"Day After Tomorrow" does a fair amount of things wrong and a fair amount of things quite right, eventually ending up as an entertaining guilty pleasure. The film stars Dennis Quaid as Jack Hall, a climatologist who is convinced that the globe is heading towards another ice age, but it will take decades. The film opens with Jack witnessing a massive collapse of an ice shelf in the Antarctic, then speaking at a confrence, facing a lot of skeptics. Despite those against him, evidence starts to mount towards his argument when a freakishly large hail storm hits Japan.
After Jack's confrence, he heads home to estranged wife Lucy (Sela Ward) and son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) when Sam is about to head to New York City for an academic competition. Upset with himself for not spending enough time with his son, Jack manages to give him a ride to the airport, but all they discuss is the reason why Sam failed a class. Weather nearly takes out Sam's plane before they reach NYC and, when they arrive, they witness massive flocks of birds heading South.
Elsewhere, Jack meets with Professor Terry Rapson (Ian Holm), who expressed interest in Jack's work during the confrence. The only issue is that what Jack predicted would happen years and years from now seems to be beginning now. Temperature readings in the ocean drop, then a series of massive tornados lay waste to downtown Los Angeles. Despite pleas to the Vice President that things are only going to get worse, Jack is ignored.
Things do certainly get worse. With the ocean having "reached a critical desalinization point", other events happen: Scotland is attacked by a deep freeze that literally stops people in their tracks and takes planes out of the air. Sam, potential girlfriend Laura (Emmy Rossum), classmate Brian (Arjay Smith) and Sam's rival for Laura, JD (Austin Nichols) find themselves searching for a way to get out of Manhattan when a storm surge sends a massive wave of water towards the city. While the four manage to escape the wave in the NYC library, it's not long before a freeze similar to what happened in Scotland decends.
With those in power finally getting the message (too late), those who can head South do (although most have no choice but to try and wait it out inside) and Jack leads a group of three towards Manhattan to try and save Sam and whoever else remains.
The film's positives are lead by the visual effects sequences, which are well-staged and enjoyable, especially the tornado sequence in Los Angeles. The deep freeze sequences are also legitimately unnerving. There's also a haunting sequence where a tanker slips through the empty streets of NYC, coming to a halt in front of the library. The performances in the film are generally good, as well, with Gyllenhaal, Quaid and especially Ian Holm being highlights. The film's choice to push forward that there isn't going to be some "third act miracle" and that it was about survival instead of trying to outwit a massive global superstorm was refreshing. Despite the film's science being obviously off, it is refreshing to have a film focus on the issue of global warming.
Unfortunately, the screenplay also fits into director Emmerich's tradition of including several noticable cliches into the picture, such as when Lucy stays with a child suffering from cancer at the hospital instead of trying to head South. The film's attempts at character building also largely don't work, although I did enjoy the characters at the Ian Holm character's station, as their friendship seemed genuine. The film's second half also does seem rather sluggish at times, as Quaid's trek to Manhattan just isn't compelling enough.
Although it's rather uneven at times, I still enjoy "Day After Tomorrow". Despite being a Summer Blockbuster, its attitude is considerably more serious and grim than most popcorn fare, which I liked. The effects sequences work well and well-cast actors make the most out of rather underdeveloped characters.
VIDEO: "Day After Tomorrow" is presented by Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (unfortunately, an additional pan & scan version is available.) The picture quality isn't flawless, but this is largely an excellent release from Fox. Sharpness and detail are superb, as while the picture looks a little soft on a few occasions, most of the presentation appears very crisp and well-defined.
A little bit of edge enhancement appears at times, but the picture was free of considerable distractions. No pixelation appeared and the print, as one would expect from a recent film, was free of any concerns such as dirt or wear. The film's color palette remained largely subdued, but was accurately presented. This edition appeared visually the same as the prior one.
SOUND: "Day After Tomorrow" is presented by Fox in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. As one would expect from a film like this, there are definitely instances of great surround use. The film's presentation isn't consistently aggressive, given the fact that this is a character piece in-between major action sequences, but the rear speakers certainly kick in often. The twister sequence in Los Angeles is the film's major audio moment, as the sounds of the city being torn apart by nature are heard all around the viewer. There are certainly other major sound moments, such as the wall of water flooding NYC. When the film isn't in the midst of a major action moment, there are nice instances of ambience, such as winds, rain, etc.
Audio quality was excellent, as sound effects seemed crisp and well-recorded, music seemed full and dynamic and dialogue was clear and natural-sounding. Certainly, there's plenty of moments of solid bass throughout, as well. The DTS version does offer a somewhat more dynamic and rich experience, as the DTS track offered mildly stronger bass and major sequences sounded more enveloping and seamless. This edition sounded the same as the prior one.
