Independence Day: Resurgence (Cinema Review)

12A – 120mins – 2016 – 3D


 

CORE BLIMEY!

Two decades after the “War of ‘96” as depicted in high-concept multi-billion blockbuster Independence Day, Master of the disaster epic Roland Emmerich’s long-stewing, highly-anticipated sequel, Resurgence, leant heavily on the nostalgia factor in its largely-returning ensemble cast and iconic poster-riffing marketing campaign.

For those reasons, I was fully expecting a template-adhering rinse-and-repeat viewing experience this time around, with mankind once again forced to unify and fight back against the landmark-flattening, national holiday-interrupting, seemingly-invincible alien invaders. While that does happen (of course), I was pleasantly surprised to find Resurgence not resting on its laurels by offering up a surprisingly progressive status quo for humanity, post-first contact. Our close encounter has lead to a technologically-advanced society which has implemented dedicated Earth Space Defence programs both on our planet and the Moon.

While a lot of familiar faces – or at least names, in the case of now-matured offspring, Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) and Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher) – are back for more alien ass kicking, it was admirable to see that the intervening 20 years hadn’t been an easy ride of whooping and back-patting for the heroes of the resistance. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) has noticeably deteriorated into a confused, frail state, while Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) has been preserved in a coma ever since being used as an alien ventriloquist puppet. Will Smith’s unfortunate absence is explained away as a test flight tragedy, upholding Captain Hiller’s legacy.

Considering ID4’s optimistic sunshine tone, such doom and gloom is a refreshing change of gear, adding character-enhancing levity to the smashing CG-spectacle. Even headstrong new boy, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) hasn’t had it easy: orphaned, frustrated and fearful of being reacquainted with best mate, Dylan, following an air force training mishap nearly killed Hiller Junior.

This is not to say there isn’t still spades of the original film’s memorably amiable banter and chucklesome asides, with motor-mouths Charlie Ritter (Travis Tope) and Floyd Rosenberg (Nicolas Wright) providing their fair share of giggles by bouncing off their straight-men supporting cast. Plus Jeff Goldblum’s assured return and wry delivery never fails to raise a smile every time computer expert David Levinson is on screen.

Sure, you could argue that Judd Hirsch’s school bus-stealing subplot is strictly superfluous, while Vivia A. Fox is given desperately short shrift. Plus not every gag lands, but you cannot write Resurgence off as unentertaining – especially not when it is so willing to jovially tip its cap to its own history with its tongue firmly in check (“You’re even saving the dog?!”).

Since its release last Thursday, I have read a fair few less than complimentary reviews attacking Resurgence’s shallow and repetitive nature and I really couldn’t disagree more! I’m sure even Emmerich and his story writers will concede that the science jargon is bunkum, but this is not lazy or unintelligent filmmaking by any means, with an advanced aesthetic (often evoking Prometheus), resource-stealing motivation for the antagonists and an additional enemy-of-my-enemy tributary teasing a tantalising intergalactic threequel.

It’s busy, bombastic, stakes-raising, speaker-shattering, large-scale eye candy, but if you had a blast cheering on Will Smith and co. through mouthfuls of popcorn and fizzy pop in 1996, I guarantee you’ll still find plenty to love here in this steady and spectacular sequel. Don’t listen to the naysayers who are determined to convince themselves this is a wipe-out: I hereby declare Independence Day: Resurgence a triumph!

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Advertisements

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (Cinema Review)

MANDATORY VIEWING

On a bitterly cold November Saturday afternoon I squeezed myself into one of only three remaining seats in the biggest screen of my nearest multiplex to watch another Young Adult literary adaptation come to a close with a financially-motived two-part finale.

Sandwiched in the winter release schedule between two all-conquering, long-running franchise juggernauts (Bond in October and Star Wars in December), it is easy to forget how eagerly-anticipated Mockingjay – Part 2 was before Spectre and The Force Awakens stole all the column inches.

But being an underdog never stopped Katniss Everdeen (J-Law) before, and it seems audiences have stuck around to see her war against a brutal, dystopian system come to a head. Or should that be “point”?

With fellow victor of the 74th Hunger Games, Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), brainwashed against her cause, Katniss defies the wishes of District 13 leader Alma Coin (Moore; never severe enough) and leads a group of gun-toting revolutionaries – including best-friend-and-potential-lover Gale (Hemsworth), camera director Cressida (Dormer) and a volatile Peeta (for propaganda’s sake) – into Panem’s Capitol to capture the barbaric President Snow (Sutherland) and end his reign of terror.

Opening with a surprisingly low-key but satisfyingly metaphoric scene of a voiceless Katniss croaking through the pain of a strangling at Peeta’s Capitol-controlled hand, returning director Francis Lawrence perfectly bridges the short gap between Parts 1 and 2 without need for flashbacks or recaps, before things kick in to overdrive.

Under attack, Katniss’s “Star Squad” descends underground to avoid a multitude of Snow’s covertly-placed “pods”. These booby traps are the most overt attempt to shamelessly replicate the game template of the first novel (already lazily rehashed in #2, Catching Fire), but thankfully Finnick Odair (Claflin) acknowledges this similarity with an ironic quip before things move on.

The action is explosive, entertaining, varied, often scary and relentless, which is impressive given how screenplay writers Craig and Strong have expanded half a story into a 137min epic. The running time whizzes along despite the presence of political factors which threaten to grind the story to a halt. Unfortunately, the pace does slows to a crawl in the third act, before a low-key coda closes this grandiose spectacle with a personal-but-underwhelming whimper which never attempts to depict how Katniss’s actions have affected Panem’s future.

Crucially, however, this is not enough to detract too heavily from this fourth instalment’s strengths, and I was pleased with many of the stylistic choices. Thankfully the ever-expanding cast means that the uncomfortably bizarre feline-featured Tigris (Bondurant) is reduced to two fleeting scenes in what is a sombre and darkly-toned film which all but grey-scales the colourful palette which swamped the earlier films in gaudy excess.

While The Hunger Games is too bleak and dour to ever be my favourite literary or cinematic saga (the ridiculous spellings also add a level of disconnect which does not sit well with me), Mockingjay – Part 2 is confident and spectacular enough to do justice to Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy and keep the franchise ever in the fans’ favour.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars