Daybreak (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Sigh. This is some lame sci fi.

Even the best science fiction stories are often thinly-disguised morality plays about the logical extension of what we know about such topics as overpopulation, pollution, space travel, and the underside of human nature. It usually turns out to be bullshit, of course. When the future actually arrives, it is easy to see that the future world they imagined in the past was not about the future at all but about their own time. A good percentage of the time people predict pretty much the opposite of what really happens. Science fiction writers of the past, for example, once imagined a future world filled with ever more gigantic, noisy, and polluting machines. The real development of machines made them ever tinier, quieter, and more efficient.

The tendency of futurologists to be consistently incorrect is explained by a sociological (and mathematical) phenomenon called regression, which is to say that once anything gets too far from where most people want it, it gets pulled back by a centrist tendency. Take Central Manhattan, for example. If you wrote a science-fiction story in 1980 after studying the development of Times Square from 1955-1980, how would you imagine Times Square to look in 2005? The answer is basically that you would get it as wrong as possible. The fact that the area got ever more sleazy and dangerous in that first 25 year period was not a trend that could be extrapolated into the following quarter of a century. Eventually, the area got too far from what average people consider acceptable, and various social forces forced it to regress toward the mean, toward "normality." In fact, it is pretty much the same now as it was back in 1955, except it has been updated with the technology of 2005. It's all commercial and touristy and white-bread, and there are times when you almost wish the place still had the old porn theaters, street hustlers, junkies, 'tutes, and rip-off joints. Almost.

Daybreak has that same kind of problem. It was written in the early days of the AIDS scare, and it envisions our time to be sharply polarized into the plague-free ruling classes and the diseased, who are forcibly removed from society and quarantined. Rebels fight against the marginalization of the victims. The AIDS victims are treated like Jews in areas under Nazi control. For example, the heavy-handed script made the Nazi parallel by combining the yellow star and the concentration camp tattoos into one stigma - a giant P tattooed to the chests of plague victims.

Of course, none of that happened. The United States did not become more sharply divided regarding AIDS. If anything, the exact opposite happened. Medicine did its share, tolerance did its share, education did its share, prominent heterosexuals like Magic Johnson started to turn up HIV+, and we gradually became better at treating the disease, preventing it, and dealing with its stigma. HIV+ people now walk among us, live long lives after they are diagnosed, and are not universally turned into social pariahs. This film got pretty much everything as wrong as possible.

In many cases, we forgive sci-fi films their wrong-headedness if they give our imagination some exercise. I suppose the future may turn out to be nothing like the way it is pictured in Blade Runner, yet that film employs art and action and invention and a touch of poetry to bring us into its alternate world. Daybreak, in contrast, has nothing to offer in the realm of imagination. This cheap made-for-cable movie presents a world that looks and sounds exactly like the one we live in - or lived in, way back in 1993. People wear the same 1993 clothes, and drive the same 1993 cars, and live in 1993 apartments, and use 1993 appliances. The only difference between Daybreak's world and the real world is that AIDS is far more virulent.

The damned script can't even keep its POV consistent and thoroughly developed. The rebels believe that the government is wrong to quarantine the victims, and is lying about the disease, yet we see people ravaged by the disease, and we see that the rebels fear contracting it. We know it must be contagious (the rebels admit this), and we can see its effects.  So if the government ministers are lying, what are they lying about, exactly? The script never really explores any of these questions.

So what does the film have to offer? Not much. Underneath its half-hearted sci-fi veneer is a routine kind of Romeo and Juliet love story between the rebel leader (pre-fame Cuba Gooding Jr.) and a "healthy" girl who had previously been hanging around with the modern equivalent of the Hitler Youth.

So Daybreak is sort of like West Side Story with a bad cough.



  • no features
  • no widescreen (although the 4:3 version is the full frame)



Moira Kelly shows her breasts in two different scenes, including one in which she is standing up and facing the camera.

The Critics Vote ...

  • James Berardinelli 2/4

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. I've been generous with that grade, but production values and performances are tolerable, so maybe you won't find it as heavy-handed as I did.

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