Friday, June 24, 2016

Independence Day Resurgence review

I love science fiction stories about global events. The bigger the better. The problem is the filmmakers who love blowing things up the most suck at every other aspect of filmmaking. Case in point: 1996's Independence Day. I was thirteen years old when it came out and I saw it on the biggest screen in the city, opening day. I liked it, but something funny happened when I saw it on VHS around a year later: the novelty had completely worn off.

Aliens attack Earth on a global scale? That's great. Ships as big as cities? Love it. Jet fighters verses alien spaceships? Bring it on.

So what's not to like? Literally every other aspect of the movie. Independence Day was kind of like a partner who was great in the sack, but gradually revealed they had absolutely nothing to offer as far as relationships go. I had no desire to see Resurgence until I finally saw the trailer and heard one of the characters say, "This one is definitely bigger," or something to that effect. I'm a sucker for that kind of shit. Look, I know me and Independence Day aren't right for each other, but the good times were just too fun to pass up. And who knows? Maybe it matured emotionally since the last time we hooked up.

Spoiler: it didn't.


Resurgence spends way too much time introducing the new characters while simultaneously bringing us up to speed on what the returning characters have been up to. I never expected to see Charlotte Gainsbourg in a summer blockbuster, but she and Jeff Goldblum steal the show. The movie would have been great if it focused on them instead of an ensemble cast. I never asked to see Brent Spiner's Dr. Okun return for an even bigger role, but I liked him, too. Unfortunately everybody else, including Bill Pullman, sucks in this movie.

It's apparent the studio didn't want a proper sequel as much as they wanted a soft reboot. The original cast is used to bait us into the theater so they can switch 'em out with the new (read: young) and improved (read: less expensive) actors. The new actors will no doubt be the leads of the next sequel even though they belong in TV commercials and soap operas. They're far too squeaky clean and safe for movies like this.

This sequel double downs on everything but the fun, which was the entire fucking point. The jets and the alien fighter ships seem to be moving at idling speed while the aliens' new methods of mass destruction are, visually, duller than the city-leveling weapons in the last picture. The action bits are too few and far between and none of 'em last as long as the finely crafted sequences in ID4. In fact, it takes nearly an hour before the aliens attack at all.

And you remember that much vilified moment with the dog in part one? They kind of do it again, but this time with a baby and, later, a bus full of children. Audiences aren't stupid enough to think a summer blockbuster is actually going to kill animals or children, so why do these filmmakers keep trying to create suspense with them?

Independence Day Resurgence feels more like a straight-to-video knockoff than a sequel. As far as action goes, I would rank it slightly higher than Battlefield Los Angeles and much lower than last year's San Andreas. I think it's obvious what's going on here: when the writers found out the financiers wanted two sequels, they probably took their original concept, split it into two, and padded it with a bunch of bullshit and an arbitrary ending. If Roland Emmerich thinks this climax is anywhere near as exciting as the last one, he needs his head examined.

If you thought the original wasn't melodramatic enough, and all its action made your head hurt, then this is the movie for you.

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