Michael's Review of "Independence Day: Resurgence"
#1
I really enjoyed this movie. After reading a negative review I was expecting to be disappointed and, frankly, was surprised to find myself sitting in an empty theater except for my family. So we got to enjoy a completely private showing of "Independence Day: Resurgence" in an RPX theater, which you don't get to do every opening weekend.

As a huge fan of the first "Independence Day" movie I count myself among the legions of fans who wanted a sequel. And you can count me among those who want to see the promised third film. I hope it is made despite this weekend's dismal showing.

After watching the movie I checked out some more reviews. A lot of critics are complaining that Will Smith's absence somehow hurts the film. That is simply not true. Smith is a great actor but there are plenty of great actors sharing the screen in "Independence Day: Resurgence".

As everyone knows from watching the trailers, "Resurgence" picks up the story twenty years later. Aside from Will Smith the only other notable missing person is Margaret Colin, who played Constance Spano (Levinson). Although they explain that Captain Steven Hiller (Smith) died in an accident, I don't recall any explanation of Constance' absence. These are not major plot points but they did go the extra mile in making several references to Will Smith's character.

This movie is about 60% nostalgia, 70% action, and 45% character development. I think what may have bothered some of the critics was that so much time was devoted to character development, but that was really necessary. After a 20 year gap you either have to reboot the franchise (thankfully they did not do that) or you have to hand it off to a younger generation of stars. They opted to do this.

Liam Hemsworth was handed the starring role. And while he is a fine actor his performance may be tarnished by the character he played in "The Hunger Games". Gale Hawthorne was never really a lead or heroic character in that franchise. He was the frustrated love interest for Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen. You might wonder if Hemsworth has earned the top spot in a big budget movie yet. And if "Independence Day: Resurgence" fails a lot of that failure will be blamed on his performance.

I think he handles his part well but the writing was a little weak because they relied on a cliche (a past conflict) between Jake Morrison (Liam's character) and Dylan Hiller (capably played by Jessie T. Usher). Neither Morrison nor Hiller is like any of the characters in the previous movie. I think that was a wise choice but it did force the writers to contrive a conflict that does not feel legitimate for me. Maybe this is one of the problems that critics have latched onto but if so then they are really missing the point of the movie.

This is just a fun romp through space opera. It's Irwin Allen meets Godzilla with absolutely no lip service paid to whatever we might call "real" science (or science fiction). This is spaceships and rayguns and monsters and Judd Hirsch hamming it up for all the right reasons. He almost steals the movie in a couple of scenes that are so ridiculously over the top that you either have to love him or hate him.

And we loved Judd Hirsch in "Independence Day: Resurgence". He was great and he fit right into the story in a nod to previous space disaster films like "Deep Impact". In fact, the movie is packed with homages (or Easter eggs) to all sorts of things. We could not count them all. Usually I hate it when a film bows down before some predecessor. And why do they always have to include that stupid Wilhelm scream? Let Wilhelm die and leave me in peace, please.

That said, "Independence Day: Resurgence" makes no real attempt to portray itself as a plausible science fiction story line. That is not it's purpose. This is a thrill ride. It's auditioning for the theme park of the mind and if you just give it a chance I think you will give it the job.

The aliens are bigger, badder than ever, and a bit less perplexing in this movie. We learn something about them and their culture. It doesn't all necessarily make sense but that's the thing about space aliens: they're really not very good when they just come across as humans wearing face masks.

If you loved the "Alien" franchise you should find plenty to love in this flick but it's not a ripoff of "Alien".

If you like seeing the Earth get beat up, they punch a sizable hole into it. If you like movies where human civilization is threatened with extinction in new (and newly implausibe) ways then you should love this one, too. It's not just a replay of the last movie.

Although some of the motifs of the previous film are heavily ingrained in this movie's story-telling, they have created an interstellar cat-and-mouse game between David Levinson and the alien culture. Liam Hemsworth may be the action star of the movie but Jeff Goldblum is the intellectual star. This story is really turning out to be his story, even though Bill Pullman manages to turn one of the lamest homages in film history into yet another inspiring speech that will probably be played over and over again like his famous "Independence Day" speech.

If that leaves you wondering what they can do for a third film, don't worry. A lot of people are killed off in this movie, including some from the first movie. The third film can't just be a replay of the first two. It should be a subtle evolution of an emerging set of themes.

If anything I believe that "Independence Day: Resurgence" is a more thoughtful story, maybe kind of suggesting "what if we had done things this way instead?" They have retrofitted some new characters and ideas onto the old plot but doing so ensures that they can go forward.

They also invested heavily in some characters with some way-over-the-top traits that may or may not have worked with the audience. I was okay with the guys but I was also glad their sub-plot was not the main plot. They came in handy when the fighting became intense near the end of the movie.

You can expect special effects galore. I don't recommend the 3-D version of the movie. We've had to settle for 3-D films lately because they are tying up the best theaters but the quality of 3-D film presentation is highly overrated. This movie probably plays much better in 2-D than 3-D. In fact, there were no scenes where the 3-D really made a difference for us.

If you enjoy action-oriented space drama I think you will like this movie. It's not trying to be the next Star Trek and you don't have to worry about what happens when they find Luke Skywalker. Even if the movie cannot make up its numbers at the box office it should do well in aftermarket sales.

I just hope they find a way to make that third film.
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