Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Back in 1996, the movie Independence Day took the world storm as it opened to $50.2 million on its way to $306.2 million domestically. Both of those were easily the top totals of that year. In terms of the final total, the next two highest grossing films that year were Twister with $241.7 million and Mission: Impossible with $180.9 million. Putting that total into perspective, that $306.2 million put Independence Day into the top 10 highest grossing movies ever at the time and when adjusting for ticket price inflation is equivalent of $594.8 million today, which is in the same ball park as The Dark Knight or The Avengers. On top the major financial success of the movie, it became an immediate favorite of many and a movie that's now considered a classic. It's honestly a bit baffling that it took 20 years for the sequel to show up. It's also baffling to me that 1996 was 20 years ago, but that's a conversation for another day. A lot of people have waited a long time for an Independence Day sequel. And now they have it. If I'm being honest, though, perhaps this should've stayed on the shelf because Independence Day: Resurgence is a huge mess with no entertainment value. Dare I call it a... disaster?

Before I dive into my angry rant against Independence Day: Resurgence, I think it's important that you know my thoughts of Independence Day. If you look at Box Office Mojo's list of the highest grossing disaster movies, these 90's disaster movies dominate the list. You have Titanic, Independence Day, Twister, Armagedden, Apollo 13, Deep Impact, Godzilla (1998), Dante's Peak, and Volcano all having earned a decent amount of money, especially when you adjust for ticket price inflation. People in the 90's loved these movies. But when you go back and watch them, there's a good percentage of them that you realize that maybe there's a huge amount of nostalgia that keeps them elevated to the level they are. Independence Day is a classic example of the latter. I re-watched it yesterday before heading into the sequel and yeah, it's not that great of a movie. Extremely entertaining? Yes. Extremely stupid? Also yes. Thus I would have to classify it as a dumb fun movie. I've seen better action movies and I've seen better disaster movies. If I were to write a review for Independence Day, I would probably give it a 7 or an 8. If you think that's blasphemous, I'd challenge you to take off your nostalgic glasses and go watch it again. If you still think it's an epic masterpiece, well, I guess you're entitled to your opinion. But I'd have to disagree.

With that in mind, I didn't expect much going into Independence Day: Resurgence. It didn't need to be a great movie. I just wanted it to be another dumb fun movie like the first or perhaps like the more recent Pacific Fun, which is one of the best dumb fun movies. Before all of these negative reviews started spilling out, was I among the group of people that was unbelievable excited for this sequel? Nope. And I'm not just saying that to sound smart. In fact, when I did my 2016 movie preview, I put this into the maybe section. Why? One name. Roland Emmerich. Yes, he's the director of the first one, but check out this filmography following his huge success with Independence Day in 1996: Godzilla (1998); The Patriot; The Day After Tomorrow; 10,000 BC; 2012; Anonymous; White House Down; and Stonewall. That's an all inclusive list of the movies his directed post-Independence Day. Ouch. Some of those have some entertainment value. None of them are great movies. Most of them are straight up trash. This man is NOT a good director, people. The fact that Independence Day is such a beloved movie is more of a fluke for him. A good comparison for Roland Emmerich is Michael Bay, who has made almost nothing but crap since Armageddon in 1998.

Speaking of Michael Bay, the best comparison to Independence Day: Resurgence for me is Transformers: Age of Extinction. Not I compliment. I hated that movie. It ended up in my bottom ten for 2014. Good cast. Good visuals. Bad story. Bad acting. Bad directing. A ton of overstuffed action that WASN'T entertaining. We're going to preach most of the same notes here for Independence Day: Resurgence. As I said, I didn't expect great for this movie. I never did. I just hoped for a Pacific Rim level of enjoyment. The fact that I got a Transformers: Age of Extinction level of enjoyment instead made it feel like I just got blind-sided by a horse in the middle of a race track (check out this video to get that reference). I did not expect the movie theater to turn into a prison. You know, that feeling you get when you want to walk out or stop the movie, but instead make the decision to watch the whole thing so that you can give an accurate recommendation to your family and friends? I hate it when that happens. I go to the movies for enjoyment, not punishment. With this movie, I got punished. Thankfully the movie is only 120 minutes long instead of the 165 minutes that was Transformers: Age of Extinction. But that's still 120 minutes that I will never get back as I was completely miserable for every one of those minutes.

Now I've been a bit harsh on Independence Day in this review because I do think it's an overrated movie, but I'm actually going to take a turn from that and use what that movie did right to show what this sequel did completely wrong. First of all, Independence Day knew what it was. Aliens have attacked the United States and after realizing what exactly has happened, the country goes into a state of panic. An initial assault on the aliens takes place. After that fails, they take a step back to figure out what to do. Once they have a plan, an epic speech is given, a second assault is attempted, and the aliens are destroyed. Is this a dumb story? Sure. Can you poke a lot of holes into it? Absolutely. But is it focused? Yes it is. The flow of the movie is great. The setup is done well. We have enough character progression and down time, but not too much. Speaking of characters, we have a handful of well-written characters played by good actors who are doing a great job and feel like they care. Most importantly we have a lot of fun action sequences like when the aliens blow up the white house or our final assault that includes an emotional sacrifice by one of our characters. The movie was also wrapped up in a nice little bow that didn't try to set up a sequel. Had Independence Day: Resurgence followed this simple formula, I would've given it a pass.

But that's the problem. It doesn't. Let's start with plot. Not the strength of the first movie, but it was still well-structured and mostly made sense. This movie's plot? Ummmm... what was it? Aliens are back. And they're kinda mad. Why? How? I don't know. And I don't think the people who wrote this movie know. They're just back. A logical structure to this revenge plot? It's not there. A flow to the movie? Heck no. The plot is a huge mess in just about every way. I don't think I could even describe it to you. Things just happened and I don't know why or how or what was going on. They just happened. I literally don't think I could spoil this movie because I was just confused the whole time. I mean, I could spoil who wins the war, but I think we all knew that anyways. No one makes an alien invasion movie where the aliens win and end up destroying the earth and all the humans on it. Not that I can think of, anyways. If there is one, feel free to remind me of it. If there's not, wouldn't that be kinda cool if it happened? I certainly was rooting for that to happen in this movie, but I wasn't supposed. And it almost worked out. I mean, the aliens destroyed like a third of the earth in the first ten minutes, but didn't do jack squat for the rest of the time.

How 'bout them characters? The reason I say I was cheering for the aliens in this movie is because there was hardly any redeemable characters in this movie. I say hardly any because there was one huge African dude played by Deobia Oparei that has apparently been fighting aliens for the last ten years and he's pretty boss. Everyone else? Nope. And there's quite a few returning characters, too. Jeff Goldbum? He looked bored. I felt he was there to collect a paycheck and that was it. Bill Pullman? I don't even know what the point of his character was. They tried to give him another epic speech, but all of those attempts totally felt flat. Speaking of useless, that's even more the case with Judd Hirsch, Jeff Goldblum's dad in both movies. They did a lot of weird things with his character and everything regarding him was 100 percent unnecessary. If they completely eliminated his story arc, the movie would've missed nothing. Brent Spiner is also back. To his credit, he is the one person that actually looked like he was having a lot of fun in the movie, but his character's story? Yikes. We assumed he got killed in the first one. Nope. Just in a 20 year coma, which he suddenly wakes up from and goes about things as if nothing ever happened. No recovery period. No weakness. Nothing. It was stupid.

Do you know who's not back. Will Smith. I don't know what the conversation was like between Will Smith and the crew of this movie when they tried to recruit him, but he must've listened to their idea or looked at their script and laughed in their face. And that's the moment where they should've cancelled this movie. I'm dead serious. Independence Day without Will Smith should not have happened. Oh but they keep reminding us of him. His son, played by Jessie T. Usher, takes his place as the lead character and thus Will Smith is shown in pictures quite a bit and referenced a ton. How they decided to write Will Smith's character off is really stupid. The other characters in this movie? Well, I'm just going to start naming names here. Liam Hemsworth. Maika Monroe. Sela Ward. William Fichtner. Patrick St. Esprit. Vivica A. Fox. Angelababy. Charlotte Gainsbourg. Nicholas Wright. Travis Tope. Chin Han. Gbenga Akinnagbe. Robert Loggia. John Storey. Joey King. Jenna Purdey. Garrett Weiring. Hays Wellford. Mckenna Grace. James A. Woods. Robert Neary. Joshua Mikel. Joel Virgel. Arturo del Puerto. That there is a long list of characters. And those are all the people that have character names. The first movie had a good balance of characters. This one has way too many. And most of them are either useless or don't seem to care about the movie they're in.

Horrible plot. Horrible characters. Are there any action sequences that are entertaining? Well first off, it's hard to care about the action in the movie when the plot is a mess and none of the characters are interesting. That said, I didn't think the action itself was that great. And I saw this movie in 3D IMAX. I'm glad that I only payed $5 for my IMAX ticket because neither the 3D nor the IMAX were actually worth it. If you must see this movie because you think I'm crazy, at least do me a favor and see it in normal 2D because you will get the same exact experience. Sure, we had 20 years of progressed technology since the first one which made the visuals of the movie naturally more impressive. There was no epic scene like the blowing up of the white house in the first movie. Things were destroyed, but there was no shock value or emotional impact. The first movie was kinda sad when they realized how many people just died. This movie just killed people and made no time to make things emotional or acknowledge the fact that close to a billion people probably got killed. And the final battle between the humans and the aliens? Or any battle for that matter? Boring. Seriously. Boring. And yeah, it was the worst sequel setup that I've seen in a long time.

In the end, I almost literally found no redeemable aspect of this movie, which was a huge disappoint. No, I don't drool over the first movie like many people do, but I still acknowledge the fact that it is an entertaining movie that does a great job of doing what it set out to do. No, I wasn't excited for this movie because I knew who the director was I was scared of the fact that he's made bad movie after bad movie after bad movie. It's like when the name Michael Bay shows up in a trailer. You just roll your eyes and groan. But that aside, I still crossed my fingers that we'd have another fun movie here where I could turn off my brain and have fun watching humans fight the aliens. But I didn't even get that. The plot is a huge mess that has no structure and instead is loaded with a lot of useless scenes and characters. There are plenty of great actors in this movie, but there's very few good performances. There's a ton of poorly written characters, most of which don't even have a good use, so you really can't blame the actors for looking like they're there for a paycheck. They were given nothing. Yes, the movie is visually impressive, but so are the Transformers movies and that alone doesn't make a good movie, especially when the action itself is not entertaining. Independence Day: Resurgence is one of the worst movies of the year and as such I'm going to give it a dismal 4/10.

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