The Alien Critic Reviews...
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TAC Reviews..."Today we Celebrate Our Independence Day" - The ID4 Films

 

You know how the big screen flavour of the month in 2016 are superhero movies?? Well, back in the mid-to-late 1990s Disaster Movies were the popular genre with films like Volcano and Dante’s Peak focusing on volcanic eruptions in 1997, then Armageddon and Deep Impact in 1998 which centred around asteroids on a collision course with Earth. Basically town and cities getting destroyed on a massive scale with special effects showing how creatively a man-made settlement could be obliterated were very popular

 

Before those, however, 1996 saw the release of Mars Attacks!! and Independence Day both of which focussed on the idea of an alien invasion. In the case of Mars Attacks!! the film was not meant to be taken seriously with the aliens being defeated by country music (if I remember correctly). Independence Day was meant to be taken more seriously and starred Will Smith who was still transitioning from [the] Fresh Prince of Bell Air to being a major Hollywood star by appearing in this and Bad Boys

 

Independence Day was a standalone film but as we all know, no Hollywood property can be left alone if there is a chance of milking a few more bucks out of it, so the first film was released in 1996 with the sequel taking place in 2016. Several members of the cast did return for the sequel, but not surprisingly several key members of the cast do not return, some have an explanation as to why, but most don’t.

 

Is the alien spin on a traditional disaster movie going to be the work of genius or about as clever as a retarded amoeba??

 

Read on and you’ll find out…

 

TAC Reviews...Independence Day

 

Independence Day is a 1996 disaster film in which dozens of human cities are completely obliterated by technologically superior aliens. The film was one of the first to star Will Smith in a centre role (the other was Bad Boys in 1995) and remains the 22nd highest grossing film of all time.

 

Independence Day Poster

 

Now this was a film that I cannot believe escaped my notice for so long, I mean the idea of giant spaceships appearing over major cities and using massive lasers to wipe out the majority of the human population, who could have predicted that is actually how an alien invasion would work?? This is an interesting idea and it has to be said a pretty good way of wiping out you puny humans en masse. Now naturally despite the overwhelming technological superiority of the attacking aliens the humans are able to discover a chink in the alien’s armour and save themselves. That isn’t a spoiler because were you really expecting the human race to be wiped out by the aliens??

 

Before I point out everything wrong with this film, let’s first take a look…

 

On July 2 1996 a gigantic spacecraft enters Earth orbit, over a dozen other ships, each fifteen miles long separate from the immense mother ship, enter the atmosphere and settle above major cities. Some of the population are afraid, others are excited about the arrival, and others are just curious. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), an MIT graduate working for a cable company, discovers a countdown hidden in Earth’s satellite system that suggests the aliens are going to attack.

 

David and his father Julius (Judd Hirsch) race to Washington DC to find David’s ex-wife Constance Spano (Margaret Colin), a senior White House employee, in order to warn the President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) of the impending attack. The President orders the evacuation of Washington, plus the other cities and whilst he escapes onboard Air Force One, the city, and dozens of others around the world are obliterated killing millions.

 

July 3 sees the world preparing a response to the attack. In the United States the Black Knights, a squadron of FA-18 Hornets attack the ship over what remains of downtown Los Angeles. Soon after the attack begins the Black Knights realise the city-sized ships and their smaller attack craft are protected by energy shields which their missiles cannot penetrate. Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is forced to flee the battle, and manages to crash an alien attack fighter by leading it into the wall of the Grand Canyon.

 

The President and his entourage make it to Area 51 where it seems that a certain incident in Roswell resulted in the capture of an alien space ship. Here they are met by Steve, and a travelling group of survivors which includes Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), a man who believes he was once abducted by aliens, and his family. David discovers a weakness in the alien’s technology and on July 4 this leads him, Steve and the rest of the population to engage in a daring mission that will decide the fate of the world.

 

This is basically a disaster movie with an alien twist, it has to be said that in 1996 Independence Day would have been an exciting film which mixes traditional disasters, in which cities are destroyed, with a science-fiction twist. There is nothing cute or cuddly about the aliens, which are technologically superior to mankind in every way. It also raises the question of what would happen if hostile aliens attacked and even your most powerful nuclear weapons were unable to destroy them. The FA-18 Hornets drop like flies when they are set upon by waves of attack craft that pluck them from the skies with green energy weapons.

 

Will Smith (who was still starring in the Fresh Prince at the time) once again flexes his big screen muscles and shows that he has what it takes to become an A-List Hollywood star…something that he now undeniably is. He is joined by Jeff Goldblum, a seasoned actor, who once again plays a geeky role he perfected in Jurassic Park. The chemistry between the two is one of the film’s highlights with Steve and David arguing even in the most desperate situations. Bill Pullman makes a good President who is clearly out of his depth and struggles to deal with the relentless attack.

 

So there is some good to this film, but naturally it has its flaws, fundamentally it is War of the Worlds with the aliens being undone by a computer virus instead of a biological one, technological superior alien invaders fighting against weak humans has therefore been done and done better. So things are not exactly original, and probably the biggest issue with the film is the moment when the plan to take the fight back to the aliens is revealed. So…Jeff Goldblum has come up with the plan to infect the mother ship with the computer virus to bring down their shields and as word is spread throughout the world, it seems that the rest of the population has been sitting around impatiently waiting for the Americans to save the day.

 

Look I know that Americans are often ridiculously patriotic, I have met some Americans and they are pretty entertaining and one of the women I met had a body you could bounce marbles off - I know because I tried – and it wasn’t the only thing I bounced off her – anyway consequently films like this are steeped in patriotism for the old red white and blue with the Americans trying to prove that yet again they are the master race.

 

After coming up with the plan to weaken the aliens using their own technology against them, the Americans send out a message to the world informing everyone of their plan. It seems that the other nations have literally been sitting around waiting for the USA to formulate a plan to save the world. Two British soldiers even say when the message comes through: “it’s from the Americans, they want to organise a counter-offensive” and the other replies in his over-the-top British accent “it’s about bloody time, what do they plan to do?” Other nations quickly fall into line behind the might of the Americans’ ingenuity as Steve and David lead the charge in the fight against the invaders. No one questions the plan, no one else has come up with anything better and nations that have been bitter political enemies for years are quick to throw their differences aside to team up.

 

Still, for the non-Americans of the world, it is always reassuring to know that in the event of a global crisis all the rest of you have to do is sit back and wait for the geniuses across the pond to come up with a plan to save you all.

 

Just as a word of warning to any or all of my American readers…when my people arrive our ships have no such weaknesses, because we’re smart and have looked for them, and then we’re going to wipe out you all first just to prove a point

 

After the alien ships are destroyed using a bigger design flaw than the hole in the original Death Star, we see nations rejoicing as one, and the alien ships lying in ruins next to things like the pyramids. The thing is one of these scenes shows a group of people waving spears in the air in triumph…er…are we supposed to believe that they were able to use spears to take down an alien ship fifteen miles long?? Yes I get that the ships are ultimately easier to destroy than a microbe under a bulldozer but am I the only one who finds it a bit unlikely that wooden sticks with metal tips would be able to take down one of the ships. I mean how did they manage to throw them high enough to hit the vessels massive Achilles heel??

 

Plus during the final areal battle the United States President actually jumps into one of the fighter jets to personally take the fight to the aliens…the leader of what is left of the free world jumps into a plane and not one of his advisors makes anything more than a half-hearted attempt to stop him?? Perhaps their ears are still ringing with his off the cuff speech that is probably one of the cheesiest in cinema history, still you have to give it to Pullman because even if you aren’t consumed with patriotism like the average American you might find yourself wanting to solute the screen anyway.

 

Basically Independence Day is a decent enough film that features some over the top areal fights between alien attack craft and fighter jets, plus for non-Americans it must be reassuring to know that they will save you in the event of a global disaster.

