Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Lack of Will Smith Is a Big Problem (Among Its Several Other Problems) for 'Independence Day: Resurgence'

I love the first Independence Day movie.  Yes, it’s actually pretty cheesy and dumb, and littered with obvious plot holes.  But it was immensely entertaining nonetheless.  Moreover, it’s also somewhat groundbreaking as a spectacle-filled action disaster movie.  Thus, it’s a movie that can be looked upon fondly despite its flaws.  I’ve seen it multiple times, and I still have a fun time with it every single time.

Independence Day: Resurgence is the long awaited sequel, released two decades after the original movie’s release.  The plot is also set twenty years after the events of the original movie.  The nations of the world have set aside their conflicts and have banded together to prepare for the return of the alien invaders.  Technologies and weapons recovered from the aliens’ ships are assimilated by the humans to advance their own technologies and weapons to set up an extensive, high-tech defense program called the Earth Space Defense (ESD).

Coincidentally, the new alien invasion happens during the 20th anniversary celebration of Earth’s July 4, 1996 victory over the aliens.  This time around, the aliens come in a gargantuan mothership much larger than the one before, which settles on the North Atlantic Ocean – destroying the cities on the Eastern Seaboard and West Europe – and begins drilling towards the earth’s core.  Now, it’s up to both old and new generation of heroes to pull off another improbable victory over the aliens, or else, the planet is going to be completely destroyed.
Basically, Independence Day: Resurgence has the same qualities of the first movie.  However, it’s not as appealing.  Why?  It has a huge gaping hole in the charisma department that goes by the name of Will Smith.

What made the original Independence Day movie very likable, aside from maybe its novelty, is the charismatic presence of Smith, who was a big help in making up for all the dumbness of the movie.  Since Resurgence doesn’t have the oomph and electricity that Smith always brings to the table, its flaws aren’t easily forgivable.  It’s good that Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman’s respective characters are in it, but they’re not enough to fill up for Smith’s absence.  It also doesn’t help that the explanation for why the character is not in the story was due to a ridiculously unsatisfactory and somewhat disrespectful death.
The movie has poor character arcs, and thus, lacks likable characters.  Aside from Goldblum and Pullman’s characters, there weren’t any characters I felt worth investing on.  Moreover, it has more characters than it knows what to do with.  It has too many unnecessary characters that have no business of being in – and surviving – the narrative.

Resurgence has thrilling action sequences, and visually spectacular destruction.  But it also has plenty of stupid moments and follows a conventional plot, offsetting any excitement the movie brings.  It has some badly written dialogue, with much worse delivery from some of the young stars (most noticeably, the guy that played Will Smith’s son).  And it doesn’t have the stirring emotional moments of the first movie, though it tried to replicate it, but failed hilariously – ending up being inorganic and corny.
There is much world-ending chaos and wreckage in this movie, but I never felt any real stakes.  Sure, it brings the Earth’s back against the wall, as with the first movie, but the win was more or less assured.  I was hoping that the movie would prove me wrong, that it would surprisingly have the world get destroyed.  It would have been a shockingly unexpected development that could have saved the story’s quality. (SPOILERS in the next paragraph) 

As shown in the movie, a sphere containing an alien virtual intelligence – which is of a different species from the alien invaders (“Harvesters”, as the sphere called them) – arrived on Earth intending to evacuate human survivors to another planet, a planet that houses other races victimized by the Harvesters.  It would have been cooler if the movie ended with Earth getting destroyed, the alien sphere accomplishing its mission of rescuing the remnant of humanity, and the humans converging with the other refugee aliens to plan for a counter-attack against the Harvesters’ homeworld.  If Resurgence went that route, the setup for the next movie would have been much more intriguing.

In the end, though Independence Day: Resurgence has entertainment value and flashes of what could have been a fascinating movie, it’s deficient of imagination and depth, and isn’t bold enough to go on a daring route, making it an unfortunately inept Independence Day sequel.

That said, there’s no harm of letting it have its intended trilogy; I’m still okay with having an Independence Day 3.

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