Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Movie Review: "Independence Day Resurgence" (2016)

© 20th Century Fox

The instinct to make a sequel for one of Hollywood's greatest patriotic anthems was not misguided. I mean, you have to give 20th Century Fox some credit for waiting this long. It's that wait, 20 long years, that gave me hope. They wouldn't greenlight something after so many years if it wasn't totally amazeballs, right? Right?? In my mind, there was no way Independence Day Resurgence wasn't going to be a good time—the BEST time, in point of fact—and even the cheesiest of dialogue couldn't stomp out that hope. Unfortunately, the inclusion of (one would think) fool-proof throw backs to ID1 gutted this movie of any value as director Roland Emmerich infused the nostalgia of his nineties masterpiece into the drawl and tedious explosion exploitation of 2012—and we're left with a limp, quip-less action parody that was too afraid to be its own thing.

It's been 20 years since Earth was invaded by an unknown and advanced extra-terrestrial race, leading to a battle between alien and man that ended in a victory for Earth—and the hope that the aliens would never return. But when satellite engineer David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is once again called to investigate the appearance of a mysterious space craft heading for our planet, he reluctantly enlists the help of global scientists and a group of young fighter pilots, including Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth, who sadly gets top billing) and Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher, who is far too dull to be in this), to discover a means to protect themselves against a new—and stronger—invasion. As the heroes of the first wave of attacks come to terms with the questions they never sought to answer, it may lie with the younger generation to use the alien technology they've grown up with to take down this enemy once and for all.

Phew! That was a description full of cliches. It seems fit, though. The film's opening 20 minutes started strong. A solid first act is hard to come by, but the story's opening is basically running on fumes from 1996. But hey, there was potential, and you could feel it in the build-up. Then, as the fumes ran out (maybe I should have seen this coming?), it just started shitting all over itself with unoriginal CGI, overblown death sequences, and strong-armed character reminiscing that suffocated any hope of a memorable, cohesive story. Jeff Goldblum is still his Goldblum-y self, and you'll love him for it, despite his being forced into ridiculous scenes with characters blustering through their decades-long PTSD. Bill Pullman as President Whitmore is aptly more grizzly and crazy this time around, but he isn't given the heart-stirring writing of the first film that appropriately covered up his so-so acting.

The use of alien technology should have been the most exciting, creative, easy to incorporate part of the story—what better way to waste 20 minutes than to showcase all the cool junk the aliens left on our planet, and what we did with it? But that doesn't happen. Everybody is so over it by this point, we don't even get to be in on the excitement of discovery and innovation. It's that discovery that makes the original so damn entertaining. Instead, Resurgence drops in a bunch of new ideas that are more existential than it's actual themes are capable of handling, like other alien races and a planet full of galactic refugees, except that is all so slapdash that you could miss it with a 2 minute bathroom break. Considering they were thisclose to simply regurgitating the same old story, the attempts to be "different" are just embarrassing.

For nearly two hours, we're forced to be surrounded by kids who are still carrying around their petty grudges, like one of them got left out of the capture the flag game at overnight camp that time and still won't stop talking about it. With the exception of Hemsworth, every single one of them lacks even an iota of charisma—something we likely could have overlooked had the movie not bludgeoned us with reminders that these people are the offspring of far more charismatic and memorable people. The sad truth is that I'd have easily awarded the movie a star (or two!) if they'd cast original Patricia Whitmore, Mae Whitman, rather than the lack-luster but arguably "hotter" Maika Monroe. For shame, Fox. Opportunity missed.

The studio's fear of creating new characters—ones that were separated emotionally, mentally, and physically from our favorites in the original—is evident. Emmerich had zero confidence that audiences would stick with the story if they weren't bombarded by memories and nostalgia, not to mention the same old jokes, and it makes for exhausting, obnoxious movie-going that, worst of all, isn't very fun. Hey guys, remember how Will Smith was a witty, fearless pilot and loved punching aliens?!? Well his son does sorta the same stuff but not really, but look it's his son, you're not looking!

Yeah no, movie. We got it.

Rating: ★★ / 5 stars

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