On why Independence Day: Resurgence sucked, why I watched it, and why I watched it alone (not in that order)
Director: Roland Emmerich
One could argue that the original Independence Day (1996) redefined the blockbuster and heralded the Catastrophe genre. Since the film’s vaporisation of the White House, destroying global landmarks have become highlights of catastrophic films: Deep Impact (1998) obliterates New York City, Armageddon (1998) bombards the Eiffel Tower, The Day After Tomorrow (2004) drowns the Statue of Liberty, and 2012 (2012) topples St Peter’s Basilica.
I watched Independence Day (1996) twenty years ago. I had cried while watching it,1 because the tentacley mind-invading gooey aliens had traumatised a seven-year-old me.2 So despite the bad reviews, I still decided to watch the sequel Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) (“IDR“) for old times’ sake. But because of the bad reviews, I decided to watch it alone.
This year, I have already watched five movies alone; I only watched three last year. And as the stigma gives way to normalisation, I realise I really enjoy going solo. Especially when the movies are actionporn flicks. People don’t (and should not) talk during movies. And if the movie is all that brainless, there’s nothing to discuss about it before / after. So really, there is little reason to watch such movies with people. And besides, I don’t want to waste someone else’s time and money on something that has so little objective value. (Yes, I admit that watching such movies are indulgent, and usually, impulsive decisions.)
Subjectively though, I had hoped that my childhood ties to the Independence Day franchise and my love for movies would ameliorate any objective badness of this sequel.
Sadly, I was wrong, the reviews were right, and nothing in my past or present could save the film.
IDR seriously sucked. Even for a silly summer blockbuster. The aliens come back after a dramatic 20 years in a ship so ridiculously massive (3,000 miles wide) that its gravity sucks up cities and drops them down again. There isn’t even an epic superlaser this time. Like my brother said, “What’s their power? Just gravity? Pooh.”
And the oh-so-secret recurring symbol in the movie cannot be lamer: it turns out to be a giant, floating, talking, white orb. One critic describes it as the “latest must-have device to roll off the Apple assembly line”; I thought it reminded me of Hitchhiker’s Marvin, minus the depression and the genius and the disproportionate body (i.e. everything that made Marvin interesting). Which leaves just a giant, floating, talking, white orb. Which is also mankind’s last hope.
Even though the first film was hardly a paragon of creativity, its unparalleled scale of destruction (at that time) raked in US$817 million worldwide; Emmerich’s 2016 sequel has no such novelty appeal. In fact, save for a more cosmopolitan take on extinction events (our MBS got obliterated WEW), the scenes of cities being dropped on one another rolls as just another hackneyed attempt to supersize actionporn. But in a film era where the Golden Gate Bridge can be relocated (see X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)) and the Great Pyramids can be unravelled (see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)), there are no longer any stakes in global destruction. It is not about the number of buildings destroyed or people killed; it is, has been, and will always be about characters.
This is where IDR falls so short. While the first film had also suffered from poor character development, at least the chemistry between Smith and Goldblum had some spark. (And Will Smith is, after all, Will Smith.) Hemsworth and Usher, on the other hand, are woefully inert. Their dialogue is painful (“I’ve been where you are. And I know how deep it hurts.” Ouch much for patronising bromance) and their backstories are contrived. I mean, when a Hemsworth brother is so wholly uncharismatic despite the Top-Gun-wannabe-ness of his character, something has seriously gone wrong.
That being said, I did want to watch brainless action. I got what I asked for I guess.
1. I must caveat that this is the only movie that I have ever cried because I got scared; for other horror shows, I only hid my face behind my hands~ See also this post, in defence of the horror genre.
2. Although James Cameron’s salivating, multi-jawed, chest-erupting, and genre-defining aliens did not. Go figure.