Independence Day is not a good film. The original one that is. It is spectacle at the beginning of an age of spectacle.
Wait wait wait…
It is not a good film, but damnnit if I don’t watch it every 4th of July. It’s a very fun film. It has moments we still love twenty years later. I remember going with my crew of friends, aka The Usual Suspects ( I was Verbal…let that sink in), in Reisterstown Maryland all those years ago. I remember spending the night at LeeAnn’s house after the show and talking for hours about it. I remember us cheering and laughing and otherwise enjoying the hell out of ourselves as we hadn’t seen anything that “big” yet. So to say I have some sentiment about the original movie is an understatement. Do I have nostalgia glasses?
It’s a big budget war of the worlds with characters that are told with broad strokes to help us get them and get their archetype and sell the story. It’s also just plain ol dumb fun and I like that.
20 years later, and sans Will Smith’s charisma do they make it fun?
The movie is directed by Roland Emmerich who hasn’t met a catastrophe (ID4, Godzilla, 2012, Day After Tomorrow) that he didn’t like. I mean if you have a niche go for it, but dude…really? Also be proud of me, I could have added his film Stonewall as a catastrophe, not the event, the actual movie itself. See I can be a professional. This is what he does though, big budget and big spectacle with an intent to awe. The term you are searching for is bread and circus. If you understand this then you know what he is capable of as a director.
From a writers room point of view, this not only violates the rule of three, but gets near doubling it. For those new to my reviews, the Rule of Three is my observation that a movie with 3 or more writers tends to be a muddled mass of conflicting influences, half baked ideas, and partial recoveries from unbaked ideas.
- Characters by Emmerich and frequent collaborator Dean Devlin.
- Story by: Devlin, Emmerich, Nicolas Wright (White House Down) and James A Woods (actor in the movie itself)
- Screenplay by: Devlin, Emmerich, Wright, Woods, and James Vanderbilt (Amazing Spider Man 1 and 2, The Losers, Basic).
With the assorted filmographies, people who think they are funny, and people who are known for…well someone has to take the blame for 10,000 BC. It explains a lot. See in the first movie, even some of the weaker characters as broad as the strokes are that paint them you have an emotion about. It may be hate, but damnit they let you hate them. Here, not so much. Sure they bring back characters from the first movie, aged appropriately, but that is the *only* reason you care about them. Only. Period. The first film felt like it had stakes with the characters where some died and lets face it the death toll was made to feel tangible. Here, the writing is cautious. The directing is cautious. You feel no sense of risk or harm to the characters or planet. No time is ever spent to let you have a moment to breathe with the characters and let the enormity of what should be happening sink in.
The actors do what they can. Goldblum, Vivica Fox, and Bill Pullman are fine. Pullman tries to do more than the movie wants him to and it shows. William Fitchner as always makes everything just a bit better, but he is so relegated to…sigh. Yeah. Liam Hemsworth shows some charm and is far better than The Hunger Games or Paranoia let me believe he could do. Jessie T Usher as Dylan Hiller and Maika Monroe (5th Wave, It Follows) as Patricia Whitmore do ok as the older versions of the children from the first film. I felt they were both logical extensions of the kids with the parents they had. Yet through it all….I didn’t care. I felt no tension. No one was given a real moment to deal with the situations. I can’t help but think back to Goldblums desperate breakdown, the death of the first Lady, even the small scene post LA destruction. All created character moments so when something happened you worried what would happen to them. They had characters you hated. Here – I really felt nothing because the movie didn’t allow me to feel anything. They tried to create characters to hate, but mostly succeeded at mild annoyance since nothing of importance happened. The one time they try a character moment it’s so bloody awkward it doesn’t sell. In short, the actors could do nothing here.
Technically? How did we step back in 20 years? It’s ok. I mean it’s not an Asylum or Blumhouse picture. It seemed so damned afraid of practical effects, and if the did exist, there was so much CGI it didn’t matter. The designs were lazy and…you know what.
I am tired of writing about this movie. I am tired of putting effort into telling you about it because it is clear to me the writers and directors didn’t care either. They were already trying to set up for Independence Day 3 so nothing here mattered. I have heard of actors phoning it in, but a director? Thats new.
Yes, there are scenes to enjoy. Yes, I laughed a few times. I do really enjoy the fact we used the alien tech! FINALLY a movie that does that. For the most part I didn’t care. The Circus was not enough. The spectacle didn’t cut it.
Should you see it?
Meh. It’s as hollow as a basketball. I was entertained as it has some fun moments, but I can’t give a recommendation here; unless you truly have nothing better to do or are morbidly curious. There will be a lot of folks who like this and good on em! I just…blargh.
Go see Finding Dory or something, I hear it is really good.
Will I buy it when it comes out?
Sure…if it has a directors cut with an extra 30 minutes for making me care about these characters.
At this point I am hoping Legend of Tarzan next week surprises me.