Review of “Independence Day: Resurgence”

It’s been 20 years since the alien invasion was turned back with a combination of a brave military, an inspiring speech by then President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and plucky cable TV repairman and virus software writer David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum). In the two decades since, a new multi-national military force called the Earth Space Defense (ESD for short) has been established using a combination of human and alien technology. There has been peace and prosperity since the attacks and to celebrate the 20th anniversary, current President Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward) is hosting a giant celebration on the lawn of the rebuilt White House. President Whitmore is troubled by nightmares of a new alien invasion. He believes the aliens are coming back soon. Levinson is now in charge of the ESD and is brought to an African country by that nation’s leader Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) to see an alien ship that had been dormant since the attack has now come back to life. Inside, Levinson discovers the ship is sending a distress signal. On the ESD moon base, pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) and his co-pilot Charlie Ritter (Travis Tope) have just finished the installation of a massive new weapon when an alien ship appears from out of a wormhole. The new weapon is used to shoot down the spherical craft despite the objections of Levinson who says it looks nothing like the ships from the original attack. Morrison takes a spacecraft and heads to Earth to pick up Levinson so he can see the wreckage. As they are investigating, a massive alien ship that more closely resembles the vessels from 20 years ago appears and quickly destroys the ESD lunar base. Morrison and Levinson, still at the scene of the downed sphere, discover a piece of the craft that looks like it could be important. They are able to scoop it up and nearly escape the moon when they are captured by the gravitational field of the alien ship and dragged along back to Earth to face an uncertain fate.

Above is a very much abridged plot synopsis of approximately the first 20 minutes of “Independence Day: Resurgence.” I could have mentioned about a dozen more characters and several more subplots and bits of backstory that are crammed into the same amount of running time but that would make this introduction to the film about four pages long. There is a great deal going on in “Independence Day: Resurgence” and most of it doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans as the only thing anyone is interested in is when will the aliens show up and start destroying everything and when will someone give a rousing speech that brings the whole world together in the fight against the alien menace. It doesn’t take long to get to the destruction but the speeches (there are two) require sitting through most of one very dumb movie.

What makes “Independence Day: Resurgence” so dumb, dumber even than the original, is the utter implausibility of most of what happens. I’m not talking about the alien invasion parts. I’m talking about the human interactions and the amount of coincidence and head-scratching illogic on display. For instance, Umbutu, a government bean counter, a former girlfriend of Levinson’s and Levinson all wind up travelling to the moon and then to Area 51 together. The presence of three of the four of them cannot be rationally explained by anything other than they were given a ride. There is not even a reason for them to exist in the film for more than a scene or two. “Independence Day: Resurgence” is full of this kind of thing: An aide to the current president is the daughter of President Whitmore and she is a former fighter pilot and friends with Dylan Hiller (Jessie Usher), the stepson of Will Smith’s character while also being engaged to Morrison but he and Hiller hate each other because of a flight training accident but they will run into each other because Hiller is headed to the moon base where Morrison is stationed. Again, none of this has anything to do with the alien invasion and the film stuffs much of its two hour running time with meaningless trash, subplots and backstory.

The movie also doesn’t mind giving everyone abilities and knowledge from out of nowhere: President Whitmore can fly the spacecraft Morrison brings back to Earth. Human military pilots are able to operate alien fighters (just like Will Smith from the first film). Guys looking for sunken treasure are able to monitor how deep the aliens are drilling into the Earth’s crust and report back to Area 51. It all is utter lunacy.

All that being said “Independence Day: Resurgence” does have some pretty spectacular visuals including a 50 foot tall alien and the sight of buildings being uprooted by the massive mothership then being dropped on other cities thousands of miles away. There are dogfights where the sky is filled with craft from both sides yet it is fairly easy to keep track of what is happening. While it is difficult to get a real impression of the size of the mothership (said in the movie to be 3000 miles across) it is impressive nonetheless. All the various bits of merged human and alien technology have a pleasant blue/green glow to them. And of course, the film gives the audience what it really wants with heartwarming reunions and celebrations of a job well done. It panders to the base instincts of moviegoers with easy answers given out by pretty people. It may be lazy filmmaking but it does deliver a kind of dirty satisfaction.

“Independence Day: Resurgence” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action, destruction and some language. As described earlier we see buildings uprooted from one city and dropped on another. While death is talked about we see mostly dead aliens except for one onscreen human death with a small amount of blood. There are deaths of human characters but we don’t actually see the deaths, only the explosions that cause them. Foul language is widely scattered and very mild.

When “Independence Day” came out, I didn’t see it in a theatre. My first viewing of it was when if premiered on one of the pay cable channels. I really liked it on first viewing but then repeated viewings made its weaknesses stand out. It only took one viewing of “Independence Day: Resurgence” to see how much of this film is silly; far more silly than even the original. It’s like director Roland Emmerich and the four other credited writers thought it had been so long since the first film and the buzz for this movie had been going on for so long they didn’t need to try and release something with a coherent story or much in the way of logic. Emmerich has even been recently quoted as saying Marvel’s superhero movies are “silly.” Based on his latest effort, he appears to be an expert in silly.

