The Day After Tomorrow

The Day After Tomorrow

2004, PG-13, 124 min. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Sela Ward, Tamlyn Tomita.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 28, 2004

Poor New York City. As if it didn’t have enough to worry about these days, director Roland Emmerich, who previously blew the Big Apple to pieces in Independence Day and lost a gigantic green Digimon in its cavernous byways in Godzilla has now returned to not only flood the city but flash-freeze it as well – along with virtually all of the Northern Hemisphere. (Apparently the Native Americans had the right idea when they handed over Manhattan to the Dutch.)

This newest popcorn disaster film is right in line with the director’s previous outings – the plot schematics closely mirror those films, with the protagonists having to venture far from safety to rescue wayward loved ones caught up in the chaos – but tempered this time with an eco-friendly message sure to provoke screeds from Rush Limbaugh and his ilk and furrowed brows from the Greens. Politics aside, this tale of the near-instantaneous onset of another ice age caused by global warming is great fun for those of us who enjoy watching civilization take a pounding now and again. (It speaks to some sort of collective masochism that we take such pleasure in watching ourselves be flattened, or, more likely, we just get a kick out of destruction – cinematically it does, after all, date back at least to 1936’s San Francisco, if not the early silent newsreels.)

Quaid plays paleoclimatologist Jack Hall, who, along with scientist Ian Holm, discovers that unchecked global warming has caused a disruption of the planet’s warm water ocean currents, which in turn causes huge ice shelves to calve off of the poles and raise sea levels precipitously. Cue nature’s wrath at the United States’ shortsighted pummeling of the Kyoto Accord and enter cyclones that smash Los Angeles, bowling ball-sized hail in Japan, and land-borne hurricanes across the globe that funnel in subzero temperatures from the upper atmosphere and unleash blizzards and worse on the upper 48. Quaid, in full "I told you so" mode, sets off to track down son Sam (Gyllenhaal) in NYC while a Dick Cheney look-alike watches haplessly from D.C. as thousands of Americans migrate southward in a nifty dig at the nation’s continuing illegal immigrant debate.

Emmerich’s sense of irony has rarely been so pointed, and The Day After Tomorrow, for all its obvious cataclysmic set-pieces and stock characterizations, is nothing if not timely. Of course, the principal reason to see the film is for the gargantuan special-effects work, which has New York deluged by a monstrous tsunami that cascades over the Twin Towers’ footprint and washes the scum off the street, finally vindicating Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle. Does The Day After Tomorrow merit all the press it has been generating? Probably not, as there’s precious little original about it, but Emmerich knows full well the value of subverting pre-existing visual iconography and so has the Statue of Liberty swathed in icicles, her torch and crown rising up above the newly snowy wasteland à la Planet of the Apes. It’s an image that will stick with you, even if the movie itself doesn’t.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Roland Emmerich Films
Disaster flick + Dyson sphere = Roland Emmerich’s latest

Matthew Monagle, Feb. 11, 2022

Roland Emmerich goes all guns blazing recreating the pivotal sea battle

Marc Savlov, Nov. 8, 2019

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


The Day After Tomorrow, Roland Emmerich, Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Sela Ward, Tamlyn Tomita

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle