In one way or another, director, Roland Emmerich is determined to destroy New York City. He did it with aliens who arrived in ships the size of a small country in 1996s Independence Day. He tried again in 1998 by borrowing Japans most famous movie monster, Godzilla who stomped his way through the streets of Manhattan, squishing and squashing a considerable portion of the population as he did so. Now, in The Day After Tomorrow, Emmerich relies on Mother Nature - with more than a little help from humankinds misuse of her resources - to take a very large chomp out of The Big Apple.
To be fair, NYC is not the only place to endure disaster - this cataclysm is on an international scale - but, as in ID4, it certainly suffers some of the most spectacular destruction. There is a frightening topicality about the theme of The Day After Tomorrow in which the worlds climates go berserk as a result of the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Some pretty clear indications that things are not right occur when Los Angeles is ripped apart by multiple tornadoes, a massive snowstorm hits New Delhi, grapefruit-sized hail batters Tokyo and New York (here we go) is engulfed by a tidal wave that turns its concrete canyons into waterways. Soon after that, a new Ice Age prepares to freeze the metropolis and the rest of the northern hemisphere.
Professor Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is a paleoclimatologist - a person who studies weather patterns - and the guy who has to try to save as many people as he can when the planet begins to self-destruct. But he also has to save his son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is in New York as part of a scholastic competition.
Sam and other survivors are holed up in the Manhattan Public Library where they have fled when the city is suddenly turned into a new Venice. Finding a phone that still works, Sam makes a call to his father who warns him to remain inside because the big freeze that is coming will mean certain death for anyone who leaves. Sam is unable to convince most of the others to stay and only a handful remains, including Laura (Emmy Rossum), the girl he loves.
Amid the carnage, Emmerichs film also has time to focus on the human drama, notably the plight of Sam and his companions and the attempt by Jack and two of his colleagues to reach them. Emmerich also widens the canvas with sideline stories about Jacks doctor wife, Lucy (Sela Ward) and British meteorologist, Terry Rapson (Ian Holm) who first makes Jack aware of the imminent global upheaval.
As you might expect, the special effects are staggeringly, terrifyingly real, including the spectacular tornado sequence in a dark-skied Los Angeles and the climactic freezing of Manhattan into a giant metropolis of ice. But nothing quite prepares you for that gargantuan wave as it hovers over the Statue of Liberty and prepares to bear down on the island before it. If youve been waiting to be swept away by a big-scale disaster movie, this is the one to do it.