“Independence Day: Resurgence” gets three stars out of five but only because of the special effects. Everything else in the film is a waste of time.

This week there be giants, an ape man and the wholesale murder of anyone and everyone for 12 hours.  I’ll see and review at least one of these films:

The BFG-

The Legend of Tarzan-

The Purge:  Election Year-

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and contact me via email at stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Following the near fatal attack by Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is shaken that President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has somehow hijacked her friend and lover from the 74th Hunger Games and turned him into an assassin with her as his only target. Katniss’ concern for Peeta complicates her relationship with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). Leader of the resistance Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) wants to use the Mockingjay as a propaganda tool to encourage others to join their cause and keep Katniss off the front lines but her anger at Snow for what was done to Peeta makes Katniss find a way to be a part of the assault force that is moving through the Capital. Their journey through the deserted street is complicated by a series of booby traps set up by the game designers.

I wasn’t a fan of the first “Hunger Games” movie. The whole concept of the poor and oppressed fighting to the death for the entertainment of the rich and powerful left a bad taste in my mouth and a less than favorable opinion of the series in general. Of course, one needs only a tiny bit of historical knowledge to see the parallels to ancient Rome and the gladiators of the coliseum with the “Hunger Games” series of novels and movies. Some could argue the same thing happens today with politicians pitting their constituents against the supports of the rival party. The whole thing is a very dark and depressing look at what can happen when power and revenge run amuck. The second film in the series won me back as the oppressed begin to fight back and the third film sets up what is the final push to the Capital and the fourth movie pays off everything that has come before with a few surprises thrown in. Does it end the franchise in grand style or do the characters and story limp to the finish line?

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is a mixed bag with a tone as dark and depressing as the first film. Characters die, Katniss starts injured and gets more injured along the way, things become bleak then bleaker and lovers are tested. What few moments of happiness are shown are quickly ground into the dirt. It makes one question which would be worse: Losing the war or winning it?

Jennifer Lawrence continues her great work as Katniss. The character’s spirit, determination and bravery are tested by the trials forced upon her by the machinations of both President Snow and Alma Coin. Lawrence is able to breathe some life into a sad character in a dour situation. While the entire situation stretches credibility, Lawrence is able to keep the character grounded and believable. Her work as Katniss Everdeen will likely not win her any major acting awards but it is something of which she can be proud.

The rest of the cast is largely window dressing as nobody is on screen for any significant amount of time; however a couple of performances do deserve some praise. Liam Hemsworth gives a strong performance as Gale. His heartbreak at Katniss’ interest in Peeta’s recovery from brainwashing is etched onto his face. One of his scenes late in the movie (no spoilers) is brief but devastating. Josh Hutcherson is allowed to stretch and be more than “the other guy.” The pain and confusion caused by the mind games played by Snow on him leads to some surprises along the way. Hutcherson has been a part of the films since he was in his late teens. His growth as an actor is clear and this might be considered something of a graduation.

While I enjoyed the film and the performances there were a few things that troubled me. First, the film feels all of its 136 minute running time. With all the effort to give attention to the emotional parts of the story along with the action, there are times when the film seems to come to a complete halt. All narrative momentum is sacrificed so the audience can experience the feels. It seemed forced and an effort to play to the fans of the books instead of the fans of the movies.

It’s time once again for “Thinking about the Details Too Much.” There have been some nagging questions about the logistics of how the world of “The Hunger Games” works that really came to the forefront in this film. First, where do the rebels get all the fuel they need to fly their planes and drive their trucks? I know there was a cache of weapons and equipment they captured earlier but fuel is something that is very difficult to produce in a way that isn’t vulnerable to attack. How they get their food is also something that confuses me. With the disruptions caused by the rebellion, it seems like no one in Panem would be working to make food that might fall in the hands of either side. Perhaps there are stores of rations saved up for emergencies but that wouldn’t last very long in an ongoing war and would also be a target for attack. And that concludes “Thinking about the Details Too Much.” Thanks for listening.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material. There are numerous battles between armed groups. We see one person killed by a landmine. Another couple is killed in various ways by booby traps. There is another death caused by poison and a character is shown coughing up blood. Katniss kills a couple of people with arrows. Various explosions cause more death. There is no gore. We see some of the injuries sustained by Katniss mostly consisting of bruises on her neck and her ribs. I’m not sure what the reference to “thematic material” is other than a character is disfigured after disappointing a person in power.

Some might consider “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” to be more of the same: Characters pitted against a powerful government with only their determination and imagination to help them. That is largely correct; however, this final entry into “The Hunger Games” film series is consistent in tone and style and manages to wrap up the story in an exciting, entertaining but still dark way. While it is probably about 15 minutes too long, fans of the books and the movies should find this a satisfying conclusion.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” gets four stars out of five.

The Thanksgiving holiday means a midweek release of three new films. I’ll see and review at least one of them.

Creed—

The Good Dinosaur—

Victor Frankenstein—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.