 

I will give the film a Thumbs Up if for no other reason than having the balls to throw the US President into a massive battle in the film’s climax and the final image transmitted to the aliens right before a nuke blows them the fuck up.

 

 

6/10 - A good film that could have eased up on rubbing America’s already inflated ego. But aside from that Independence Day is a good slant on a disaster movie which admittedly has dated since its realise. Sequels are apparently in the works so perhaps we are going to be stepping back into this world again, and let’s face it in the almost twenty years since it came out, I imagine there aren’t many of you who haven’t already seen it.

 

TAC Reviews...Independence Day: Resurgence

 

Set 20 years after the events of the first film, Independence Day Resurgence sees the aliens who attacked the planet in 1996 returning with a bigger ship, and the sole intention of wiping out on all life on Earth. The film was released in 2016 (if maths isn't your thing). The only thing standing between them and the end of the world are returning cast members Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Brent Spiner with Thor’s brother Liam Hemsworth and Jessie Usher as the now grown-up son of Will Smith’s character in the original film. Will Smith himself does not appear as he apparently wanted too much money to return so his character has conveniently died between movies.

 

Independence Day: Resurgence Poster

 

In the first film the human race basically sat on their assess and waited for the heroes in the United States to save the world, which they naturally did, now considering when President Whitmore was linked with the alien that “killed” Dr Okun, he said that the attacking species were like locusts that moved from planet to planet using up every natural resource then moving on it seemed that they might be defeated. At the end of that film Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum nuked their Mother Ship and the united human race obliterated every 15 mile long ship that had been hovering over Earth. This suggested to me that the attacking race had all been completely wiped out, but apparently not…

 

“Today, we celebrate our Independence Day”…again…

 

On June 2, the twentieth anniversary of the defeat of the alien threat with the human counterattack, Earth has become united. Wars have been obliterated and humans have managed to reverse engineer various alien technologies to advance human sciences by decades. The Moon has been colonised and is the staging area for a powerful weapon that has been designed to obliterate anything that attempts to get close to Earth. The world is celebrating but former-President Thomas Whitmore (Pullman) can still hear the echoes of the aliens in his head and attempts to warn the world that they are coming back. Dr Okum (Spiner) a man who has been in a coma since he was exposed to the alien’s collective mind suddenly wakes up and starts writing symbols on the walls of his room.

 

Meanwhile, the Earth Space Defence lead by David Levinson (Goldblum) is just finishing a first strike weapon platform on the Moon. One of the people putting the weapon together is a somewhat loose cannon US pilot named Jake Morrison (Hemsworth) who’s parents were killed in the first attack. Levinson himself is in Africa where a ship has been drilling into the planet’s core whilst the local warlord has been waging…well a war against a ship and its alien crew that was not destroyed with the others in 1996. Within the ship they discover a transmission that has been sent from the aliens to the others of their kind, the transmission was a distress call…

 

On June 3 a sphere shaped object appears in orbit above the Moon, and the United Nations decide what course of action to take. The majority of them (with the exception of the British representative) opt to open fire, which they do, the Moon weapon fires and obliterates the object. Levinson and Morrison head to the sight of the crashed vessel and uncover an object from it, unfortunately, a second massive ship suddenly appears and this one is definitely being operated by the same creatures which attacked before. This ship is 3000 miles wide and it easily obliterates the Moon’s weapon before heading to Earth and settling on the planet.

 

June 4…Once again the technology the humans have at their disposal seems to be ineffective, despite having 20 years to prepare the attacking vessel is just too powerful, so this time the human race may face extinction…

 

Right, so first things first, did Independence Day actually warrant a sequel??

