Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Film Review | Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Image via Fox

"The sequel to the movie they're quoting actually opened this week, and features the wholesale destruction of London, which is beginning to feel pretty fucking appropriate right now." - John Oliver (x)

Look. Independence Day was never a masterpiece. Let's just get that out into the open. No matter where I look, reviews for Independence Day: Resurgence all seem to have a common theme: that the sequel lacks what the first one thrived in. Which yes, is true, but not for the reasons that are being put across. 

Independence Day was cheesy. It was over the top. It was blindingly patriotic. It had its plot holes. It had stereotypical, near one-dimensional characters. And this is coming from someone who is a huge fan of the film. But it was the nineties, and director Roland Emmerich wanted to emulate what he and co-writer Dean Devlin were tremendous fans of - Hollywood, 70s disaster films (ala The Towering Inferno) and Spielberg. 

Emmerich tries to pull-off Spielberg but ultimately fails through the America that he wanted to emulate in Independence Day. An America that is a regurgitating depiction of the country that Emmerich grew up watching in his native Germany; Hollywood. That isn't to say that Independence Day faltered from a realistic portrayal of America at the time - far from it. Emmerich draws upon the aspects of American culture of the 1990s - as well as older Hollywood conventions - by thrusting the country's mistrust of the government, alien lure and the ultimate question of if we're alone in the universe into a 145-minute trailblazer.

He also utilizes the poster boys and girls of the decade to carry his epic disaster flick, with the likes of Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Mary Eileen McDonnell, Vivica A. Fox and Harvey Fierstein. Half of that cast returns in Resurgence, with the other half consisting a few recognizable faces of this century. Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Joey King were the only new faces I could stand and actually enjoy in Resurgence. The rest were extremely bland, or just lacked any character development whatsoever.

Resurgence's rehash of the original's plot doesn't make matters any better. Twenty years after the Great War of 1996, the nations of the world have firmly put aside their differences and created the ESD - the Earth Space Defense - to protect themselves from any further alien attacks. Our lovable David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is the director of the ESD, a program that has also managed to fuse the technology found on the wrecks of the '96 alien ships to significantly progress mankind's ventures, with the base of all this newly developed tech and the ESD itself at the one and only Area 51.

Image via Fox

This all sounds promising, but once the ESD defense team that are stationed on the Moon headquarters are faced with an unidentified alien ship, all hell breaks loose. Levinson is quick to come to the rightful conclusion that it belongs to another alien race who aren't hellbent on destroying earth, and who are benevolent to the alien race that visited us in '96. But, the government thinks otherwise. Cue destruction of said spacecraft, Davidson and Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) recovering the craft - against orders - and ultimately setting off a distress signal for the returning (and bigger, much bigger) alien mothership to follow, which allows said mothership to destroy earth for the second time. Although to their credit, they have more of a goal this time around, setting their spacecraft above the North Atlantic ocean to drill for the Earth's core to use as a refueling station; destroying the planet in the process.

From there on out, it's a carbon copy of the first film, with a few hissy fits between Jake and Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher) - the stepson of 1996 war hero Steven Hiller (Will Smith). It's safe to say that Usher does not fill nor fit Smith's shoes at all, and Smith's absence would be gaping if not for the shining light that is Jeff Goldblum. That's one of Resurgence's main problems, that too many new characters are introduced throughout the movie, and those portraying the characters give no lasting legacy upon them. Especially when compared to the likes of Goldblum, Pullman, Hirsch and Spiner. And especially when unnecessary characters like Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are thrown into the mix.

But with that all said, it's an Independence Day movie. If Independence Day were released now, it would probably garner the same negative praise that Resurgence is receiving. That wouldn't happen, however, since the dark, depressive, apocalyptic films of today are the bi-product of 1996's Independence Day. Emmerich's vision was the catalyst for the resurgence of these films, and have continued to be. Except over the years, the fun, the cheese, the plot holes, the unification of practical and special effects and the Goldblum have been stripped away to reveal the post-9/11 society we live in now.

Independence Day: Resurgence is a breath of fresh air for 2016, and the generation within it. It's a film with behemoth destruction of landmarks from other landmarks, but it still has humor. It's self-depreciating in moments of strife and it's completely spectacle-driven. It's full of nostalgia, harking back to a time where summer blockbusters were about seeing killer sharks terrorize beaches, an NYPD detective beginning to question his sanity as to how he manages to get terrible situations so frequently, and that even the thought of cloning dinosaurs was never a good idea.

We need more mindless, humorous, sarcastic, emotional destruction. Not blindness, grim, violent annihilation with no happy ending; there's enough of that in the world already.


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