan to Quaid and his cronies, are barely recognizable as humans—they are sacrificial lambs for Mother Earth, paying for the sin of driving an SUV.

Much of this recycled trash is laughable—the screening audience chuckled during nearly every scene of dialogue—and it is tempting to dismiss The Day After Tomorrow as an overproduced Hollywood spectacle. But there is something sinister about a movie that shamelessly exploits the memory of September 11, 2001, with people stranded on rooftops, plunging airplanes and New York as the epicenter of destruction for its own sake.

The helplessness, as against greatness, of humanity is Emmerich's specialty, and environmentalist propaganda is a logical progression for his motion pictures, which punish people for being productive.

But on its own fallacious terms, Emmerich's eco-epic stinks. Tornadoes ripping through Los Angeles look fake, and the prospect of Gyllenhaal continuing a long-distance pay phone call to his parents as he becomes submerged in a rising tide is hilarious. The supposedly brilliant climatologist apparently doesn't know enough to wear a hat in the new ice age, and the scenes of temperatures dropping ten degrees per second are like watching the campiest episode of TV's Batman with Mr. Freeze as Mother Nature.

At its core, Day After dramatizes its faith that Earth is better off without man; we have it coming. The world's wretched people—and the world is not worth saving if these dolts represent humankind—are tossed into the perfect eco-storm. With no trace of irony, Emmerich, who also wrote the script, lets an astronaut deliver his anti-technological theme that man—particularly Western man—deserves to be ruined. The German-born director also depicts the end of the United States of America with relish.

The Day After Tomorrow is a homily brought forth by true believers with its deity revealed in the screen's final image. That the masses are already on their knees in the Church of Environmentalism doesn't make its first major motion picture any less monstrous.

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