The Day After Tomorrow

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Ian Holm
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Interactive Sound Demo

It’s been some time since the last really big disaster movie, if memory serves me right, and it is truly refreshing to see that we have a real treat again here. It also seems evident that German ex-patriot Roland Emmerich has a faible for these kinds of movies, since the last big scale disaster movie that sticks in my memory is his alien invasion epic "Independence Day." 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is bringing his latest outing "The Day After Tomorrow" to DVD here with a few great extras, and I was very eager to check out if the movie lives up to its promise.

Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is a meteorological scientist who makes a disturbing discovery. The climates around the globe are changing and he can see the shift toward a new ice age. He tries to warn the US government of the problems which, according to his calculations, would take effect over the course of the next one or two generations when suddenly things seem to accelerate. Within days, strange weather patterns appear and gigantic storms begin wiping out parts of the northern hemisphere. It soon becomes evident that nature has taken matters in her own hands and that within days mankind will be faced with a new ice age. Are we prepared to survive?

Once again, Roland Emmerich pulls all the stops and goes about systematically destroying American landmarks on the movie screen as he did in the past. Who could forget his explosion of the White House in "ID4" or the top of the Chrysler Building crashing onto the streets in "Godzilla." This time he is riding a tsunami through New York City leaving little intact in its wake, or sucks up the famous Hollywood sign and the Capitol Records building in a twister, among many other things. The visual effects, which drive a big portion of the film, are extremely well done giving it all an air of authenticity that drives home almost a bit too familiarly in the aftermath of 9/11 and the images of destruction still vividly lingering in our minds.

Of course the film also has a story of personal drama at its core as Jack Hall’s son is stuck in New York City as the disaster unfolds. Experienced with arctic climates, Hall is determined to go to New York to rescue his son, and sets out to face the elements as the entire northern hemisphere begins to freeze up at temperatures reaching -150 degrees Fahrenheit.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is providing "The Day After Tomorrow" in a meticulous transfer on this DVD. The image is razor sharp without any defects or blemishes. Colors are vibrant and never bleed, rendering every palette without flaws, ranging from the whites of the arctic ice to the fiery explosions as disaster strikes and anything in between. Skin tones are natural looking and the blacks in the transfer are rock solid, rendering an image with visual depth that never loses definition or detail. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression is also without flaws, leaving not a trace of artifacting. In a word, this is a pristine presentation.

A disaster movie of these proportions needs a bombastic audio track, of course, and the DVD fully delivers. Offering up a <$DTS,DTS> as well as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track as the main audio cues, the presentation is simply huge and fat. Surround channels are used excessively, creating a sound stage that is constantly active, bombarding the viewer with sounds from all directions almost all of the time. The frequency response is impressive with an extreme bass extension that shakes your foundation and yet, manages to reproduce high ends of the spectrum clearly and without distortion. The dynamic range is equally impressive ensuring that "The Day After Tomorrow" is a presentation to remember.

The main supplements on the release are two <$commentary,commentary track>s. The first one features Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon as they revel in the production of the film, how it came about and ho it was put together. It is a very good <$commentary,commentary track> with plenty of information and insight into the scope of a movie production on this scale.

The second commentary features co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, DP Ueli Steiger, Editor David Brenner and production designer Barry Chusid. This <$commentary,commentary track> covers other facets of the production, some of them in quite some detail, and even gets quite a bit technical at times, which is refreshing as it has become fairly uncommon in today’s fast-food-style commentaries.

Since audio is such an important aspect of the film, the DVD contains a great feature to that end. One scene from the film – the RAF helicopters in the storm – has been isolated and the audio that accompanies the scene in the film has been separated into layers that you can listen to separately. It shows just how elaborate sound design is these days and how all these individual elements play together in order to create the desired effect.

Also included on the DVD are two deleted scenes, which are essentially alternate versions of existing scenes in the film.

I had a blast with "The Day After Tomorrow." Films in this genre have never been about being logic or scientific correct – that’s what documentaries are for. Disaster flicks are there to thrill and to create a spectacle that jerks the viewer around, reminding us how fragile we and the world around us really are. With that mindset, "The Day After Tomorrow" is doing a phenomenal job and is definitely a thrill-ride like we haven’t seen in a while. It is very reminiscent in structure to "ID4" and it is formulaic as well, but hey, who cares? I wanted to be swept away by this movie in an avalanche of eye candy and ponderous explosions and that’s exactly what I got – even a notch better than I had expected.