Independence Day : Resurgence Review

2016 is looking like the year of unnecessary sequels. With Zoolander 2, Absolutely Fabulous and Jason Bourne all coming out this year, it’s cementing the old, tired adage of Hollywood not having any new ideas. But, here we go, with another film that’s over twenty years old getting a sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence.

Independence Day: Resurgence stars Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie Usher and is directed by Roland Emmerich. Set twenty years after the first film, the aliens that Earth defended against come back, with more resolve to destroy the planet this time.

I wasn’t that big a fan of the first Independence Day. I’m not a fan of disaster movies in general, I find them boring for the most part. So it was with great reluctance that I went to see Independence Day: Resurgence (titled in the great tradition of “Name of film, colon, ominous sounding word beginning with RE”). I’ll try and be professional about this, but I’m just calling my biases out beforehand, just to be open.

You would think if it was a film set twenty years after the original film, they might add in some new characters. While they do put some new characters in, they are all intrinsically linked back to the older characters, most of which look like their coming back for the paycheck. The problem with having so many characters though is that none of them get enough screen time. Most of the new ones get only the basest of character development, where something could have been added, especially to Jessie Usher’s character, who is the son of Will Smith’s character from the original. The older characters as well have script issues, with going from rivals to best friends without anything in between.

The abundance of characters leads me onto the second problem I have with the film, the editing. Not in a camera/cinematography way, more in terms of the story. Independence Day: Resurgence suffers from “The Phantom Menace Effect”. The Phantom Menace‘s last third switches from tragedy to comedy to action too quickly, the emotional tones of the film are all messed up. Independence Day: Resurgence has this same problem in its final act. It jumps between six different scenes, each with differing emotional changes, with the film feeling inconsistent at best and jarring at worst. It’s even worse when people start dying, most aren’t given proper due, so it feels anticlimactic.

The only really shining light through all of it is Jeff Goldblum. He has some funny lines (which really is saying something, this script is full of weak jokes and “comedic” characters) and he looks like he’s having fun while everyone else is just there. But that’s Jeff Goldblum, you get what you pay for. It would have been better if Will Smith had returned though. His double act with Goldblum is one of the reasons why the first Independence Day is loved and I think that it would have supplied a lot of the charm that is missing.

If you are looking for a film filled with mindless fun then you’ve come to the right place. Roland Emmerich is the guy who directed The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 and White House Down, along with the original Independence Day. If anyone knows how to create big explosions on screen while supplying a melodramatic and cheesy script, it’s this guy. But sadly, Independence Day isn’t that good a film. It just stands there, lamenting it’s glory days, saying “Hey kids, I was kind of great once.”

Score: 4/10 Big, loud, CGI-filled, but just not that fun or memorable.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review

I really have no prior experience with The Hunger Games franchise. I have never read the books and only saw the first in the film franchise (I was only half watching it as well). So in preparation for The¬†Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 I have been on a Hunger Games crash course so I’ll know what’s happening in the new film (crash course here means reading the Wikipedia pages). So now I’m basically up to speed, let’s get on with it.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore and is directed by Francis Lawrence. The film follows on from Mockingjay Part 1, as figurehead of the resistance Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) attempts to free the citizens of Panem from the tyranny of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Just like the Marvel films of 2014, if you aren’t a huge fan of The Hunger Games series then you’ll have to probably go back and watch Mockingjay Part 1 so that you are up to date with the plot. Mockingjay Part 2 starts abruptly and doesn’t stop for people who don’t know the story, leaving me for the first few minutes trying to remember what I had learnt of the series and where we were in terms of the story. This may be due to the split in films, as they were made back to back they probably fit well together but as a standalone piece you really need to be on board before it starts.

Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t seem to display much emotion through the film, but thematically it makes sense. At this point in the series she’s the poster-girl for the rebel forces and is starting to get sick of not being allowed to fight alongside her friends. She’s become jaded and distant, a cold blooded-killer, and Lawrence plays it well. The rest of the cast play their parts well, but none of them are truly standout roles.

As Panem is in full revolutionary war, the fight scenes are really quite spectacular. One scene that stand out in particular is set in the dark tunnels underneath the Capitol, and is reminiscent of the xenomorph stampede in Aliens, with a motion tracker constantly beeping, indicating monsters in the darkness that wait at just the right time to strike at our heroes. The film actually plays these moments of tension build-up much better than films usually do, toying with the timing of revealing the monsters just to milk our expectations. Another battle that happens near the end of the film which shows the true civilian cost of war is a good gut-punch of a scene that really brought the grittiness to the screen.

That was all I really enjoyed of Mockingjay Part 2. Some people might say, “Well, you don’t know the franchise”. True, but Mockingjay’s faults are not due to its franchise, and more to do with it as a standalone film. First off, some of the script is laughably bad. There are some incredibly weak lines and situations throughout the film, including a poor attempt at survivors guilt on the part of Lawrence which feels totally out of place.

In connection with script, it seems that everyone who isn’t Katniss is wearing a countdown clock, counting down the seconds until they die to try an feel the film with some sort of emotional appeal. Maybe I’ve got too good at this, but I was able to say which characters were not going to make it to the end of the film around ten minutes into Mockingjay Part 2, and I don’t even know this series.

The spectre that is hanging over the film is the sad loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman halfway through filming, and the film does an alright job of trying to fill in his role. Lines were re-shuffled and scenes were cut, but around the second half of the film there is a definite hole where his character was meant to be, and the small amount of CGI they use to bring him back to life is rather shoddy.

I conclusion, while it definitely has some problems in the story department, and is incredibly over-long (I could easily cut 30-40 minutes from the run time) Mockingjay Part 2 actually makes me want to go back to the earlier films, just to see how the franchise started.

Score: 6/10 Fleeting moments of brilliance, but it’s length drags it down.