Independence Day: Resurgence

Just last week I wrote an article/think piece about the production of Alice Through the Looking Glass questioning the decision to churn out a sequel six years after the success of the first film and how, with any fanfare for the first Alice film long since vanquished, it’s delayed production may be one of the reasons it imploded at the box office like a building made of wet Weetabix. Now we have the long awaited sequel to Independence Day, one of the most successful blockbusters of the 1990s, released twenty years after the original. Talk about taking your damn sweet time.

Its twenty years on since the aliens assault on earth and David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) continues to research the wreckage of the ships they left behind. In Africa he comes across a crashed vessel that has sent out a distress beacon calling for help. Meanwhile former President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is plagued by visions of the extra-terrestrials and believes they are coming back. When this turns out to be the case a new team of young fighter pilots made up of Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), the one who doesn’t follow the rules, Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), daughter of former President Thomas and Jake’s fiancé, Charlie Miller (Travis Tope), the nerdy one, Rain Lao (Angelababy), the woman the nerdy one has a crush on and Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher), the one with the unenviable task of having to try and replace Will Smith. Teaming up with a frankly ridiculous number of characters, some new and some returning, they attempt to stop the Alien queen from conquering Earth.

From the off Independence Day: Resurgence is bombastically ridiculous, which isn’t necessarily a negative, it happily positions itself in an anti-logical realm where worrying about plot contrivances is pointless and as long as things are going boom and everyone times there one-liners correctly we’ll get through this without too much pain. It’s not as good as its predecessor, with twice as many characters diluting the screen time of the ensemble it’s difficult to grow particularly attached to most of the newbies that are introduced. Goldblum’s manic weirdness continues to be fun to watch but what the film really lacks is Will Smith’s charismatic presence. You would happily swap all of the new characters the film introduces for Smith’s character to put in a reappearance. Hemsworth gets the most screen time out of the newbies and as much as I wanted to appreciate his performance the macho I don’t follow the rules attitude and stoic delivery left a lot to be desired. The first film balanced its tone more effectively and there’s a criminally lacking amount of fun to be had with this feature. I get it’s the end of the world but a lighter tone would have been more effective, especially in a film as bombastically ridiculous as Independence Day: Resurgence. On a more pleasing note it was a welcome return from Bill Pullman, and Maika Monroe continues to enhance her reputation as a fine young actress with a compelling display as his daughter. However the scene stealer of the movie is Brent Spiner returning as Dr Brakish Okun, the eccentric doctor from the first film, his zesty display imbued the film with the kind of comic tone that the rest of the feature lacked and strangely his characters journey is undoubtedly the most fascinating of all the characters, which is bonkers considering the absurdly large size of the ensemble.

With a screenplay that doesn’t quite pack the punch of the original Independence Day this sequel isn’t quite what we would have hoped for, but as a light entertainment destruction-a-thon it contains enough raw energy and appeal to just about tip the scales as a fun summer blockbuster. They clearly wish to turn this into a franchise because, well obviously they do, which I can’t say I would mind as long as Roland Emmerich and company learn to lighten up a little.

3/5

Review wrought down by Alexander Halsall

Who do you think you are? – Suture (Blu ray review)

Originally released in 1993 Suture is a film exploring the conceit of identity, specifically between a pair of nearly identical brothers (portrayed by the Caucasian Michael Harris and African American Dennis Haysbert) who, despite clearly being about as identical as a pineapple and a watermelon, are in Suture, for practicalities sake, identical twins.

Having met at the funeral of their father Vincent invites his long lost brother Clay to his house under the guise of getting to know each other better. Unbeknownst to Clay his brother plans to murder him and is hoping the police will believe Clay’s body is his own so he can flee the country as he is under suspicion for the murder of their father. Clay survives the attempt on his life but loses his memories, whilst those around him believe he is Vincent and try to help him recollect who he is.

