> Volume 6 > Number 22


Roland Emmerich

Dennis Quaid
Jake Gyllenhaal
Emmy Rossum
Dash Mihok
Jay O. Sanders
Sela Ward
Austin Nichols
Arjay Smith
Ian Holm

Release: 28 May 04

The Day After Tomorrow


In the pantheon of liberal finger-wagging eco-disaster films, I guess The Day After Tomorrow might be a technical high point, not that Irwin Winkler left the bar too high in the first place. Like the gonzo anti-nuclear Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow is the work of a German green, enjoying himself as he posits politics with chaos, barely thinking about whether the audience will get the joke.

Luckily, this film, unlike any of his previous works, layers the good humor in such liberal smatterings that its occasions of pomposity are forgivable. Heís not treating this as a Michael Bay project in which the audience is coolly left the side as the director shows off, only gesturing to them when itís time to cry. The Day After Tomorrow, although certainly maudlin at times, seems like the anti-Bay -- itís self-conscious of the baggage people bring to these disaster films, and willing to turn it upside down. Where most of the films in the genre dare the audience to question the logistics (a collective that includes Emmerichís earlier work with Dean Devlin on Independence Day), this one throws everything to the wind. What fails to be believed is quickly covered by its nudge of acknowledgement. Itís Twister on steroids, willingly acting stupid because thatís part of the fun.

And for that reason, I think that the politics go down a little smoother. Even when I wondered how much further Emmerich could punish the audience with its father-son dynamic (though it has nothing on Sokurovís Father and Son), his willingness to couple it all with pandering to the left was shockingly fresh (originality is not quite Emmerichís best known attribute). The Dick Cheney look-alike, the simpleton president, the scientists praying for prudent eco-policy in an administration of smoke screen, all is purely fanatic Green propaganda, coming in time for the face off between Kerry and Nader for their votes. Bush, demonized at a height unknown to populist films of late, gets the next to last laugh: the blue state northerners are forced to migrate to the red states in the south to keep warm (who knew the Mason-Dixon Line had the power of defrost?). But his laughter is short lived: with an environmental policy already trounced, the Republican immigration policy gets the next slap in the face

©2004, David Perry,, 28 May 2004