Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Independence Day: Resurgence"

 2 / 5 

Watching Independence Day: Resurgence is like visiting your old high school.  Everything looks the same, which is less amusing than depressing; time seems to have passed the place by, and as you walk the halls it begins to seem impossible that you could have once put so much emphasis on something so innocuous.

You hoped it would be fun to remember the old times, but it's just disappointing.

Twenty years ago, when the world was so much younger, Independence Day seemed like a revelation.  What a cast!  What great visual effects!  What a rousing climax!  It was such a popular success it was even on the cover of Time magazine.

And now it plays every other day on HBO.  The world has gotten bigger in 20 years, and Independence Day has gotten a bit smaller, with its clunky computers and old-fashioned technology, not to mention old-fashioned American patriotism.

In Independence Day: Resurgence, 20 years have also passed in the story, and after the American-led defeat of the aliens, the world has come together and rallied 'round the red, white and blue so much that the President leads a worldwide coalition.  There's a lot of talk early on in the movie about how the defeat of the aliens led to a world that has come together as a people, but there are still Americans and they are still the best.

Among the many things America leads is an intergalactic defense system, built with the technology that the world discovered when it looked inside the alien ships.  In the 2016 of Independence Day: Resurgence, we have the ability to put defense systems in the orbit of Saturn, we have mag-lev trains, we have global peace ... but America has given the entire planet a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality that does not serve anyone well when a defense outpost on the moon sees an alien spaceship.  The U.S. President orders it shot down.

In fairly short order, they discover that the thing they shot wasn't one of "them," it was actually a helpful alien coming to warn the people of Earth that "they" were coming back.

The alien ship descends.  Instead of being a few miles long, it's thousands of miles long this time.  It lands inelegantly on the side of Earth and attaches itself like a leach, destroying all of the world's favorite cities in the process, except L.A., San Francisco and Las Vegas because there are better landmarks that haven't been destroyed on-screen quite as often in the past 20 years as the Golden Gate Bridge.

The President from the first film, who is still played by Bill Pullman, suddenly comes out of a catatonic state he has been in, and Brent Spiner wakes up from a coma, looking much more than 20 years older, and there's a lot of talk about how they should have seen this coming.

Well, I'll say.

But these not-very-brilliant strategists who didn't think about the idea of a sequel so are caught off guard when "they" come back suddenly all of them are figuring ways to outsmart this superior alien species that is trying to drill down to the Earth's core to suck it dry and power their ships.  It takes Jeff Goldblum's character about three seconds to figure out what they are doing.  Where was this guy when we were debating whether those satellite photos showed weapons of mass destruction or not?  This guy can figure it all out in a heartbeat.

A space probe they have captured turns out to -- get this -- speak English with a perfect command of American vernacular and explains all of the rest of it to the whole cast, who then launch an assault on the ship in about, oh, 90 minutes.

Also, the President dies in an alien attack, and so does her entire cabinet and the entire line of succession, but it takes about six seconds for everyone to decide that a military general will become President; there's no discussion about this, because there isn't time.  They have about two hours until the aliens suck out the Earth's core.

As I type all of this, Independence Day: Resurgence sounds like exactly the kind of whacked out zaniness that should be grandly entertaining.  It's so remarkably stupid and backward that it should be enjoyable on a guilty-pleasure basis, but it's not.  It's made my people who seem wholly unaware of how the world has changed since 1996, that maybe watching entire cities filled with people get devastated might not be so fun anymore.

It wants to recapture that gung-ho, militaristic rah-rah-ness of the first film without bothering to consider that things on the real Earth are pretty damned bad right now, and that if you really want to show how the world has come together, you might want to show that someone other than Americans can lead the way, that there is hope that we really can work together without making the White House the symbol for all governments.

But even beyond the film's seeming lack of awareness of how the real world operates, Independence Day: Resurgence just can't shake off its biggest problem, which is that we've seen all this done dozens of times since then, and better.  Independence Day had the shock of the new in 1996, seemed to break new ground.  It was a film everyone rushed out to see on the biggest screen possible, with the best sound, because it was such a spectacle.

Independence Day: Resurgence doesn't feel special.  It hasn't re-thought its story or its approach, doesn't dazzle in any way, it's just more of the same thing that we saw last week on HBO.

In your living room, on a rainy Saturday afternoon while you're folding laundry, Independence Day: Resurgence might offer an enjoyable distraction.  As a cinematic event, though, it doesn't hold the attention.  It's like going to your 20th high school reunion and realizing that the Big Man on Campus still thinks he's hot stuff.  At first it's silly, then it's embarrassing, and after a while you just want to leave and be thankful that it's him and not you stuck trying to relive a moment of glory.

Viewed July 10, 2016 -- ArcLight Sherman Oaks


1 comment:

  1. " It's like going to your 20th high school reunion and realizing that the Big Man on Campus still thinks he's hot stuff. At first it's silly, then it's embarrassing, and after a while you just want to leave and be thankful that it's him and not you stuck trying to relive a moment of glory."

    This is a great comparison and final though. Nice review.

    - Zach