Collector's Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward
Director: Roland Emmerich
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: May 24, 2005

“Professor, I think it’s time you got out of there.”

“I’m afraid that time has come and gone, my friend.”

“What can we do?”

“Save as many as you can.”

Film ***

Just when I thought I couldn't take another disaster movie, along comes The Day After Tomorrow, which is easily the single best to come out of the genre in a long time. The movie is huge in scope and even huger when it comes to the realm of special effects. Although many feel that special effects tend to drive a movie more than they should, the effects in this film definitely merit our attention.

Perhaps the most important element in film is director Roland Emmerich, who has made without a doubt his best film since 1996's Independence Day, another movie that took effects to a whole new level. Emmerich has become perhaps the top flight maker of big time cinematic popcorn movies, and his level of technical genius is but to terrific use in the telling of a disaster tale that, for all its outrageousness, may not be too unbelievable.

After having aliens invading the world in Independence Day, and the citizens of New York elude the stomp of Godzilla, Emmerich has whipped up a disaster tale for the ages, involving several storms developing in various parts of the Northern Hemisphere to help create nothing short of a second ice age. What's the cause of this weather fiasco? None other than an environmentalist's worst nightmare--global warming.

As for the human characters in the movie, there is an unexpected twist regarding the usual disaster movie clichés. Although they are written for a disaster formula, they have a level of depth and you actually end up caring about them. In other words, this movie has the one thing that was missing from the tornado flick Twister. Credit Emmerich and co screenwriter Jeffery Nachmanoff for adding in that much needed element.

At the center of the developing disaster is Dr. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) a climatologist whose theory about the effects of global warming have proven to be very true, despite the economy-conscious government's refusal to believe anything he says. Hall's discovery of the truth of his own theory is helped by friendly British scientist Dr. Raspon (Ian Holm), who took faith in Hall's theory when they met at a convention.

Another central character is Jack's son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), a high school whiz kid who's en route to New York City to participate in an academic decathlon. Though it could be accepted that he was going to show off his smarts, he's really there because of his crush on fellow classmate Laura (Emmy Rossum of Mystic River). Upon realizing that the heavy rain dousing NYC hasn't ceased, Sam starts to speculate the worst.

As for the storm sequences, these earn a place among the most astonishing special effects scenes to grace the screen in quite some time. The action gets rolling only thirty minutes into the movie, with a multiple tornado storm destroying nearly every inch of L.A. My immediate reaction to this sequence was that of a huge jaw drop. To be honest, I think this five minute sequence produced as many thrills and chills than Twister did in its entirety. This scene is capped off by an incredible revealing shot indicating the extreme damage done to the city.

Next comes the flooding of New York City, a sequence that will no doubt send shivers done your spine. The many tidal waves that rip and roar down city streets is far more impressive and pulse pounding than anything seen in Deep Impact, which included a similar sequence. But then again, there's really no point in attempting to compare a lackluster flick like Deep Impact to the likes of this far more superior movie.

After eluding the mighty floods, Sam and his schoolmates, along with a handful of others, end up barricaded in the confines to the downtown public library. In case you're wondering how bad the flooding got, a few scenes later a Russian tanker ship is seen floating through the streets of Manhattan. To stay warm, Sam advises consistent burning of the library's many books.

As the movie progresses, the storyline centers on Jack doing whatever it takes to reach his son, even if it means traveling by foot in the midst of some truly nastily freezing weather, which is capable of causing death by freeze, as seen early in a pretty frightening sequence. A later scene where a group of characters are trying to escape freezing temperatures is bound to help induce some nail biting. Needless to say, the special effects really deserve Oscar attention.

Even though certain formulaic elements present themselves here and there, I do give The Day After Tomorrow extra, extra credit for its ability to relentlessly entertain, while at the same time invest some life in the central characters, especially since most disaster movies manage to create the most clichéd cardboard/over-the-top personalities.

From a technical aspect, The Day After Tomorrow is quite simply amazing. Director Roland Emmerich, whose name seems to go hand in hand with large-in-scope effects laden adventures, has crafted easily the best and most worthy disaster movie you're likely to ever come across. In a time when you think you've seen everything that special effects have to offer, this movie will truly make you think otherwise in a heartbeat.

Video ****

Fox is never a DVD studio to disappoint, and this amazing presentation of The Day After Tomorrow is a pivotal reminder of how well they don't disappoint. Every possible aspect of picture quality is of magnificent quality, and then some. This anamorphic presentation does nothing short of knocking the socks off, especially when the visual effects kick in (the first glance of tornadoes attacking L.A. is simply mind blowing. Clarity is present throughout the movie, along with superb image detail and amazing level of coloring to boot. No matter if set in the dark hazy L.A. tornado storm or the white tone of snow covered New York, this is a visual presentation for the history books!

Audio ****

Two words, JAW DROPPING! Believe me when I tell you that I haven't experienced a more intense presence of audio than what's displayed in the DTS and Dolby 5.1 mix, not just for this year but in general since DVD came to be. The movie's sound is as furious as the weather it's depicting, and every sound detail has been applied with a level of a hundred percent. Truth be told, I can't recall a single moment in the movie when each of the channels, even the subwoofer, weren't given something to work with. The terrific music score sounds most powerful, and the dialogue is spoken, and yelled, with undeniable clarity. Hands down, one of the most incredible sounding discs you’ll ever come across!

Features ****

Fox has done yet another fantastic upgrade in the features area for this 2-Disc All Access Collector’s Edition.

Disc One contains the original two commentary tracks from the first DVD release; one with Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon, the second with co screenwriter Jeffrey Nachmanoff, cinematographer Ueli Steiger, editor David Brenner and production designer Barry Chusid.

Disc Two has even more, starting with two documentaries; “Two Kings and a Scribe: A Filmmaking Conversation” and “The Force of Destiny: The Science and Politics of Climate Change”. Also featured are 10 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director/Co-Writer Roland Emmerich and Producer Mark Gordon, 2 Pre-Production Featurettes, 3 Post-Production Featurettes, an Interactive Audio Demo, Storyboard and Concept Art Galleries, and lastly a Theatrical Teaser and Trailers.


At this point in the year, I can safely say that The Day After Tomorrow probably takes the prize for the most entertaining popcorn movie 2004, as well as one of the best looking and sounding DVDs you may ever witness. Since seatbelts don't come with furniture, remember these three words; HOLD ON TIGHT!
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