Independence Day: Resurgence

'Independence Day - Resurgence' movie poster

Release: Friday, June 24, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Roland Emmerich; Nicolas Wright; James A. Woods; Dean Devlin; James Vanderbilt

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Nothing brings a tear to my eye faster than knowing that Earth’s mantle is going to be safe, at least until the next ill-advised blockbuster sequel. I really felt more for the core of the planet than I did for the core group of humans at the heart of this underwhelming summer spectacle.

You might get away with arguing that Independence Day: Resurgence is simply more of the same, and that’s everything the film needed to be. And I get some of that. While we don’t have Will Smith back (too expensive), we see many favorites return: Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch as the Levinsons; Bill Pullman as the former President; Vivica A. Fox (the exotic dancer mom, remember?); and a particularly odd scientist is back, too (thanks trailers, for spoiling that one). More of the same though, in this case, just means more: more CGI, more indecipherable chaos, more gimmickry that tries to evoke the past (see Patrick St. Esprit’s stand-in for James Rebhorn’s Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki).

For a fleeting few minutes, Resurgence shows its mettle: the invasion of Earth is, once again, astonishingly cool. And eerie. And the tagline for once fits: “we had 20 years to prepare; so did they,” only “they” in this case refers to the wizards responsible for all those nifty visual effects. The hellfire that lights up our skies somehow looks even more ominous this time around; watch as landmarks the world over are uprooted like twigs and repositioned miles away. We don’t get the chess game that resulted in gigantic fireballs engulfing major cities but we do get one hell of a Mother Ship, which, in a particularly memorable shot, is shown clamping down on at least a quarter of the planet like a massive leech. They apparently have an interest in the molten core of Earth, which they’ll drain for energy. Obviously that’s not good news for us.

The problem with ‘more-of-the-same‘ in this case is that familiarity déjà vu creeps in much too soon. Resurgence will never be appreciated on its own merits, but rather how far the apple (spacecraft?) did or did not fall from the tree (outer space?). Comparisons may be unfair, but they become less so when a director decides that humanity once again needs to come together like all the colors of the rainbow to fend off another alien invasion. Talk about some shit luck. It took everything we had in the ’90s to stand our ground, to establish Earth as the only planet that really matters in the universe. And here we are again, shaken by the scary thought that maybe it just ain’t so.

At least Emmerich, with his team of writers, has the sense to try and cover for the mistake made in setting up an almost identical invasion — no small thanks to the overly familiar shot selection — by setting the mood much more pessimistic. President Lanford (Sela Ward) seems to be a symbol of hope and unity at the start but she’s soon overshadowed by former President Whitmore’s moroseness. “There’s no way we’ll win this time.” Not with that attitude you won’t. Poor ol’ Prez; he’s been haunted ever since by the last encounter and now can’t really go out in public. So his daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), who happens to be a fine Air Force pilot herself, dedicates much of her time looking after him. But that benevolence only runs as deep as the script; soon enough not even Monroe is capable of making us believe she’s the President’s daughter.

The plan of attack, drawn up by General Adams (William Fichtner), is shades of grey different from the international united front we launched last time. We’re going after the Queen this time instead of a rogue ship stationed just outside our atmosphere. The goal is to distract this supremely large otherworldly being (no, seriously, think kaiju large) from obtaining a spherical orb/macguffin that ties in to some larger intergalactic story, one that, cosmetically, feels ripped straight out of Men in Black but in concept fits better into Star Wars mythology. (Oh, there’s a cool cross-over idea: Men in Black 4: Star Wars Independence Day.)

Returning characters are given the juicier parts. Unfortunately, few of them share any significant screen time together. Giving those with more experience more prominent roles is an age-old practice that just means we get to spend more time with Goldblum’s David, which is far from a bad thing. Now a revered, distinctive member of the human race, even his dad trusts him more. And no one is telling his David to shut up. In Resurgence a larger spotlight also falls upon the personnel working inside Area 51. The base, once-upon-a-time a secret and mythical location, has since been designated as Earth’s Space Defense Headquarters. And of course President Whitmore has a few wrongs to right, so he jumps back into an aircraft to do his civic duty. On a less welcomed note, Liam Hemsworth replaces Captain Hiller’s sidekick Captain Jimmy Wilder with little enthusiasm; while Jessie T. Usher plays Hiller’s son all grown up. There’s some sort of alpha-male struggle between the two but it’s added in, also digitally, just to give the actors some lines to read. Very little of what they say to each other actually matters.

In fairness it wasn’t scintillating dialogue that defined the classic that came before — yes I’m calling it a classic — but rather an overt but not misplaced sense of American pride. After all, it was the product of American filmmakers and events took place on and around the Fourth of July. In Resurgence, though, the fire just isn’t there. There’s no Whitmore rallying cry. There are only mutterings from a jaded man who can’t seem to believe all of this is happening again.

It’s all numbing special effects stuff that impresses upon us how far technology has come in the last couple of decades. It’s less of a championing of the human spirit as it is a competition to see who has the bigger laser, the bigger home base, the smarter individual beings. Resurgence is pretty brainless. It’s certainly redundant. But I guess there’s no denying the visual grandeur, or the scope of Emmerich’s ambitions, even if all that adds up to is proof that there’s nothing bigger than the greed consuming Hollywood studios who think blockbuster sequels will save us all.

