Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

   Wow, I seriously can't believe this got terrible reviews. It just proves that objectivity isn't a trait people are capable of anymore. That, combined with that fact moviegoers these days seem to be as jaded as your stereotypical New York cab driver, condemned Independence Day: Resurgence to an unjust and early grave, critically speaking of course. Sure, it's big, loud and frequently dumb, but so was it's predecessor. I'd be quicker to suggest the first movie is overrated than to say this is a bad movie. It can't be bad because it's exactly the movie it should've been. Objectively speaking.

   There's only a handful of ways that Hollywood sees fit to use extraterrestrials. There's the misunderstood and lovable kind (i.e. E.T. The Extraterrestrial), there's the ominous conspiracy type (i.e. Invasion of the Body Snatchers), the thought provoking/allegorical kind (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) and of course the kind that puts asses in seats, the big explody kind. Independence Day wasn't a smart movie, or even a particularly good one, but it was great fun. One liners were spat out with the conviction you'd only find from movies in the 80's and 90's, things exploded really well, and inspiring speeches made us all want to cheer and kick some alien ass.

   Independence Day: Resurgence is a sequel to that movie. It's the same kind of silly and absurd junk food, and that's okay. Why would anyone want or even expect anything else? If Independence Day: Resurgence is lacking anything, it's the star power that Will Smith would've brought to the mix, the same kind of charisma that kept the original afloat, and apparently let it age so ridiculously well in the public consciousness. I wouldn't say Will's absence is sorely felt, because the cast does a more than commendable job with the material they have, but it does make me sad he didn't return. The last 'fun' Will Smith movie we had was MIB 3, which was his only fun movie since I, Robot- arguably.

   Smith has a kind of star power and charisma that few actors in Hollywood currently have. The man once turned down the lead role in a little movie called The Matrix, in order to do Wild Wild West. Ouch. Later, he turned down the lead in another obscure little flick, Django Unchained, so he could do a father/son movie by M. Night Shayamalan, resulting in the amazingly underwhelming After Earth. And, BECAUSE that movie was an absolute disappointment, Will decided to not do another movie with a father/son dynamic, which Independence Day: Resurgence was going to have. Man! If any other actor made so many horribly high stakes career missteps, he'd be an afterthought like Jan Michael Vincent.

   "Who?" you might be asking...

"Is it important that we know who Jan Michael Vincent was in order to get this?"
   I rest my case. Nobody fucking knows who Jan Michael Vincent is anymore, and sadly I don't think any fresh star-bound careers are going to made off the back of Independence Day: Resurgence. It's round of baby-faced new stars hardly get enough time to shine or material to work with in the shadow of all the returning characters from the original movie. Jeff Goldblum is a delight back in the role of David Levinson, given more to do this time around than just argue with good old dad and justify his career choice. Strangely absent though is Levinson's wife Connie. The movie doesn't even explain what happened there before introducing a new potential love interest for David. Bill Pullman is also back as now-ex president Tom Whitmore.

   His 'chicken little' routine as the possibly senile old guy who's trying to convince everyone that the sky is falling (again) is pretty great. He gets a fun arc in the movie and it eventually elicited from me the only "Woo!" I had left in me after a scene that offered a decent callback to his epic speech from the first movie. The movie is full of familiar faces, and if anything can be said about the first movie is that despite how absurd and ridiculous it got, it made us care about it's characters. Those who're absent from this movie are easily missed. Randy Quaid most notably, because who the hell could the movie possibly get to fill in for a character like him? Nobody really, and that's the big picture of the issue with this one.

   It's a great sequel, but the very fact it is a sequel prevents it from being a great movie or even a good one. It's fun, and I'd go so far as to say it was greatly entertaining, but the foreboding sense of impending doom feels cheaper this time. The build up is over with pretty damn fast. The movie is much bigger and faster than it's predecessor, for better and worse. So while I do miss the grandiose sense of awe that kept building in the first movie, I'm glad they didn't try so hard to meticulously recreate that. We know what's coming, it's just bigger than the last time. Any lengthy build-up this time would've simply belabored the point, and held up the exciting action scenes.
   I liked the story, I liked the characters- new and old, I liked how the movie was very self aware ("They like to get the landmarks..."), and the action scenes were great. The whole things is well crafted and respectful of the original in ways I didn't even expect.  "That's... definitely bigger than the last one..." is the line in this movie that perfectly sums up everything you could possibly need to know about it, and it doesn't hurt that it's spoken by Jeff Goldblum either. Independence Day: Resurgence is bigger than the last one, and it gets it's mileage out of that central idea too. The action is bigger, the explosions are bigger, the alien ships are bigger.

   From a movie and a director who're known for 'bigger', I fail to see the complaint. Emmerich's movies were always silly and overblown. The dialog was always cheesy and emotionally manipulative. So what's new? This time he's playing in a much bigger sandbox. "The ship is touching down over the Atlantic." "Which part of it?" "Uh... all of it." The one liners are on point even if they aren't spoken from actors with Smith's gravitas and star power. It works despite his absence, which I think is the root of peoples' dissatisfaction with this movie. It's colorful, surprisingly creative, inventive and totally self-indulgent. It showed me things I'd been dying to see since 1996. I've always wanted to see MORE of the aliens, their ships, their technology, and this movie catered to that directly.

   In short, I may not love Independence Day: Resurgence, but I loved how much fun I had watching it. This is an easy purchase for me, and I'd love to watch it and the first one in a double feature someday. This is the pinnacle of junk food cinema, it doesn't get any sillier or bigger than this, yet somehow the movie ends on a tease for a sequel that just might get sillier and bigger. I hope the universe takes that as a dare, and all the stars align for a third one to get made. The world would be a more stale and less enjoyable place without stupidly entertaining movies like this.

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