 

I don’t think so, I mean like I said we were led to believe that the aliens whole species was moving between planets consuming everything in their path so when the Mother Ship was destroyed and the smaller ships crashed that was the end of that species. It was quite a self-enclosed story, however, Resurgence makes it clear that the attacking race had separated into numerous ships and the one that is heading for Earth this time is a Harvester that is designed to drain the core of the planet. So it begs the question what were the ships that attacked before?? Was that more of a scout party or is it like when the Borg send ONE Cube to assimilate the Federation rather than say four or five?? Did the race expect that ship and its smaller craft to wipe out the technically inferior human species?? Perhaps, so now they have sent a vessel 3000 miles across to finish what the first attack couldn’t but this time they are more interested in harvesting the core of the planet than consuming all Earth’s resources before moving on.

 

I have to say though that whilst I like the idea that humans have reverse engineered alien technology I remember Okun saying in the first film that they have never been able to duplicate the aliens power source so couldn’t experiment with the captured alien ship they had at Area 51. So, how were they able to duplicate the power source after the attack?? I guess you could say that because there was so much more alien technology for the surviving human race to examine it was a lot easier to see how their power supplies worked. Humans using alien technology to further their own technology is realistically the only way you humans are ever going to get out into the universe which is exactly why my ship is cloaked and so carefully hidden that you’ll never get your hands on it, but I digress.

 

What I found puzzling was the fact that sometimes the alien’s technology and the human’s technology seem to be on par and sometimes they don’t. In the first film the fact was the none of the weapons humans had were capable of penetrating the alien shields, but, here there are times when the alien shields hold and other times when they don’t. The weapon, (the one weapon) on the Moon fires on the Harvester ship and nothing happens, the shields absorb the impact, and yet later on when the Earth fighters are engaging the alien fighters, their weapons are able to penetrate the alien shields. The humans also have shield generators which they use sometimes but not others, at one point they are used to encase an explosion, but are not used to defend the Moon base or the individual fighters in the ESD. If the humans in this film have weapons capable of penetrating the alien shields then why do they so rarely use them, plus why is there only a single weapon on the Moon, why didn’t they take a leap out of Austin Powers’ book and turn the Moon into a “Death Star” that had multiple weapons instead of just the one?? Plus if the Harvester had come from the other side of the Earth wouldn’t that have rendered the Moon defensive platform useless anyway??

 

There were a number of ideas that Resurgence had and I was fine with the majority of them, it turns out that after 1996 there were surviving aliens that were captured and studied. The whole world knew these aliens were out there so humanities differences fell away, and the world started to recover.

 

Fine, I’m still with you Resurgence but then things started to unravel…

 

The first ship that appears above the Moon, it makes no aggressive moves, but it is alien and so the majority of the world’s leaders (apart from the British) decide to open fire. The ship is destroyed and crashes. Levinson and co recover something from the vessel and return to Area 51 with it. Dr Okun, now up and about, is able to open the container. Inside it is a sphere that starts to communicate with Levinson and co…

 

 

Tell me you're joking I hear you say, but honestly this is a thing that happens, and we're expected to take this seriously.

 

Stick with me on this one, so yeah, the sphere starts talking…it informs its stunned audience that it has been at war with the attacking aliens and had come to warn of another invasion. That was before the humans opened fire. Still thankfully the Sphere doesn’t hold a grudge. The last of the Spheres has come to Earth to offer advanced technology so humans can lead the resistance against the attacking aliens…

 

Okay, the first film had a level of realism, but the longer that Resurgence went on the more and more laughable it became. The thing is, the idea that a talking Sphere has come to Earth of offer advanced technology, isn’t the most ridiculous thing that this film throws at you.

 

It turns out that the aliens have a hive-like structure with a Queen controlling the others. The Harvester ship that has settled on Earth has a Queen onboard and after she detects the signal coming from the Sphere she decides to personally come after it. Apparently the Spheres have been at war with the attackers for centuries but the Sphere that has come to Earth is the last one of its kind.

 

So, if you’re still with me, the ship is digging to the core of the planet, meanwhile the Queen comes after the Sphere, and the surviving humans have to lead a desperate strike against her because…you’d better sit down as this may blow your mind…if she dies then the Harvester ship will be recalled and the ships with her will shut down saving the human race

 

 

Really Resurgence, REALLY?!?!?

