Back in the '70's a new film genre emerged: the disaster flick.
While there had been earlier films involving people threatened by impending
doom, it wasn't until Airport (1974), The Poseidon Adventure
(1972), and The Towering Inferno (1974) that people started
thinking that large scale pandemonium was all that you needed in a movie.
It really wasn't enough, of course, and by the time the decade was over
the genre had pretty much died out.
Fast forward to the late 90's: the disaster film returns.
Mainly do to the falling cost of computer generated special effects, producers
and directors realized that they could create catastrophes on a wider scale
than ever before. Films like Volcano and Dante's Peak
(both 1997) were threatening more than just a building or ocean liner;
now whole towns were in danger. The ante was raised the following
year. Who cares about a town? Let's destroy the whole world!
In both Armageddon and Deep Impact (1998) asteroids are on
a collision course for Earth and when they hit, they'll wipe out humanity.
Using the exact same template as other disaster films, 2004's The
Day After Tomorrow has the Earth and humanity being threatened by...
global warming and an ice age. Filled with silly science and a mediocre...ummm,
I guess you could call it a plot, the movie's main attraction is that viewers
get to see some large scale destruction.
Hall (Dennis Quaid) is a paleoclimatologist, someone who studies the weather
of the distant past. He's the only scientist in the world who happens
to notice that some bad things are happening with the Earth's weather,
all because of global warming. (I know, he's supposed to be studying
the past, not present... just go with it. Best if you don't ask too
many questions with this film.) Soon his predictions come true, but
much sooner than he was thinking. The largest typhoon ever recorded
hits Asia, and a series of tornados trashes downtown LA. Intrepid
Jack plugs the data into his computer model and discovers that there's
only a matter of weeks till all hell breaks loose. Opps...make that
days. Giant storm cells have formed in the North Hemisphere (but
not the southern for some reason that's never explained) and after they
pass over the northern continents the Earth will be gripped in another
With his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) trapped in New York City, Jack realizes
that he has to make the hazardous trek from DC to the Big Apple mainly
on foot and save his son because, ummm, well I guess there wouldn't be
much of a movie otherwise.
is a typical disaster flick. It starts out with a bang and then slows
way down so that viewers can get to know the cast of cardboard characters
that will be featured in the film. There's a street person in New
York who loves his dog, Jack's ex-wife who is a dedicated doctor, the kindly
senior scientist who helps Jack by giving him some pertinent data, and
the mean vice-president who is totally unreasonable and won't evacuate
the northern half of the US just because one guy says to. Of course,
some of these people won't make it to the last reel of the film, but that's
to be expected.
With implausibility piled upon ridiculous plot elements and sheer impossibilities,
you can't look at this film hoping for any type of accurate science, or
even believable events. At times it's really hard to look past that.
In one scene three helicopters in flight crash because the jet fuel that
runs the engine froze due to super-cold air from the troposphere.
Planes routinely fly in the troposphere however without any ill effects.
Even if you didn't know that, it's hard not to laugh in the scene where
someone goes out into the weather that froze 20+ feet of water solid in
a matter of hours and finds a vial of penicillin in aqueous solution that's
still liquid. There are many errors like that riddled through the
film and it really makes the film laughable at times. (Like when
people out run cold air. That was hilarious.)
The special effects did look good but not outstanding. The frozen
Statue of Liberty looks impressive, but the CGI wolves look like, well,
CGI wolves. They weren't rendered very realistically and their movements
didn't look natural. Like a lot having to do with this film, you
just have to overlook that.
The Blu-ray Disc:
While this isn't a bad looking disc, I was surprised at some of the
problems that were present in this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded disc.
Previous discs that used the AVC codex looked fine, but this one had some
compression artifacts pop up now and again. Posterization was a minor
problem in a couple of scenes, such as when the janitor cleaning a building
in LA during the tornados walks towards the light shining under a door.
The blacks weren't even, rather they were slightly banded. Worse
than that was the aliasing that crept into the image. There were
a couple of scenes where parallel lines would shimmer and shake slightly
when the camera passed over them. Check out the grating in the door
on the ship when the boys are looking for medicine and skyline of the ice
covered NYC at the end.
Besides that, the image looked very good. The level of detail
was strong and the colors were very nice. They looked natural and
solid without having looking like they'd been boosted in post-production
the way many HD discs do. The black levels were even throughout and
grain wasn't a problem even in the large snow covered fields. Overall
this is a nice looking disc that is unfortunately marred by some minor
The audio portion of this disc was top notch. The disc comes with
a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 mix as well as a DD 5.1 dubs in Spanish and French.
If you don't have receiver that will decode the DTS HD-MA codex don't worry,
you'll still be able to listen to the disc in 'regular' DTS, as I did.
The full soundstage was used to great effect during the exciting storm
sequences, and it was very impressive. There was very good directionality,
viewers can hear certain effects, like a car being blown down the street,
pan from one speaker to the next while there's general mayhem coming from
all speakers. That was really cool. The subwoofer got quite
a workout in these scenes too, with a lot of rumbling destruction that
gives the disc a real kick. During the more sedate scenes the audio
also did its job, reproducing the dialog faithfully.
Once again Blu-ray adopters have to decide between getting a superior
picture with a Blu-ray disc of going for more bonus features on the SD
counterpart. I've railed against this before, and it really blows
my mind that a studio would do this, especially when they're in the middle
of a format war.
In this case several featurettes that are found on the 2-disc collector's
edition SD DVD have not been ported over. The two documentaries,
The Force of Destiny: the Science and Politics of Climate Change and
Two Kings and a Scribe: A Filmmaking Conversation, aren't here, and
neither are the pre- and post- production material with one exception.
This disc does have two commentaries, one with director Roland Emmerich
and producer Mark Gordon, the other with co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff,
DP Ueli Steiger, editor David Brenner, and production designer Barry Chusid.
I listened to bits of both of these but they didn't wow me. Both
were fairly boring and didn't add anything to my enjoyment of the film.
There are also several deleted scenes which run about 15 minutes altogether.
While some of these were fun, most deserved to be left on the cutting room
This disc does have Blu-ray only extras though! Woo-hoo!
The only problem is that they aren't that exciting. First is a pop-up
trivia track that gives details on real weather phenomena and the 'science'
of the film. There's also a movie length global warming game.
While the film plays a series of questions will pop up. For each
question you get wrong, the temperature will rise one degree. If
it rises too high, you will have destroyed the Earth.
The Day After Tomorrow was 2004's Deep Impact. It
joins other disaster movies like The Core as being mindless entertainment.
Its fun enough to watch once, but there's not a lot of replay value.
Added to that is the fact that the Blu-ray disc while not bad isn't as
impressive as it could be. Make this one a rental.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.