NOT WORTH THE WAIT

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE FAILS TO ADAPT TO MODERN MOVIE AUDIENCES OR EXPLOIT ITS OWN NOSTALGIA VALUE

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Judd Hirsch, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sela Ward, Patrick St. Esprit, Vivica A. Fox and Brent Spiner

Rated: PG

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Running Time: 2 Hrs.

There’s been a pretty strong wave of high priced nostalgia running through Hollywood lately. Last year we got Jurassic World over two decades after the original blockbuster as well as Poltergeist and Point Break remakes. Nostalgia was behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles renewal and most likely the culprit behind the new Ghostbusters (which Sony desperately hopes to turn into a lucrative new franchise). The fond childhood memories of an entire generation were the biggest engine to pull the new Star Wars gravy train out of the station. And now we have Independence Day: Resurgence, released almost twenty years to the day that the original Independence Day conquered theatres in 1996.

Video: 20th Century Fox

Resurgence’s story picks up on the eve of the celebration commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Earth’s victory over the invading aliens. The nations of the world have since come together, uniting for the singular purpose of preparing Earth for future alien attacks (there is a strong belief, especially among the survivors of the first invasion, that the aliens will inevitably return). David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) spends his time hopping across the globe and integrating alien technology into powerful new weapons. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is also on hand for the celebrations, although the retired Commander-in-Chief now wrestles with a variety of psychological problems as a result of his telepathic connection to the aliens twenty years earlier. His daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe) meanwhile is all grown up and an aide to current President Lanford (Sela Ward).

But as the world prepares to celebrate the anniversary (which includes the opening of a new defensive base on the moon), a number of ominous events take place. People who had telepathic contact with the aliens the first time around begin experiencing troubling visions, alien prisoners who have been dormant for twenty years awake in hysterical excitement and there are troubling signs in the distant stars. Before the world can celebrate its victory, it’s plunged into a battle for survival once again, but this time the aliens are bigger, meaner and a little pissed off. Humanity finds itself relying once more on the heroes who saved it two decades ago as well as a generation of new ones.

When Independence Day captured the world’s imagination in the summer of 1996, everyone thought a sequel was inevitable. It broke new ground, not only with the sophistication of its special effects but with the sheer scale of them was well. Independence Day was also key in launching Will Smith, one of the hottest celebrities on the planet for years, into stardom. How could there not be a sequel? So when Resurgence was announced expectations were justifiably high.

Unfortunately, it misses the mark.

Make no mistake, the special effects are still great but other than the final battle scene with the alien queen, there’s not much we haven’t seen before. The first Independence Day didn’t really invest in story telling (aliens invade Earth in really big spaceships and are narrowly beaten by the courage and resourcefulness of our heroes while lots of stuff blows up in the meantime), relying on its mind-blowing special effects and the performance of its cast to carry it. But Resurgence’s story feels recycled and arguably stale (although it resolves itself with a little more intelligence then having a Mac power book bring a near omnipotent space faring civilization to its knees), failing to understand that it’s visual effects can no longer be counted on to carry the entire film.

Jeff Goldblum lacks the same kind of restrained, anxious energy that endeared him to audiences twenty years ago and he sorely misses Will Smith’s presence. He and Smith enjoyed great chemistry in the original, as Smith was the perfect balance for Goldblum’s focused neurosis. But not only is Smith and his charisma absent (a big strike against the film), but director Roland Emmerich and Resurgence’s producers fail to find anyone to pick up that slack and partner opposite Goldblum. While Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth may share a lot of screen time together, they share zero chemistry, denying Resurgence one of the biggest things Independence Day had going for it.

The movie offers little to no insight into it’s new characters, failing to give audiences reason to make any emotional investment and spoiling any attempts to generate tension. You wanted the President’s plane to escape the destruction of Washington D.C. in the original and you were rooting for the heroes to make it back from outer space. Now, you really don’t care. When you saw Independence Day for the first time, you probably had goose bumps; this time around there’s a good chance you might be bored.

Outside of the returning Goldblum, Pullman and Brent Spiner, the golden oldies are either given insultingly tiny nods of acknowledgement or ignored altogether. Vivica A. Fox is given a handful of lines before being shoved aside and while Will Smith is given a single line of dialogue and a portrait of remembrance, at least he is given some sort of acknowledgement. Other important characters from the original are completely forgotten. Randy Quaid and Margaret Colin’s characters, who played significant roles in the original, aren’t even mentioned.