EXTRAS: We get a commentary from writer/director/producer Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon. In the past, I've been irritated by Emmerich's commentaries, mainly due to the fact that he said the word "like" over and over again in the middle of sentences. A sample comment from his "Stargate" track: "This now was shot like here in like, Los Angeles, uh, it's like a hotel in like, downtown Los Angeles, which is like often used for uh, movies in different ways."
Thankfully, this commentary is much better, with less "likes" and also, the presence of the very funny Gordon, who offers up some very amusing little set stories, such as the cinematographer's dog, who got preferential treatment despite biting a lot of people, including Gordon. We also learn more about a lot of the technical aspects of the production, shooting on sets and locations, effects, working with the cast and deleted scenes, which unfortunately don't end up on the DVD (although there are some deleted scenes included, there are some discussed here that don't show up.)
The commentary isn't without a few issues - there's a bit of general praise here-and-there, as well as a few gaps of silence - but Gordon is hilarious as he has a good sense of humor about the film and throws out some sharply funny comments in-between the duo's discussion about the production. For those seeking more technical details, there is an additional commentary with co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, editor David Brenner, cinematographer Ueli Steiger and production designer Barry Chusid.
The second disc offers the new stuff, starting with the nearly hour-long "Two Kings and a Scribe: A Filmmaking Conversation". This documentary has a cameraman with a basic, consumer camera following around the main players - brilliantly funny producer Mark Gordon, co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff and director/co-writer Roland Emmerich - and providing both interviews and behind-the-scenes snippets. Some interviews with a seemingly better camera also are added in. The documentary offers a nice behind-the-scenes look at the making of the picture, with some interesting insights from the producer, writer and director about issues that came up or things that were changed in the story, such as some elements of the Jake Gyllenhaal character. Gordon (whose voice reminds me of Jon Lovitz) brings the comedy again on the featurette, making some hilarious one-liners and playfully interrupting Emmerich during part of the interview.
Elsewhere, the "Pre-production" section offers a featurette on the film's pre-visualization work, as well as a filmed pre-production meeting. Also included here are a storyboard gallery and a concept art gallery. "Post-production" starts off with "Pushing the Visual Effects", which goes through the film's bigger effects sequences, discussing the challenges behind each one (the wolves were CGI only because the real wolves would not exactly follow directions) and showing the elements that went into it. The effects artists had to walk the line between creating dramatic visuals and trying to keep within some level of reality, and they discuss that more specifically when going through each sequence.
More deleted scenes are included here, as well - we get 10 deleted scenes, with optional commentary from Gordon and Emmerich. Most of these scenes are nothing too special, but there are some nice moments - a Hurricane Hunter sequence, as well as a bit on the stock market crashing. There's also the "audio anatomy" (which has been moved from the disc with the movie to the extra features disc this time around) for the first freeze sequence with the choppers flying in (the scene w/8 audio tracks to choose from - final mix, dialogue, helicopter sound, engines, ice and wind, sound effects, foley and music),
"The Force of Destiny: The Science and Politics of Climate Change" is an hour-long documentary that takes a look at the realities of the issues that are bought up in exaggerated form in "Day After Tomorrow". We are shown large cores of ice that are taken in order to study elements inside that are from thousands of years ago, and the levels that are considered reasonable have shot up beyond acceptable limits. Additional carbon dioxide and climate change will make some areas much drier, while other areas will be much wetter. Beetles that wouldn't have otherwise been intensely populating a certain region have flourished with warmer winters, killing off pine forests. Things aren't going to happen like they do in "Day After Tomorrow", but man is certainly having a negative effect on our world and environment, and this documentary details the kind of consequences that are happening and will happen. Definitely a thought-provoking and engaging piece.
Finally, we get the teaser trailer, the theatrical trailer and a second theatrical trailer for "Day After Tomorrow", a promo for the "Alien Quadrilogy", a promo for "Alien Vs. Predator" and a promo for "Man on Fire".
Final Thoughts: "Day After Tomorrow" certainly isn't without some faults, but the serious tone of the film is refreshing, the performances elevate the material fairly well and the visual effects sequences are first-rate. Fox's new DVD special edition provides a better, bigger selection of special effects that give a fuller, more insightful look at the making of the film than the first DVD edition did. Fans of the film who already own the first edition may want to consider an upgrade if they're interested in the supplements and those who are interested who don't already own the first edition should check this one out.