 

If the Queen dies then everything that is attached to the Harvester shuts down, they throw some bullshit at us that says there was a Queen on the original Mother Ship, but if that was true then why didn’t all of the smaller ships below stop functioning once that ship was destroyed?? Plus, why the hell would any advanced alien species construct their ships with such an obvious flaw in its design?? My people would never build their ships like this, and do you know why?? Because it is stupid!!! Yet again it is a contrived reason that will allow the humans to overcome the superiority of the alien invaders by exploiting a chink in their armour.

 

If the Queen dies then everything shuts down, so why does it choose to leave the safety of a ship that is 3000 miles wide to personally come and wipe out the last Sphere, does it want to have bragging rights at the next alien Queen party or something??

 

Once the Queen is revealed we get the very dignified sight of her chasing a school bus across the desert as our scrappy resistance fighters attack her trying to penetrate her personal shield before she can get to the Sphere.

 

I ask you, how could a film about an alien invasion venture into such unrealistic territory??

 

In addition, how come the effects look faker now than they did in 1996?? The aliens looked more real then than they do in this film, which is because as usual practical effects have taken a back seat to CGI and as a result very little to nothing in this film looks like it is actually there. You can practically see the green screen behind the actors. There is a sequence in which we are apparently seeing footage of a test flight of two fighters except it looks like a video game. There is no blending of practical effects with CGI in this film so you know that you are looking at computer imagery because there are no other effects to fool you.

 

As far as the characters go there is nothing here that we haven’t seen before. The cocky pilot who got in trouble when he pushed his luck too far. The young man trying to live up to his father’s legacy, and naturally the geeky scientist who’s warnings once again go unheeded as the alien treat returns once more.

 

Of the returning cast it seems to me that they are all having a see who can have the noblest death competition…

 

Okay, let me just drop this…

 

...Spoiler Ahead...

 

Bill Pullman returns but he still hears the aliens inside his head, and during the film he decides to lead a suicide mission against the Queen. He detonates a bomb in her face, but do you really think that it kills her??

 

He isn’t the only one either…Vivica A Fox returns as the late Steve Hiller’s wife, the former stripper turned nurse is on a building about to be ripped apart by the landing gear of the Harvester. A helicopter is evacuating a woman and her newborn baby, the building collapses beneath her feet, as her son watches powerless to help her. The thing is that there seems to be plenty of time for her to get on the helicopter too, she just seems to piss about so that we can have her dramatic death. Plus her son is supposedly unable to help but why doesn’t he fly his aircraft under her and catch her like Doc Brown did with Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II or like Arnie does with his daughter using the harrier in True Lies??

 

Like I said everyone is trying to have the noblest death.

 

Of the returning cast Will Smith’s absence is explained but David’s ex-wife is nowhere to be seen and we get no explanation to what happened to her.

 

I could honestly go on and on, the fact is that Independence Day Resurgence is an unnecessary sequel, but it did have potential, it could have been really creative and shown what happened in the twenty years since the last film. Unfortunately the films spends half the time rehashing what happened in the first movie, and the rest wandering off into bat-shit crazy territory. The more goofy elements of the plot just feel completely out of place in this sequel and the aliens just look fake as they are all computer generated with no practical effects.

 

I wasn’t expecting much of this sequel, but it could have been so much better. It doesn’t seem to know where it wanted to go, it repeats the damage of the first film, but the counterattack exploits such a contrived weakness in the alien’s defence that it makes the whole thing seem like a massive cop out. I can’t honestly give this film a Meh rating, I didn’t hate it, but it was wasted potential and so I am giving the film a Thumbs Down.

 

 

3/10 – This is a lacklustre sequel, it had the potential to be so much more and considering how much I have talked about and how much I have missed out just says that Resurgence just doesn’t do anything fresh or original. The returning cast are there to basically die, and the attractive young people are there to look attractive and save the day.

 

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© Chris Sharman