Tony’s a little ticked.
You soulless, joyless whores to the bottom line, just goddamned stop it.
Stop taking enormous, groundbreaking movies of incredible spectacle and great characterisation from twenty years ago, turning up the effects to 11 and thinking that suffices.
I’m really not kidding. Just stop it.
You did it to us with Jurassic World, taking the exact same premise as the monumental Jurassic Park, giving us bigger and allegedly scarier CG monsters, dropping Richard Attenborough (OK, he was technically dead, but you really want to use that argument in a movie about cloned dinosaurs?), dropping both Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill (let me clue you in – two big reasons why we watched the original, cos they propelled the drama), stubbornly refused to hire kids who could make us give a shit whether they lived or died, then threw a little sugar coating on the top, giving both Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard a single droplet of characterisation and letting them fight it out like raptors for control of the screen, the narrative or any damn thing at all. The result was a movie that looked like exactly what it was – a cashing-in exercise on a big anniversary and the advance of computer graphic technology, with some reasonably good stars wasting their oxygen in the middle of a story which failed to engage beyond looking at the human and the reptilian pretties.
Now comes Independence Day: Resurgence.
Were Resurgence to be a simple re-tread of the original, to be honest, that would be pretty damn cool, because while being a shamelessly flag-waving ‘Ain’t America grand?’ slice of hokum, the original Independence Day did a lot of things right. Number 1 – it didn’t let Will Smith naff off and make another, inherently better movie. Number 2 – it gave Jeff Goldblum something to do besides mumble apocalyptically. Not a lot, admittedly, but he had his own arc of achievement. Number 3, it did visual spectacle in a surprising way that hadn’t really been seen before (blowing up the White House will do that for you once). Number 4, it kept its aliens relatively hidden for a good chunk of the movie, following the War of the Worlds formula that says ‘Enormo-killing machines with mysterious somethings inside – scary. Tiny, pathetic squidgy things – notsoscary.’ And Number 5, it plunged the world we knew into chaos and carnage, and challenged us to exhibit something in the human spirit that was worth its own survival, allowing Bill Pullman to give a memorable speech to make us all feel good about ourselves and get our yippee-kay-ay, alien motherfucker on for some Star Warsy, million-to-one chance malarkey and a big fireworks show at the end.
What’s not to love?
Resurgence fails to do… well, frankly,any of those things. Number 1 – being set twenty years after the original, Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller has died, leaving Jessie T Usher to fill the space he leaves as a grown-up Dylan. Usher’s not bad, but sadly, not bad doesn’t cut it, only making you realise exactly how much Smith’s charisma filled the role in the first movie. Patricia Whitmore, the First Daughter in the original movie, is all grown-up too, Maika Monroe giving her a faithful but dull character as she bridges the gap between Dylan and the entirely pointless Jake Morrison, played by Liam Hemsworth. Call me crazy, but I have a problem with Liam Hemsworth. To me, he’s a walking bowl of cheese and cheekbones that sucks the interest out of any project. He stalked through the Hunger Games movies, a giant, bland, milk-based flan of nothingness that schlurped the joy and enthusiasm off the screen. And he’s back to do the same here as Morrison, the poor little orphan boy who’s dating the First Daughter, and who had an entirely pointless and predictable fight with Dylan while they were all training as pilots. Yawn. Is the movie over yet?
Not even close. Let’s be clear – any movie is made better by having Jeff Goldblum in it, but in this movie, he appears to be playing an entirely different character to that from the first film, but with the same name and father, Julius, still played by Judd Hirsch. Sure, things change in twenty years, but Goldblum’s David Levinson exists here to be mutteringly calm and clever and to find surprise in practically nothing, robbing the movie of any wowzer moments. As for Hirsch’s Julius, for the most part he’s there to shepherd – oh look! – another bunch of kids who struggle to make us care if they live or die, through the course of the movie, after they improbably save his life.
In terms of visual spectacle, to be honest, it’s mostly tedium, because where the original was all about the will-they, won’t-they, how-would-they anticipation of the carnage, and then the delivery of that carnage in an eye-popping, mind-blowing way, this time round we know there’s no question – they’re going to come, they’re going to blow shit up, we’re all going to die. Yes, because it’s twenty years on and the effects budget’s bigger, the ship is bigger, but the trouble is that it’s stupidly bigger – when the ship is ‘over the Atlantic Ocean,’ a reasonable question is ‘Which part?’ The stupid answer we get here is ‘All of it.’ The scale tips over from scary to ludicrous. And yes, London takes a pounding, but to be honest, we’ve already seen London take a pounding on screen. There was a whole movie called London has Fallen that took care of that for us. Yes, there’s a certain Independence Day finesse about the whole thing in this movie, but it looks very much like collateral damage thrown in to up the ante.
There are lots of aliens in this movie, too. And in person, there’re significantly less scary – they’re like geeks driving predators, or indeed, blobs driving Daleks. Here we meet the alien queen, and absolutely fail to care, as well as a big sphere with a secret inside, that looks almost entirely borrowed from the Army of Ghosts and Doomsday episodes of Doctor Who. It’s an appallingly benevolent MacGuffin and leads to the humans being miraculously able to press a big red “OFF” switch on the whole invasion, destruction of humanity, grind your bones to make my bread deal. Only rather than the cunning bit of Star Warsy, Apple laptops confusing even superintelligent alien computers that got an enormous war fleet through space thing, the new generation’s MacGuffin of choice boils down to ‘Coo-eee, you big alien numpty, we’re over here!’ ‘Not really we’re not, in you go lads, let’s twat it!’
It’s the kind of ending about which it would be hard to care even if it were real and your ability to live, breathe and enthusiastically repopulate the Earth depended on it. Honestly, there’s a significant section of humanity that would just rather go ‘Fuck it, I’m dead.’ Meaningless, mindless, and seemingly endless, the resolution of the movie will have you stabbing yourself in the face with an ice-cream spork just to give you something else to think about.
Oh, there are other treats along the way. Remember Brent Spiner? We watched the original movie just before the new one, and we were STILL pretty much convinced his character died. Nope, he’s in a coma that miraculously fucks right the hell off as soon as the aliens return – he’s up and about and inventing lasers and the like (nobody seems to have the heart to tell him we’ve had them for quite some time now. Bless). Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is around too, looking doddery and beardy, like a Moses of incomprehension. There’s no particularly good reason for him to be in the movie, you understand – he’s no longer President, and we go through another couple of leaders during the course of this interminable film. But still…there he is. Vivica A Fox is here too, Justine from the original movie, mother of Dylan. She gets to cash a pay cheque, bless her, before… Well, y’know. Spoilers and all that.
The weirdest thing about Independence Day: Resurgence though is that a reasonable updating of our settings and technological advancement make the movie a study in pointlessness. We have space stations, planet hoppers, fast attack craft, and basically we’re building Something-That-Looks-Like-Star-Trek’s-Federation-But-Absolutely-Isn’t-Cos-We-Don’t-Wanna-Get-Sued-Fool!
That means the point of the original Independence Day, the realism of our world being decimated and our search for a reason to survive utterly evaporates, but the movie never really gives us anything profound to replace it with, no simple Trekkie idea of an evolved humanity. It’s just us, with spaceships. The heart of the movie is correspondingly cold and dead inside, and all the CGI in the world won’t bring that sucker back to life.
Independence Day: Resurgence is not worthy of the big screen. It’s a Sharknado, with leaden, uninspired characterisation and no reason to be, let alone to be this big.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk