Thursday, June 23, 2016

REVIEW: Independence Day: Resurgence

Walking into the theater, there was one thing I knew this movie would need to address. In the very first film, there is a scene in which the President addresses an alien at Area 51, and experiences a form of a mental telepathic attack. After this attack, he says that he saw into their thoughts and how they lived. By moving their entire society from planet to planet, consuming every last available natural resource before moving into the next planet. Well if that's true, then by some measure of standards, this sequel shouldn't exist. We won. We foiled an alien invasion with the heroic sacrifice of Randy Quaid, a computer virus, and a good old fashioned can of whoop-ass. And I called it one of the funnest alien invasion movies you can see. they address this plot point? Did they make this sequel worthwhile?

Well...if I'm gonna be brutally honest, no they kinda didn't. But it's still the fun you'd expect from Roland Emmerich. Right off the bat as the opening logos fade away, you are treated to a visual experience, one which almost makes me wanna recommend a 3D viewing of the film, as the visuals can at times be absolutely incredible to watch, from the exciting action, to alien drone swarms, to the backgrounds themselves. But as far as actual storyline, character, and overall enjoyability is concerned, Independence Day: Resurgence falls short of its predecessor. Now granted, the first film is no masterpiece, but the simplicity in that movie, the fact that it knows not to take itself too seriously, the clichés that it pulls off yet somehow gets away with, make it a very enjoyable film for me. Add a kickass soundtrack to that, and it's a movie I will continue to defend, despite its flaws. 

Enter Resurgence. I will go ahead and give a bit of a warning, I may talk MINOR spoilers here. I don't usually talk spoilers, but in this case...I'm not too worried. Literally two decades later, we are given surprisingly very little as to what has happened since the "War of '96". While we do get a bit of a background as to what's been going on since then, it's very brief.  We figure out that Will SMith's character was killed in that time period, we get that we've adapted the alien technology of our own, and that the world has been united in peace since the aliens first attacked us.  We've got orbital defenses (which honestly kinda do jack shit in this movie, surprise surprise), there's a lot of tribute paying to the heroes of 1996, and life is good. Then the aliens come back...again, they kinda address that we knew they'd be back, despite them saying that they attack planets as a society. But at the same time, this little detail is kinda glanced over. Thus begins...a very confusing story honestly.

The first Independence Day has a simple story that has been told before, but tells it in its own unique way that is fun and followable.  Here, I found the beginning of this movie dragging on itself, and even when things started to happen, I found it hard to follow.  Maybe I just gotta see it again, but they don't do a very good job of passing the torch for a new generation.  I am getting the feeling that Independence Day is trying to do what Star Wars did back in December. Reboot something for a younger audience.  The thing is, none of the newer characters are that memorable enough to warrant it. So many of them are forgettable. The stereotypes are even blander than the first film, and we barely get time to know any of these characters.  From a guy who kills aliens for a this guy who literally no one likes, who manages to get maybe five minutes of glory in the film. Good job rookie. Hell, even some of the older characters that appear didn't even need to be here.  Like David's father. You know, the Jewish stereotype from the first movie.  What the heck is he doing in this film? His role serves absolutely no purpose to the story. He could have been killed off, or cut from the film entirely, and the story would literally be no different. Honestly, the only two characters that I found even remotely likable in this film were Brent Spiner, and Jeff Goldblum's characters, which I'm sorry to say, I can't exactly remember Brent Spiner's character name. I was actually surprised to see him in this film, as the first film gives you the idea that his character was killed. 

Another disappointing thing about Resurgence is that the nowhere NEAR on par with that of the first film. I kinda saw this coming.  Much respect to Harold Kloser, he did fantastic music for "The Day After Tomorrow", but I don't think Independence Day is exactly his strongsuit here. While the soundtrack has its moments, there is nothing that really carries the scene, like David Palmer's score does in the first film. Sure you hear the classic theme at the end credits, and a couple times in the film, but it seems a bit out of place. The soundtrack of the first film pushes forward that the film is meant to be taken lightly, and strictly for fun.  This seems more like a serious alien invasion film, and Roland Emmerich, I love the guy, but he's not capable of doing that.  And with a subplot that I won't give away here in this movie, which is just baiting for yet another sequel at the end of this film, I'm not sure I exactly like where this series is going. The final words of this film are literally "We're going to be kicking some serious alien ass." Right there, they might as well put in bold letering "See you in Independence Day 3! Right after we do an unnecessary reboot of the Stargate film!" 

