Sunday, June 26, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence - "On Behalf Of Planet Earth, Happy Fourth Of July!"


It's become so normal for our people to hate anything old Roland Emmerich puts out - and even his older, classic works (with the possible exception of Stargate) are fair game for snarkers and sporkers. What, is it so wrong for us to enjoy seeing large casts of characters show massive heroism in the face of planet-breaking disasters time and again?

"They like to get the landmarks!"

Thank God Emmerich, Dean Devlin, and all the other cast and crew involved in this movie don't allow the rampant negativity to get to them. They just keep on trucking as only they can.

Also proof this movie is cool -
it shares a screenwriter with The Amazing Spider-Man movies.

And by keeping on trucking, they've put out a product that holds up to its predecessor and then some.

The beauty of the original Independence Day lies in so many key inner aspects. Chief among them - it's clearly got the seeds planted for a massive, possibly Star Wars-sized saga, but the movie itself is totally standalone. We fans were thus able to spend twenty years (or less, in my case - I don't think I got around to seeing the original till maybe 2004, when I was ten going on eleven) patiently waiting for a follow-up, but satisfied with what we had to date even as the sequel languished in Development Hell. Not only that, but its visual effects spectacularly combined the influence of schlocky fifties sci-fi with groundbreaking modern-day realism like nothing else before, or since. It's so influential, especially in terms of visuals and storytelling, that it's hard to think of a more recent alien-invasion movie that doesn't owe a huge debt to Emmerich.

Yes, even the smaller, less visually spectacular ones like Signs.

So, when we get the long-awaited sequel, what's Emmerich to do but return the favor by tipping his hat to all these spiritual successors to his 1996 smash hit? You get your Transformers - the original from 2007 basically morphed into Independence Day with the introduction of the Area 51-style base beneath the Hoover Dam, and in Resurgence, the infamous near-sucking-up of Hong Kong gets emulated with the sucking-up of most of Asia by the new mothership's massive gravitational pull. You get your Pacific Rim, with the Kaiju-like Big Bad - and hey, speaking of Kaiju-like stuff, Emmerich's improved considerably in this area since his 1998 Godzilla movie, the effects of which have NOT aged well. You get your Battle: Los Angeles, with the aliens going after the water - except they're not trying to steal the water, per se, but I did promise to keep this review spoiler-free. And you get your Falling Skies, but that similarity is an extreme spoiler. You'll know it when you see it, if you watched Falling Skies as religiously as I did for five summers in a row.

As with the original movie, Resurgence has a huge and memorable cast of characters to help it stand out. Many favorites from '96 return - David Levinson's still as Goldblum-ish as ever, his father's aged gracefully, Hiller and Whitmore's kids (now played by new actors, and I'm more than a bit bummed Mae Whitman didn't come back to play Patricia Whitmore) are ace pilots for Earth Space Defense, and as for President Whitmore himself, he lends a touch of gritty realism by being very visibly affected by PTSD from his psychic mind-rape at the hands of one of the aliens. Dr. Okun is also back, despite having apparently died in the original (it's made clear very quickly that he was in a coma the whole time), and his role in the sequel is far more important than ever before - and I'm not just talking about for comic relief either.

Then there's a whole array of new characters, including hotshot pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth, finally getting his time to shine after spending almost four years in the relatively thankless role of Gale Hawthorne), his best friend Charlie (who's basically me as a pilot - clumsy, dorky, and piss-poor at picking up girls; and hey, we're only a year apart in age, according to one of his lines of dialogue!), President Elizabeth Lanford (the sort of actionized Hillary Clinton analogue every genre franchise needs), and General Joshua Adams (veteran character actor William Fichtner, whom I've been seeing a lot of lately as I've slow-binged Prison Break Seasons 2 through 4), who combines aspects of President Whitmore and General Grey from the first movie. Speaking of Grey, he gets one brief cameo (and the movie's dedicated to Robert Loggia's memory), and there's another returning character who dies in the new mothership's arrival. I shit you not, your jaw will hit the floor.

It's a destructive movie on a scale not seen anywhere else. But at its core, Independence Day: Resurgence carries the same basic message as its predecessor - a deep faith in the resolve of the human race. Twenty years ago, the world was a lighter place, between major periods of conflict - the Cold War having just ended, and the War on Terror still half a decade away. But in the alternate universe of Independence Day, we banded together not only to repel the alien invaders, but to rebuild our world in record time after the three-day War of '96 ended. Nowhere is this more clear than in the international cooperative efforts of ESD, or in the new Washington DC, which looks like a futuristic vision √† la Minority Report, combining rebuilt landmarks like the White House and Capitol with a modern, skyscraper-heavy skyline. The War on Terror never happened in the ID4-verse, because the human race knew that there were bigger issues to worry about than terrestrial ideological conflicts. And so, when the aliens come back more armed to the teeth than ever (they have teeth, right? It's hard to tell), we immediately band together again for survival in the face of insurmountable odds. It may be a time of peace, but it's a time when battle-hardened warriors train the next generation.

Like so.

As the real world grows increasingly cynical and hateful, it's refreshing to dip into fantasy and sci-fi worlds built on hope and faith in humanity. So, as with last year's underrated classic Tomorrowland, it's no wonder this grade-A movie isn't getting the respect it deserves. Like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, when Resurgence ended, the theater burst out in applause in spite of the thorough thrashing the movie got on the internet.

Thank you, Cosima. <3

Do yourself a favor and go see Independence Day: Resurgence in theaters. If nothing else, the sight of Jake borrowing from my own White Shadows playbook with the epic one-two fuck-you punch of giving his enemy a middle-finger salute while pissing on their personal property will make it worth the ticket price.

Remember - Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

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