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

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (DVD Review)

12 – 97mins – 2014 


 

DIGI-SHELL HEROES

Two years before Paul Feig powered up his proton pack for this summer’s unduly controversial girl-powered Ghostbusters reimagining, four more of my childhood action heroes received a big money, blockbuster makeover, courtesy of new rights holders Nickelodeon Movies and Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company. Cowabunga, dudes!

While Wrath of the Titans director Jonathan Liebesman’s half shell overhaul never received quite the same ferocity of fanboy fury as Feig’s fright-fighting femmes, there were still some contentious changes to the longstanding continuity which irked franchise purists (Sensai Splinter, for instance, was never a human fighting champion but a lab rat who learnt his ninja skills in the sewer), while the so-called aesthetic ‘realism’ of the mo-capped CG amphibians was rightfully lambasted as flat-out ugly.

“I’m a snapping turtle, fool!”

From humble comic book beginnings to animatronic live action movie stars (via countless small screen ventures), the sheer volume of conflicting incarnations the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have endured over their 35 year history has perhaps softened any shellshock I may feel towards any minor mutation to their origin story. However, I must confess to being impressed by the cohesion to the character’s backstory in Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Evan Daugherty’s script, with News Reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) made personally responsible for saving Leo, Donnie, Raph and Mikey from a lab fire at her father’s facility back in 1999.

This efficient streamlining extends to the villains of the piece, too, with human antagonist and billionaire CEO Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) established as April’s deceased pa’s former scientific colleague working towards “Project Renaissance”, with grill-chopped lead villain Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) their power-hungry, mutagen-mad boss. Now there is a driving force behind the degeneracy, rather than simply ‘because they’re bad guys.’ Sadly, Shredder’s overarching portrayal is reduced to mere faceless weapon, with his iconic caped-costumed excessively pimped out to make him look like a “Robot Samurai” in Transformers cosplay.

Elsewhere, the characterisation is strong, with the pizza lovin’, pop culture obsessed teenage bro’s distinctive personalities solidified early on (leader, brainbox, rebel, comic), leading to some sparkling banter. Megan Fox was certainly a curious casting choice for the usually ginger, yellow jumpsuit-wearing reporter, but she manages to keep the justice-chasing go-getter grounded and deliver more than just “a little froth,” while Channel 6 cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) is charmingly fleshed out as a nervous, hopeless flirt crushing on his leading lady.

Upon leaving the multiplex back in 2014 my response was one of apathy, but with a sequel surfing into cinemas at the end of the month I decided to take another trip to the sewers of NYC, and I liked hanging out with these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a shell of a lot more than I remembered.

“Tiramisu for everybody!”

I concede that it has a rather messy, hyperactive tone (“MC Mikey” can’t even ride in a lift without making some noise, while a camera-swooping cliff-drop set piece is constantly narrated by wisecracks) and its ‘gritty’ desire to detail large-scale devastation is elevated to Man of Steel proportions, but I was far more invested in these “fairytale vigilantes” second time around and found far more favourable factors than frustrating faults. I plan to revisit all of the motion picture outings in the lead-up to Out of the Shadows’ May 30th release, including 2007 CGI dud TMNT – wish me luck, compadres.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars