Jul 13, 2016

[Movies] Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

I can't claim to be the biggest Independence Day movie fan out there, but like many people from my generation I do acknowledge that it was a very fun movie and we all probably watched it more times than we're comfortable to admitting. It was just such  a great summer popcorn movie. You can't deny that fact.

Fast-forward to today and suddenly there's a full sequel to the original movie. The trailers for Independence Day: Resurgence seemed a little weird since they featured at least one character that we had thought to be dead and there was a distinct absence of a certain Will Smith as well. Instead we had these younger actors seemingly at the core of things and big story about the aliens coming back to Earth.

I really had no plans of watching this at the theater since I was already skeptical about how far this sequel could go. The first movie felt like too much of a fluke in terms of how it had all the right elements together to make things work. But to dig up a 90's franchise and find a way to continue the story? Was that even possible?

Synopsis: Independence Day: Resurgence is a 2016 science fiction disaster movie that acts as a sequel to the first Independence Day movie released in 1996. It was once again directed by Roland Emmerich, who also contributed to the screenplay together with Dean Devlin, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, and James Vanderbilt.

It has been 20 years since the events of the first movie and Earth has done its best to recover from the devastating attacks as part of an alien invasion. A lot has been done to make the most of the alien technology left behind to advance mankind's own capabilities and to prepare for future threats from the stars including a satellite defense network and an outpost on the moon. The new Earth Space Defense (ESD) group also has forces on Mars and Rhea and is headquartered at Area 51. And as the anniversary of the attacks is now only days away, people around the world who had close encounters with the aliens are now suffering extreme headaches while it is also discovered that one of the saucers that had managed to land on the planet had most likely been able to send out a distress call before the aliens were defeated.

Among the significant protagonists in the movie are Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) a pilot in the ESD, who recently seems to be relegating to flying space tugs of a sort, Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher). who is the son of Will Smith's character from the first movie and is a Captain in the ESD, and finally Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), daughter of former president Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and who had also trained to be a fighter pilot but had left the service to work with the current president but more to spend more time with her aging father. Jake is engaged to marry Patricia but there's bad blood between Jake and Dylan from the time the three were training together and the whole thing feels like a weirdly complicated way to tie these characters together. This setup and other inter-character entanglements felt like a bad setup role for a game of Fiasco.

And Jessie Usher is about as emotionally powerful as a plank of wood. Seriously.

The production team managed to bring back a lot of familiar faces for this sequel including the likes of Vivica A. Fox as Dylan's mom and even Judd Hirsh as David Levinson's (Jeff Goldblum) father. But in some weird bit of nostalgia-driven writing, every returning character was given a fairly important story arc. And thus despite aliens destroying the planet with massive saucers, we still had to jump back to see this old Jewish character once again driving across the desert. Such moments totally didn't contribute to the central plot and certainly disrupted the narrative time and time again. It was all so frustrating.

Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum though. These days he can only really play Jeff Goldblum and he's pretty darn good at it, if you're into his brand of acting.

The movie seems inexorably tied to the first one and does a lot to repeat a lot of the antics or sequences in that first movie. Thus we will still need to infiltrate alien vessels, steal alien ships and come up with a plan that requires someone to go right up into the middle of the giant ship and hope to save the day. At least this time around they did not rely on a silly virus that comes with a visual GUI of sorts. But yes, we still had the supposedly moving speech.

The movie has some big special effects moments but there's either too much going on too fast or the camera keeps jumping around to check on different characters, thus breaking the action sequence. You want to enjoy this like the other big disaster movies but you don't really get a chance and instead you just have a Goldblum quip about how the aliens seem to go for the landmarks. You expect this movie to so much bigger and louder because of all the advances in movie technology but the problems with the writing and the way the shots were done really killed it in a very bad way.

Independence Day: Resurgence was a checklist of everything that can go wrong in a movie sequel, especially for one that was shot so many years after the first. The core franchise was a little dated already and somewhat tied to the 90's and this movie did no manage to bring it into the light of modern times. Thus the movie only really gets 2 moments of destruction deja vu out of a possible 5.

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