Independence Day: Resurgence

 photo independence_day_resurgence_zpsdychzl31.jpg photo starrating-1andahalfstars.jpgConfession. I didn’t think the 1996 special effects laden film that spawned this sequel was a great movie — BUT it was fun. And I’ll acknowledge that the picture has since become a classic of the science fiction genre. Back in 1996, Independence Day made a gazillion dollars simply by blowing stuff up on a grand scale. The sight of large spacecraft hovering over some of Earth’s major cities was enough to stir excitement/terror in the hearts of moviegoers. The ultimate show-down climaxed with a diverse group of people converging in the Nevada desert. Will Smith socked an alien in the face: “Welcome ta urf!” Americans united, along with the rest of the world, over a counter attack that just so happened to occur on the 4th of July. A now famous rallying cry speech from Bill Pullman precipitated the climax. It was as corny then as it is today, but gosh darn it, it sort of worked on a visceral level. Then they kicked some alien butt.

Now it’s 20 years later. In the interim, the United Nations have created the Earth Space Defense (ESD), a global program that serves as Earth’s early warning system against future extraterrestrial threats. Using recovered alien technology along with existing human technology, the alliance has bolstered the world’s defenses. Africa is the site of an alien spaceship that crashes during one battle. It appears that Congolese warlord Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) has fought the creatures for years. He has experienced recurring visions due to his personal encounters with the aliens. Ex-president Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) has gotten psychic hints of an arrival as well. Furthermore the ESD discovers that the fallen ship managed to send a distress call to its home planet. The Earth is bracing itself for another invasion.

Let’s face it. This was always going to be more of a re-interpretation then a sequel. Keep it simple. Give the people what they want. Nostalgia mixed with better special effects and an assorted cast of appealing characters. It sounds easy — an obvious set-up for a slam dunk success. It’s the cinematic version of boil water – a straightforward recipe that’s pretty hard to screw up. Roland Emmerich is back as director and Dean Devlin is producing again. Heavens to Will Smith! It’s hard to believe this is the same team that made the 1996 movie. The team bungles the execution to the point of incompetence.

How did they make a film so astonishingly boring? Let’s start with the initial invasion. Yes, we get another one of those. But first not without 30 minutes of formless exposition checking in with returning characters that establish who they are in the most perfunctory manner possible. Dull and dreary, these set ups scenes are just a time waster. We’re told that an alien vessel over 3000 miles in diameter has invaded earth. However we’re given no appreciation for the size of that ship. Where is the emphasis on the sense of scale? We’re told it’s levitating Beijing and Dubai, then dumping the debris on London, but it’s not clear that is happening. The destruction sequences are confusing — a haphazardly edited hodgepodge that has no concept for geography. The world is under attack but it feels small and insular. Even worse – it looks cheap. It’s one of the most poorly edited sequences I’ve ever seen in a would-be blockbuster. Did they run out of money for effects? That’s the only explanation I can give for the gross incompetence on display.

I miss the soul of the original cast. Randy Quaid and Mary McDonnell are obviously out. They didn’t survive. Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Judd Hirsch are back however. Given their lack of zeal though, they are clearly more bored than the audience. Pullman’s frazzled ex-Pres is supposed to have PTSD so at least he has an excuse. Brent Spiner is preposterously revived as eccentric scientist Brackish Okun. If you’ve seen the last film, you’ll know why that’s implausible. 20 year coma apparently. Despite the weak justification for his return, I will admit that he’s the most captivating proof of humanity in the entire production. That’s still not saying much. One scene has him scratching his naked rear end in semi-closeup. Margaret Colin is recast in spirit by Charlotte Gainsbourg as Goldblum’s love interest. Zzzzzzzzzz  Sela Ward is the “Leader of the Free World” this time around. Madame President indeed. Vivica A. Fox gets what amounts to a cameo. I think she has a line or two. The late Robert Loggia appears. No lines at all.

Too much of the plot is dominated by younger actors who register zero charisma. Will Smith, who became a huge star in the 20 years since, wisely passed on this script. We’re told he died in a test flight.  Wow.  Apparently the screenwriters couldn’t be bothered with disposing of him in a creative way.  A substitution for his temperament is the character of his adult son. Instead of getting the original performer, Ross Bagley, the part went to Jessie Usher. He possesses none of Smith’s personality.  Even his declaration “Get ready for a close encounter, bitch!” lacks the required conviction. Mae Whitman, who portrayed Patricia, the president’s daughter in 1996, has been inexplicably replaced as well. The taller, blonder Maika Monroe (It Follows) is a fine actress but Whitman is still a talented thespian in her own right, so the snub is rather vexing.

The former First Daughter now has a romance with fiancée Jake Morrison, a role depicted by blonde and bland hunk du jour Liam Hemsworth. Why oh why does he continue to find work while hundreds of actors struggle in Hollywood? His best friend is Charlie Ritter realized by actor Travis Tope. Or did I reverse those names?  Too forgettable to even keep straight.  Charlie has his eyes on Rain Lao, played by Hong Kong model, Angelababy. Don’t quit your day job, kid. Jake, Dylan, Charlie and Rain form this squad of fighter pilots that are a quartet of vapidity. Together their scenes comprise a large portion of the narrative, yet their tedious personalities add absolutely nothing to its enjoyment. I would have eliminated every last one of their parts altogether.