Resurgence fails to understand that the audience has changed since 1996. Twenty years ago a movie could not only succeed as a result of imaginative, groundbreaking special effects, it could rule the box office. But these days, audiences want a compelling story and interesting characters to go with their visual effects. It’s obvious that Resurgence was also hoping to ride that aforementioned wave of Hollywood nostalgia, but it’s own disregard for some of it’s most important past is likely to alienate a sizeable share of its fan base. It’s as underwhelming as it is disappointing. In the end, Independence Day: Resurgence fails to adapt to the present and judging by it’s weak weekend box office, it’s going to be an expensive lesson.

Shayne Kempton

 

 

 

Advertisements

WHITE HOUSE DOWN IS A DECENT ACTION MOVIE AND WAS BETTER THAN EXPECTED, BUT NOT AS GOOD AS ITS OLDER TWIN OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN

Director:  Roland Emmerich

Starring:  Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins

Studio:  Sony Pictures

Length:  2 Hrs 11 Min

Rated:  PG

     John Cale’s having a rough day.  He’s catching a tonne of heat from his ex-wife for, well, being his ex-wife, his relationship with his eleven year old daughter is strained because he’s messing up as a dad at every turn despite his best intentions, and his interview for the secret service job he needed to elevate his status in his daughter’s eyes goes wrong from the word go.  Then, just to cap it all off, while he and his daughter are on a tour of the White House, a group of terrorists seize control of 1600 Pennsylvania avenue.  That’s a lot to deal with before lunch and if the plot sounds remarkably similar to the storyline in March’s Olympus Has Fallen, that’s because it pretty much is.  And while White House Down delivers adequate punch for an action movie, it’s the lesser of the two films, which is unfortunate for Roland Emmerich’s most recent summer popcorn movie because of the inevitable comparisons the two movies’ identical plots will provoke.

     There are some differences, to be sure.  In Olympus, Gerard Butler plays a secret service agent parked behind a desk after he fails to prevent the tragic death of the first lady and soon finds himself swept up in a spectacular assault on the White House by North Korean terrorists bent on taking the president hostage to seize America’s nuclear arsenal.  In White House Down, Tatum’s Cale is a capital police officer whose daughter is taken hostage by a motley crew of domestic terrorists ranging from white supremacist Tea Party types to disgruntled former soldiers, apparently looking to ransom the president off for the entire U.S. Treasury.  After that though, both movies are roller coaster rides of explosions, gun fights and fisticuffs that can best be described as Die Hard on Capitol Hill.

     Channing Tatum has always struck me as having the potential to be the next big action star, but somehow that breakout role has always eluded him (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra failed to carve him a foot hold and he had little more than an extended solo in this spring’s sequel).  In White House Down though he gets a chance to sink his teeth into his action hero role, efficiently delivering some humour along the way as well.  Jamie Foxx does a more than decent job as President Sawyer, though after his turn as the hero in Quentin Tarantino’s fantastic revenge fantasy Django Unchained, it’s unusual seeing Foxx playing the guy who needs rescuing (though Foxx’s commander-in-chief does get in a handful of shots against the bad guys along the way).  And even though White House Down starts a little slow, Emmerich quickly ramps up the pace and once at full throttle, he doesn’t ease his foot off the gas too much until the final credits.  He even makes a thinly veiled nod to the magnum opus of his career, a certain science fiction disaster movie starring Will Smith that also featured some prominent destruction at the White House a few years back.

     White House Down isn’t a bad action movie.  It isn’t great but it was better than I expected going in.  While it isn’t going to go down in movie buddy history, the onscreen relationship between Foxx and Tatum had its share of decent chemistry as the two trade barbs and one liners while dodging bullets.  And if you’re looking for comic relief, there’s a particular tour guide that pops up every once in a while that provides a few chuckles here and there.  But White House Down simply isn’t as good as Olympus Has Fallen, and it’s that comparison that is going to hang over this movie’s head like the cinematic sword of Damocles.  Nothing against Tatum, but for the time being Butler seems more bread to his action roles, Olympus‘ villain was a little more ruthless and imposing and the action delivered a little more punch.  That’s not to say  that White House doesn’t have plenty of action-Emmerich’s signature over the top approach is on full display-but Olympus just seemed a little more orchestrated, a little more precise.  Plus, White House runs a little too long for my tastes and there was probably plenty of opportunity for Emmerich to get all his best explosions in under two hours.

     Rumour has it that originally, White House Down was supposed to be released first but Olympus Has Fallen‘s release date was bumped up to this past March, a strategic move that will probably cause a lot of movie goers to write White House off as cheap copy cat fare.  Unfortunately, White House Down‘s  promotional campaign hasn’t been able to establish its own identity (although, there’s precious little difference between the two movies outside of their actors).  It’s a costly error that could hurt; even as I was leaving the theatre I overheard more than one comparison between the two, all favouring Olympus as the better movie.  The lesson moviemakers may learn here is how truly valuable word of mouth is for the success of a summer blockbuster.

Shayne Kempton

BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE