Disaster films (and such is The Day After Tomorrow), due to the premise alone focusing mostly on the spectacle itself, are often disasters in terms of quality, or at best, semi-disasters. Not to say that there don’t exist any good disaster films, as examples like Titanic and Gravity do belong to the top tier of their respective years. But the difference is that of the vision behind when disaster is a part of the film’s emotions and intensity versus when the graphic horror of the disaster is itself the vision. And although the latter category is mostly led by Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich is also one of the most prominent examples.
He’s directed disaster films where the scale and visuals of the disaster itself are what matters the most, and character development or a general sense of suspense are barely looked into. One such example of Roland Emmerich works would be The Day After Tomorrow, which adapts a book that actually does have some substance. But as for the adaptation, style-over-substance is the best way to describe it.
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The Movie Review
This adaptation of The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber surrounds itself in a world that after the disruption of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation and massive changes of weather, is coming to a new ice age. Jack Hall is a paleoclimatologist who goes alongside his colleagues Frank and Jason for ice-core samples for the NOAA. In an international conference for the UN, Jack proposes his research that the current climate change could result in an ice age but is ironically dismissed by the US vice president Raymond Becker.
Inspired by his views, the oceanographer Professor Terry Rapson befriends Jack, and he concludes that his theory is true after noticing a drastic drop in the Atlantic Ocean’s temperature.
From there, Jack and Rapson, alongside a NASA meteorologist named Janet Tokada develop a forecast model on Jack’s research, but as it would happen in real life, the vice president is still dismissive of the idea. And then comes off a storm system in the northern hemisphere that divides into three superstorms that are directed towards Canada, Siberia, and Scotland.
And then begins the great catastrophe that starts with superstorms and ends with an actual ice age, but in all of this, there’s one thing that matters the most to Jack, which is to rescue his son Sam, who lives in New York, from the rising disaster. It becomes a mission of saving humanity, preventing further damage to the climate, and most importantly rescuing Sam. It would all have been very touching if the characters had even an ounce of positive development.
They’re not terribly developed, but there’s barely anything that makes you feel for them besides the predicaments that arise out of nowhere for them. Jack loves his son, but barely is the inward side of his love explored. All we see is the disaster and disaster alone. The spectacle is by far the most focused aspect of the film.
Roland Emmerich also directed the very similar 2012, which too was hell-bent on exploring the spectacle, and just like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow too, features some marvelous visual effects for the disasters themselves, but the direction barely finds any authenticity, and the characters are rather shallow.
The script, which Emmerich co-wrote with Jeffrey Nachmanoff also fails to nicely adapt the source material. It fails to make the characters and the conversations engaging altogether. Another thing that’s hilarious about most style-over-substance films is the fact that they suffer from mediocre cinematography and original score, and The Day After Tomorrow is no exception.
Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow is mostly focused on the spectacle and has remarkable visual effects, but it’s barely anything beyond that. The idea it adapts has some merits to it, but with one-dimensional characters, a direction that doesn’t stand out, as well as technical mediocrity, it’s a film not to recommend.