Recommendation: Independence Day: Resurgence is yet another of those sequels that few earthlings asked for. (I certainly didn’t want it.) The ridiculousness of it all threatens Michael Bay, which is to say the film tries to upstage the competition with brute force via CGI saturation. Too bad it forgets that a) humans will always remember their first alien invasion and b) they will always want Will Smith back. In ID4: 2 spectacle trumps all. Even if that means screwing up the alien mythology. Will there be more? Of course there will be. You can take that all the way to the bank, provided it’s still there. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 120 mins.

Quoted: “They’re not screaming. They’re celebrating.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com 

Gone Girl

gone-girl-poster

Release: Friday, October 3, 2014

[Theater]

Written by: Gillian Flynn

Directed by: David Fincher

Not to be confused with the Ben Affleck-directed Gone Baby Gone from 2007, Gone Girl is yet another exceptionally entertaining thriller from David Fincher, a director guilty of association . . . with rock-solid filmmaking, that is.

I don’t know why that would be confusing, but for some reason lately I have been having trouble untangling the two names. Since seeing the recent adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel I have also come into the understanding that the film experience is merely half the picture; that reading what Flynn is able to elucidate in greater detail in print is somehow more compelling than the visual spectacle of Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike operating at extremely high levels.

Right now it feels as though I’m trying to compare a giant to a goliath. Whatever it is about the novel that makes it so great I can’t exactly attest to but I know what I saw in this film and I understand the anticipation for Gone Girl has been unlike many other films this year, save for the latest Hunger Games installment and the upcoming Chris Nolan spectacular. What I also know is that Big Bat Ben has been able to explain his dry, bland style of acting a little better to me in recent years, perhaps speaking up a bit louder with this role. Stepping in front of the cameras rather than remaining behind them in the midst of a hot streak as director, Affleck plays Nick Dunne, husband to Amy (Pike) and soon-to-be pariah of the national media in the wake of his wife’s strange disappearance.

On the day of the Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to find an open front door, some smashed glass on the floor and a house devoid of that breeze of blonde hair. As far as appearances are concerned, she’s gone. A husband in immediate panic begins the search for his dearly beloved on solid ground, recruiting locals to help in a missing persons rescue effort. Sure footing and stable ground are soon lost, though, as his cooperation with Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and her partner (Patrick Fugit) is overcome with an awkwardness that’s difficult to put a finger on.

The first of many pressing questions that naturally arises is one of a judgment upon his character. Is he having this much difficulty processing his current reality, or is there something more to him that we ought to be afraid of? As the story unfolds, we are forced into questioning far more than his character.

David Fincher — excuse me, Gillian Flynn — is fascinated with subtlety. Flynn knows that in this world, under these circumstances, it’s not necessarily what you say that gets you into trouble, it can also be what you don’t say. Physical gestures speak volumes. A side long glance can mean one thing, a weird stutter something else. There should be a code word for how ingenious Flynn’s screenplay really is.

As the circumstances and evidence begin to pile up against Mr. Dunne, Nick’s behavior only increases in bizarreness. From our point of view, a more forgiving one than that of media pundit Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle) — a woman who makes Nancy Grace seem pleasant by comparison — the severity of the situation is running him ragged. How one is supposed to handle themselves in the public eye in these situations, I don’t know. This is merely one question Fincher and Flynn in tandem aim at getting to the bottom of.

In the hands of others, Gone Girl does have the potential to become an unwieldy, even pretentious machine. It isn’t enough to simply peg contemporary (televised) media as something of a gladiatorial arena in which the individuals being examined are paraded out in front of the masses only to be slaughtered on live television in the form of brutal interviews. No, it’s the institution of marriage and how we act as a society — at least, as society pertains to American culture — that also comes under fire. Under Fincher’s direction and in Flynn’s mind, the two go hand-in-hand. What better way to link the frenzied collective’s desire to revert back to Salem Witch trial tendencies in the face of such confronting aberration. A husband who has not only seemed to have made his wife vanish into thin air also admits to have cheated on her beforehand? That’s not good. That’s actually really not good.

Gone Girl is extremely ambitious, but never does it overreach. It’s as entertaining as it is perplexing and disturbing. It’s also surprisingly witty. Affleck’s reactions to certain situations, while may not be appropriate, often conjure up some laughs that feel earned rather than forced upon the scene. There’s nothing humorous about a loved one going missing. But of a film that manages to reflect the fine details of how we as people are able to judge so quickly without knowing the full story, the entertainment value skyrockets. It’s a police procedural, murder mystery and a dark comedy all rolled into one. What a beautiful matrimony.

gone-girl-1

4-5Recommendation: Gone Girl appears to be one of the first truly great films of the fall season. Readers of the book have been singing the film’s praises already for its authentication. Not a surprise when the novelist also penned the script but there are often times when that transition is not so naturally made. Here it’s clear there is natural harmony. I at times get ancy with films running over two hours (his 2007 crime drama Zodiac is a good example, despite its strong narrative) but here I hated the fact I was watching the end credits already. I wanted more. I think Mr. Fincher has a tendency to do that.

Rated: R

Running Time: 145 mins.

Quoted: “I’m so much happier now that I’m dead.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com