I may be hampering down on this film, as if I hate it, but truth is, I don't. As I said, Roland Emmerich's mastery of visual effects is still present. When we see the action, it can be absolutely mind blowing at times.  The alien's field of gravity, altering that of objects in it's vicinity (which seems improbable, but it looks gorgeous) is absolutely mind boggling. The combat, both in the air and on the ground is as fun as it always was and towards the end, I got feelings that I would get from watching a Godzilla movie. When the action gets going in this film, we can finally get that sense of light-hearted fun that the first movie portrays.  It's just a damn shame that those moments just aren't nearly as present as they are in the first film. Maybe the charm of Will Smith really WAS needed here?  I may be putting too much thought into this movie.  Maybe I wasn't exactly fully prepared to see this movie in the way that I should have.  I guess I like Independence Day to the point where getting this sequel was something I expected Roland to hit dead on target.  I mean...this is something he has a lot of fun ideas with. Lately, he's been trying to hammer home films that touch on global warming or homosexual issues, and he's missing the target.  Seeing him go back into the territory that he's good at, and missing the target at times, makes me wonder if the guy needs to take a break.  I don't know.  

Independence Day: Resurgence scores a two and a half star rating out of four for me. The action and visuals carry the film where the story, and characters do not. But the overall story is forgettable, and the fact that it is just begging for a sequel just makes me slightly annoyed. I know this sequel wasn't needed, but we should have seen it coming. I was hoping for something along the lines of likability in the first film, and while I enjoyed it for what it was, it needed more of the magic the first film had.  Whether that was better music, stronger characters, a more familiar story...whatever it was. If you were to ask me if you should see it right away?  Honestly that would depend. If you want a good action movie with little story, sure, go ahead.  If you're hoping for a worthy sequel, I'd save the money. Rent it or see it in a cheaper theater. It breaks my heart to say that, but if Roland expects me to be merciful just because he's a bit of a guilty pleasure for me...he's gonna have to impress me with this upcoming sequel that we'll probably see in a few years...don't let me down Roland.

Please feel free to suggest any movies for me to have a look at down below. Leave a comment describing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 2.5/4

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Independence Day

This week, we get a sequel, granted none of us really asked for, but will probably go see anyway, because it'll probably be boatloads of fun. I've said it before, but director Roland Emmerich is a director I call a huge guilty pleasure. He is by no means, a guy who crafts a masterpiece, but I don't think anyone can deny he has a lot of fun ideas, and a lot of fun movies. Whether it was the 1994 sci-fi film "Stargate", the 2004 disaster movie "The Day After Tomorrow", the 2013 shoot'em up thriller "White House Down", heck some of you, myself included might even find some fun in his reimagining of 1998's "Godzilla".  And I'm sure a lot of us find his classic fourth of july alien shoot-em up movie, "Independence Day" as a popcorn classic to pop in and just enjoy around this time of the year.  Why is this?  Who knows?  Nearly every movie by Roland Emmerich that I've seen, (all of the above, plus "The Patriot", and "2012") have something in them to enjoy.  They are all predictable, clichéd, silly, dumb fun.   And "Independence Day: Resurgence" will be no different. I'm looking forward to it none the less.  So let's take another look at the movie that started it all.

The first time I saw this movie was ironically enough, when I was in high school I believe. I'd not seen it in theaters, and it wasn't in our family movie collection.  I saw Day After Tomorrow before I saw Independence Day. And well...when I finally got the chance, I loved it. Of course, I've since grown up a bit and am able to tell for the most part what makes a movie good or bad.  I mainly look at the factor of my enjoyment.  And Independence Day is absolutely full of enjoyment, even amongst it's many many...many flaws in it's black and white character stereotypes, predictable elements of storytelling, and overdramatic clichéd reveals. The story is one that's been told a hundred times before, of aliens who come from billions of light-years away, all the way out to Earth, out in the middle of nowhere, and decide to exterminate the human race. The story has been told for decades, the only difference is that this one takes place on the Fourth of July.

But I will give the movie credit, where credit is due, it tells it in it'sown fun little way, that makes the film a blast to watch from beginning to end.  Even when the film falls on its face, there's something to enjoy.  For one thing, the ways we are introduced to the multiple characters in this movie is by no means, that good.  Right off the bat, we all see that stereotype they are meant to signify.  And if the characters aren't two dimensional enough, the story itself gives you so many of the typical plot elements in your typical alien invasion story, that you wonder if they even tried to write something original.  From a drunken redneck pilot who claims to have been kidnapped by aliens years ago (and may or may not be right in this movie), to aliens moving to exterminate all life on this land, to Area 51 of all things. There are some silly things in this movie that may make you rub your head a bit, but with how fun it's all executed, you can't help but just keep watching. Some of the performances of these characters, as goofy as some can be are actually very fun to watch.  Brent Spiner outside his normal role as Data is an absolute riot at times. And Dr. Ian Malcom...I mean Jeff Goldblum is a riot when you catch him acting just like his Jurassic Park role.  I mean come on, he straight up says a line straight from the movie. And of course there's the always likable Will Smith, who can just carry the show at times. Paired with Jeff, they can be downright funny. And of course you got Bill Pullman, responsible for delivering the most likable cheesiest movie scene in American Cinema history. 

On the legitly good aspects of this movie, the effects strangely still hold up. I'm not even kidding either. When you see the alien ships, as bland as they look, raining their destructive beams down on major cities all across the globlee, from New York City, to Washington D.C., it is just something you sit back and enjoy from start to finish. Yeah, even in these scenes they manage to practically invent the "save te dog" cliché, and throw in some levels of goofiness, but the wall of flame is still very cool to watch. And the action, oh my God, the action. Watching fighter jets taking on swarms of alien fighters is nothing short of absolute fun. DUring these scenes, you can feel the excitement in your chair, and at times you will actually feel like you are in the scene itself.  If you manage to do that with me, you get massive points. I love immersive scenes like that. And the music that backs these scenes up is absolutely incredible.  I must give a huge props to David Arnold for his musical score. ESPECIALLY during the last fight.  THe pacing and heroic tones that music has gives me chills down my spine.

All in all, there's a lot of good, and a lot of bad things about Independence Day that are pretty much universally known by this point, but what makes Independence Day so special is the fact that it pretty much knows how to tell a good alien invasion story, without taking itself too seriously.  It doesn't need to be on the levels of things like District 9 in order to be enjoyed.  Every goofy aspect, every laughable line, every silly character fits nearly perfectly in this silly movie, and though critics are divided, I think most of us can say, "Hey, there's something to enjoy in this movie." And when the film hits the target, it really does shine in ways that make it more unique than other alien flicks. To date, I cannot think of any other go-to alien shoot-em up movie that I'd rather see. I only enjoy it more each time I see it, I always find something to criticize or praise whenever I see it, and you can bet your ass I'm looking foward to seeing the undoubtedly silly sequel that comes out in only a few days.

Independence Day scores a three star rating out of four. Despite it's many faults, which can at times be somewhat annoying to the point where you're wondering if that really happened, the fun that this film is most successful at portraying will make you forget most annoyances. It's an alien invasion film with the title Independence Day, I think we all should know what to expect. It's Roland Emmerich. It isn't gonna be a masterpiece by any means, but man does he know how to entertain the masses. If you're one of the few out there who hasn't given this movie a chance?  If you're into sci-fi, check it out if you're in the mood for one of the funnest films out there in the genre. It's got plenty of action, plenty of humor, and plenty of aliens. And it's probably one of the most American movies I can think of. Coming from a German director, I think that's the best irony out there.

Feel free to request a movie for me to review in the near future. Leave a comment down below expressing what you think of the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3/4