''This is every disaster movie rolled into one,'' says Dennis Quaid. ''There are blizzards and hailstorms and tornadoes and tidal waves.'' Indeed, director Ronald Emmerich -- who blew up the White House in ''Independence Day'' and demolished Madison Square Garden in ''Godzilla'' -- has now set his sights on the entire planet. In ''Tomorrow,'' decades of global warming have caused deadly meteorological conditions and, ultimately, a new ice age.
Quaid plays a ''paleoclimatologist'' scrambling to find his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) in storm-plagued New York City while superstorms ravage the world. Once again, the German-born Emmerich annihilates beloved landmarks (buh-bye, Hollywood sign!). But coming less than three years after Sept. 11, he had doubts about setting the film primarily in the Big Apple. ''It was a big discussion for me: Can I do this movie in New York? Is it in bad taste?'' he says. ''We decided that because New York is the symbol of Western civilization, it has to be New York. We could have shot this movie in Chicago, but what is the worldwide recognition of Chicago?''
Emmerich is quick to add that ''Tomorrow'' is not a companion piece to the alien-errific ''ID4.'' ''The foe this time is nature, and in a way, ourselves, because we cause the disaster,'' he says. That translated into interesting working conditions for the cast. ''We were on a huge soundstage in Montreal, and inside it'd be about 80 degrees and you're wearing arctic gear,'' says Quaid. ''There'd be four wind machines blowing a blizzard in your face that was made out of soapsuds and newspaper.'' Top-notch F/X aside, Emmerich hopes audiences will connect to ''Tomorrow'''s human elements. ''It's a father-son story: A father who's never had enough time for his son has to make up for it and rescue him. It's 'Finding Nemo'!''
THE GOOD NEWS Sounds like a totally cool throwback to those action-drama disaster flicks of the '70s.
THE BAD NEWS A retro action drama could get snowed under by the season's comic-book flicks.