Independence Day: Resurgence is bad. Not bad in the ridiculous, let’s relish it for the folly of it all. That was the original flick. This is so mind numbingly lifeless, it’s awful. I wasn’t invested.   When the very existence of mankind is at stake, that’s a problem.  I couldn’t give a care about what happens.  It’s clear the filmmakers didn’t either. Poorly edited, drearily acted with sloppy CGI that has no sense of breadth or scope. If this was one of those Syfy channel pieces of schlock like Sharknado I’d be a little more forgiving. No this is a shining beacon of gross ineptitude for a mega budget blockbuster. There’s a moment in the last half hour where the movie does something right. A Godzilla-sized queen is seen tearing down the desert as planes encircle her. The climatic battle gives a hint of what might have been, but it’s too little too late. Then the inevitable tease for a Part 3 slaps you in the face. There’s still some fun to be had. Save your money now. Invite your friends to watch this when it’s on DVD. First one to fall asleep is the loser. Or is that the winner? Regardless, it’ll be a short game.

06-24-16

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22 Responses to “Independence Day: Resurgence”

  1. Nice review Mark. This movie is so bad I think your 1 1/2 rating is being far too generous. There’s no sense of direction or effort put together into making the picture and it’s clear that both Goldblum and Pullman are phoning in their performances and waiting for their paychecks to deposit. I don’t think I’ve seen a film quite as stupid as this, which makes the original look like the work of Ingmar Bergman in comparison.

    • I thought the original was pretty silly. The script was terrible, *BUT* at least the mass destruction scenes were exhilarating. This is so grossly incompetent, I was agog at the sight.

  2. smilingldsgirl Says:

    Yeah it’s definitely a lame film. I left thinking it was ok but completely forgettable but you’re right in all your points. It’s not good. That’s for sure

    • If you can’t even stage a coherent mass destruction scene, then why bother? The initial attack was so badly mishandled, the film never recovers. Easily the worst movie of the summer so far (I can’t imagine anything worse).

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Huh. I thought Warcraft was worse because at least this had a plot I could follow with characters I understood. Warcraft made no sense to me at all

  3. Okay, cool I’ve got another in my corner on this one! This sequel IS terrible man. It really is. I might not have been so upset if I hadn’t spent the last two years or whatever dreading the day this would be released, only to then, on that very day, be proven exactly right with my concerns. This is a thankless movie with no soul and while I could get over the invasion scene — I actually thought that was a bright spot — the return of Dr Okun really was over the top. I mean, how dumb do Emmerich and his team of writers (I think there are 5 of them) think we all a?

    • The return of Dr. Brackish Okun was ridiculous, but then I think he was probably the best performance in the whole movie. The youthful cast of new performers are utterly lacking in vitality.

      “This is a thankless movie with no soul.” <—–Well said!

  4. Interesting choice of dates to open. Rather I should say/ask why didn’t they open the film on Friday July 1st against the likes of The BFG, The Purge: Election Year, Legend of Trazan, and Our Kind of Traitor.

    By opening a week early they may have grabbed some money this weekend, but with the near virtual disdain for the film (horrid reviews) the ticket sales next weekend will sharply decline.

    And there I’ve answered my own question. Some money is still some money, no matter how you look at it.

    Mark, I think this may be close to being one of your strongest negative reviews ever.

    Thks.

    • Thank you.

      That’s a very good question. I believe you’re right. It has something to do with the fact that Fox knew this was not a good movie. It wasn’t screened for critics in the U.S. either.

      Next week it would be up against more competition including The BFG. Although I think Finding Dory will continue to excel at the box Office.

  5. Pretty much the same things I thought about the film. This is a steaming pile that should earn some people a long time out in the green lighting process.

    • Making a sequel to a movie that made $306 million in 1996 ($594 million in today’s dollars!) seems like a no brainer. But put some heart into it guys! This was just a lot of people collecting a paycheck. Given the way it flopped, it’s going to be a small paycheck too.

  6. You and Tom are two reviewers whose opinion I respect. After all, the worst thing a critic can do is give a good review to a bad movie.

  7. Wow. This was pretty bad. I was bored. Should have been straight to video. A couple of good effects. None of the fun. 2 stars

  8. I didn’t hate this movie, but I do agree that it’s not as good as the first one was. The special effects also looked pretty great in 3-D, but it feels like that’s the only aspect of the movie that got some real thought put into it.

    • I haven’t seen a movie in 3D since Life of Pi actually. That was pretty amazing in that format.

      • Wow, it’s really been that long?? I can’t believe you’ve avoided 3-D for that long, that’s actually kind of impressive.

        Life of Pi was pretty amazing in 3-D. I’m really excited for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. I hope that gets a 3-D release, as well.

  9. I agree that the first Independence Day is fun, but definitely not a great movie. It has become a sci-fi classic. Love that you mentioned Will Smith’s “Welcome to urf” line. Haha. Not surprised to hear that even though the same team returned that they bungled execution to the point of incompetence. You really go to town on what makes it so bad in an entertaining way. “I couldn’t give a care about what happens. It’s clear the filmmakers don’t either.” Haha. Awesome Mark. Glad I missed this one in theaters. I’m sure I would have felt quite similarly about it.

    • Way before this was released, many were predicting this would be a huge hit. Sort of riding the nostalgia train like Jurassic World did in 2015. Even as bad as it is, I thought it would at least hit the Top 10 of summer box office hits. It’s currently at #12 for the summer and dropping fast.

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