Thursday, June 30, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

**1/2 out of ****

Talking about the sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, opens up a whole other issue regarding the value of the original 1996 blockbuster. Was Independence Day a bad movie due to its two-dimensional characters, brainless story and generic alien concepts or was it a great movie for sharing a dream of world unity with potent cinematic emotion and some of the most exciting special effects sequences to ever to be projected on the big screen?

When the original film was released, it was a hit with audiences but not so much with critics. At age fifteen, I certainly thought it was one of the most amazing experiences I’d ever had at the movies. 1983’s Return of the Jedi” was the last time anyone had seen such an endless array of miniatures and explosions being simultaneously combined on the screen while accompanied by beautiful melodramatic music to match.

It came at a beautiful time when decades of refinement in the art of practical effects found a temporary ally in the newly proven abilities of computer-generated imagery. This was also a time when special effects were still special and this movie’s imagery caused jaws to drop, whether people were seeing a clip of it on TV or watching the movie on a giant screen in booming THX.

Twenty years later, I still find the film to be uniquely beautiful regardless of how brainless it is, but I would have never wanted a sequel for it. The original was an epic about mankind triumphing over annihilation and there is absolutely no call for another chapter to the story.
I guess this mega-budget monster of a hit didn't get its sequel back then because prevailing minds weren't greedy or shameless enough.

Now it's the year 2016 and while we're collectively recovering from the black-lung we got from Batman v Superman before holding our breath for the flood of digital slime in the reboot of Ghostbusters, the needless idea of a sequel to one of the dumbest fun movies ever, is in theaters -and boy is it dumb. Strangely though, I still enjoyed it a little. I certainly laughed quite a bit.  
To its credit as a sequel, they actually devised some great ideas. I love that the alien attacks of the last film resulted in the whole world being united and the two-decades that passed have resulted in a progressively futuristic alternate 2016. When you look at how real life disasters have only influenced separation in the real world, this is quite a desirable fantasy. Some further development on the motivation of the aliens is pretty good too.

Ultimately it is a losing sequel because once the aliens return with a cataclysmic boom, it never takes a minute to let feelings set in or have composers Harold Kloser and Thomas Wanker provide a score as powerful as David Arnold’s. Returning director Roland Emmerich (whose reputation for brainless disaster movies hasn’t improved in the past two decades) continues to invent situations that should challenge any audience member’s notions of what our planet cannot survive. Maybe Emmerich doesn't care and finds this whole thing funny. I did.

This movie isn’t helped by the inexplicable absence of Will Smith’s hero character, but it gains a lot of deliberate laughs through the inexplicable continuation of Brent Spiner’s Area 51 scientist –who was presumed dead in the last film. Bill Pullman’s hammed-up performance as the traumatized former President is unintentionally one of the funniest aspects to the film. Jeff Goldblum’s continued role as the neurotic genius with a knack for rationalizing nonsense also continues to inspire smiles. The weirdest aspect to the film is a bad subplot involving Judd Hirsch’s character who couldn’t be denied from coming back, considering that the man doesn’t look like he’s aged a day since the last movie.

The film also attempts a passing of the torch to a younger generation that so many of these sequels-of-late are attempting - some more effectively than others. Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, and Liam Hemsworth all represent a young generation, which lost a lot of parents and have good introductions but the movie only vaguely develops their motivations as new heroes.

If you experienced the original as I did in '96, don't expect that impact here, but you knew that. Movies are crammed with special effects now and they only leave an impression when they don't look terrible (This movie varies in that regard) or contain enough shots with no effects at all - if only to add a little contrast.

Simply put, the legacy of Independence Day is not improved by a guilty-pleasure sequel, worthy of a view at the drive-in, but when I watched the first film on a newly re-mastered Blu-ray recently, its magnificence was in no way lessened.

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