Saturday, October 15, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016; dir. Roland Emmerich) is set 20 years after humanity defeated aliens come to invade Earth. Now the aliens return. The first film had a certain coherence. The aliens arrived, they destroy cities all over the world, famous landmarks are obliterated, humanity is endangered. Various individuals band together under the leadership of the US president to resist the invasion and ultimately to destroy the mothership at the center of it all. It's a science fiction movie.

In this new Independence Day the aliens arrive in a huge mothership that is 3000 miles wide and has its own gravity.  It is so powerful that when it lands in the Atlantic Ocean it destroys the eastern seaboard of the United States. Interestingly, many of the important characters from the first Independence Day show up again. The president of the United States who is now an ex-president shows up. His daughter is a fighter pilot. A crazy scientist who has been in a coma for twenty years wakes up and immediately gets involved.  Will Smith doesn't show up. Instead, his son does. We learn that Smith's character died in a test flight some years before. Judd Hirsch shows up again. Some people I didn't remember until I saw them again show up. And there are a lot of new characters. There's an African warlord with tattoos on his arms signifying aliens he has killed. There’s a namby-pamby government bureaucrat who is timid at first but who eventually takes up manly arms against the aliens. 
I can go into detail about what happens here. But I won't. You see, I'm retired and mortal and it would be pointless to waste my decreasing lifespan describing a film like this one. I’ve already wasted time watching it. Basically, the odds are hopeless, humanity is doomed, the aliens are drilling through the Earth's crust to harvest the molten core which if they succeed will bring all life to an end. Various efforts are mounted to defeat the aliens. They fail. Ultimately, some familiar characters are instrumental in bringing about victory. Although there are a few new angles in this film (such as the arrival of a spaceship from a civilization of aliens who are enemies of the invaders—is this an X-Files echo?) there's really nothing new. The film is entertaining in the way that anything can be if you sit and stare at it long enough. We enjoy the familiar characters, we enjoy the subplots, but it's not a good film. It’s not a successful film. It's pretty stupid, even for a film that yearns to be a blockbuster.

Roland Emmerich seems to relish destruction on a massive scale.  His trademark scenes show human beings and cars and buildings and roadways and bridges being torn up from the earth and hurled through the air.  He creates a pessimistic helplessness, reminding us that we're vulnerable to the random disasters that nature and chance can inflict (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, global warming, asteroids, comets).  You can sense him grinning and sweating as these scenes play out, his eyes bulging and his breathing shallow.  It's pornography for him.  But he's made so many of these films that the scenes of carnage are not only expected but also stripped of impact.  They're daunting and frightening, but they mean nothing.  They're cartoon nightmares.

It's interesting that, though this 3000-mile wide spaceship is threatening the earth and cities are being ravaged and destroyed and millions of human lives are being snuffed out, the subplots and character conflicts and intrigues take place, as if to divert our attention from the overbearing and insistent special effects and tidal waves and explosions and carnage.  People get caught up in hugging one another and making jokes and reviving old tensions and acting as if nothing is wrong. This happens throughout the film. People seem worried but not really panicked. No one is sitting around in a state of existential despair grieving over the earth’s destruction. Life goes on as usual with the exception of a huge alien spaceship that's about to inflict apocalyptic doom.

This struck me as odd.

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