Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

I was a HUGE fan of the original Independence Day as a kid, and so even with full awareness of the absence of Will Smith from this cast, I still couldn't stop myself from being excited to see Independence Day: Resurgence. The trailers looked pretty good, promising the return of Jeff Goldblum while playing on the nostalgia of President Whitmore's now iconic speech to perfection. The space battles and worldwide destruction looked pretty incredible as well, so I went into my viewing with the slightest glimmer of hope, regardless of the already scathing reviews that had shown up the day before its release.

20 years following the defeat of the alien race that had destroyed so many of the world's major cities, the world has finally united and is enjoying an unprecedented level of cooperation and peace. Focusing all of its resources on protection from extraterrestrial attacks, the world leaders have constructed a base on the moon as a first line of defense. However, David Levinson has made a frightening discover in Africa - the only city-destroying ship that successfully landed on Earth's surface is inexplicably reactivated. Meanwhile, former president Thomas Whitmore is seeing visions of the violent invaders plotting a course to Earth seeking retribution for the destruction of the mother ship two decades prior. Not long after, a massive shadow covers the moon base as a much larger space craft arrives to seek revenge.

Admittedly, I did make the plot sound a bit more interesting than it actually is. For one thing, I omitted about ten extraneous characters in that short introduction, but also focused more on a revenge plot when the aliens are almost coming to earth coincidentally. What they really want is to drill to our core and harvest the magma at the center of our planet. But there's also a third-party technologically-derived alien species that is entering the mix (and unnecessarily complicating the plot) that could also be a reason for the aliens returning. There are a lot of interesting ideas in this movie, but the problem is that they tried to shoe-horn all of them into one script. Focusing on any one of them could have made for an entertaining story, but trying to do all of them at once just makes each of them unfulfilling, not to mention over-complicated.

While it was nice to see some of the same actors from the original, their diminished role was pretty disappointing as a huge fan of the first movie. Jeff Goldblum really didn't do much to fix the problem, and **SPOILER ALERT** Thomas Whitmore's "heroic" sacrifice at the end was completely pointless. We focused way too much on the next generation actors who didn't have much chemistry with each other. Liam Hemsworth was by far the most charismatic of the bunch, and that's frankly not saying a whole lot. I would have been perfectly happy with a story that focused on the original characters with a few additions to the cast to add a bit of flavor, but what they did was the equivalent of dumping an entire shaker of pepper onto a well-done steak. Not sure if that metaphor holds up, but hopefully you get my point.

In conclusion, not everything about this movie is disappointing, but it was so unfocused that what was good about the film was too watered down to be satisfying. The simplicity of the first movie was its greatest strength, and in this case I think the amount of time between that film and this sequel led to its ultimate failure. Will Smith couldn't have saved this film, and it's probably for the better of his career that he avoided this entirely. None of the ideas here are inherently bad, but there were just too many of them for one story to adequately flesh out. I was pretty disappointed by this film, despite my best efforts to remain optimistic, and it's with a heavy heart that I give Independence Day: Resurgence two stars.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language