Suture is built around an interesting premise of what constitutes a person’s identity, how memories and dreams define our personality and how others around us perceive us to be. Clay’s conversations with a psychiatrist (Sab Shimono) in which he recounts his dreams are a curious attempt to explore the realm of the subconscious within are psychology, expressing that if we lose are conscious memories our subconscious always remains intact and will initiate the motivations of our true self. On the surface the casting of two such different looking men as brothers is a rather animated expression of exploring their differing identities but the performance of Haysbert delves into the psychological struggle of Clay in attempting to separate his own subconscious memories from Vincent Towers, the man all those around him contend him to be. Sadly Suture’s plot is slow and does little with the characters than to meander from repetitive conversation to repetitive conversation. Beyond the dreams and Haysbert’s portrayal we’re left with a dramatic void at times as the action continually stalls. The movie is also bookended by narration from Shimono’s character discussing what identity means, it’s forcefully redundant and lessens the impact of the otherwise fulfilling finale. Rather than being left to surmise the events of the film ourselves we are informed through narration what we should think about the narrative, thereby undercutting the movies thematic plot. Greg Gardiner’s cinematography keeps the movie from getting too stale or plodding and it’s not surprising to see that in the twenty odd years since Suture he has worked on dozens of high profile films following his fine work here. The decision to film in black and white gives Suture a sapped, ambiguous quality, as if we are spectating upon faint memories, and it enhances the action splendidly.

Suture presents Dennis Haysbert in one of his finest roles and he is supported ably by some fine work by the rest of the ensemble. Scott Mcgehee and David Siegel have clearly put a lot of love and hard work into making the film and their effort is not in vain as Suture explores some thought-provoking concepts. However the movie’s plot does strain following a well-paced first act and what is a rather short feature film does start to drag from the midway point until the finale. Despite these issues Suture satisfies and provokes a strong internal discussion that makes the film more than worthy enough to be remembered.

3/5

Review meticulously churned out by Alexander Halsall

Alice Through the Looking Glass – Some thoughts

When making a sequel it’s important to capitalise on the momentum of success. To keep the cycle of productions within a reasonable time of the original film otherwise you risk releasing a sequel no one wants or cares about. Sure, maybe the critics and fans are somewhat turned off by the Transformers films but they are released succinctly to capitalise on the full financial potential. I’m not saying I like either of these film series but it’s also not pleasurable to watch a creative team sink the best part of a year and a couple of hundred million dollars into something that is not only torn to shreds critically but is financially incontinent.

Six years have passed since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland a film which grossed over $1 billion worldwide and at the time of its release was the fifth highest grossing movie of all time (Not adjusted for inflation). It was not a particularly faithful translation of the Lewis Carroll novel and received a mixed response from its audiences. However with the re-popularisation of 3-D, a big name director at the helm and a high profile ensemble cast (Headed by Johnny Depp at his most box-office bankable) it turned over a massive profit and a sequel was almost inevitable. That it would take six years for production to churn out the next film in the Alice series (and almost certainly the last) was a fault that Disney has paid for exponentially.

Alice Through the Looking Glass feels like a film processed by committee, with Tim Burton unwilling to return as director the project was overtaken by James Bobin (Who has had some great successes in the past) but the story is a concoction of several unformed concepts. Alice now appears to be auditioning for a part in the next Pirates of the Caribbean film, there is the new character Time played by Sacha Baron Cohen (because when your plot is a complete mess the addition of time travel makes everything much easier to comprehend) and the continuation of the Hatter’s storyline which intertwines with the Red Queen’s storyline which intertwines with the White Queens storyline. All this amongst Alice attempting to be an independent woman in Victorian London having to deal with the sexism enforced on her by the cartoonishly silly Hamish Ascot. What I did enjoy about Alice Through the Looking Glass were the glimmers of potential, the concept of time and mortality being something we should cherish rather than disdain but it’s lost in the void of scenery chomping acting, a confusingly muddled screenplay and naïve series of resolutions.

Perhaps it’s pleasing to look at the tangled mess of a poorly designed sequel being squashed at the box office but it worries me that studios will get the wrong message. That instead of putting money towards more original projects they will double down on more “safe” projects such as further sequels, remakes and reboots. Just because a film is a sequel it isn’t necessarily an ill-conceived project, there are plenty of good sequels, but it’s growing so ludicrously out of hand that there are so few original films produced a year, especially big budget movies. As someone who is more willing than most to overlook the over saturation of sequels/remakes I’m hoping that the failure of lacklustre features such as Alice Through the Looking Glass, and last’s years flops Pan and Fant4stic, will promote a rethink in the repetitious nature of the production of blockbusters. On the plus side the highest grossing films of the year so far have included Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book and Zootropolis which have all been of a very high standard and hopefully the correlation between higher quality movie production and critical and financial success will prompt a revision of how mainstream films are developed. Here’s hoping.

(Also I would give Alice Through the Looking Glass 2/5. It’s a messy film with an occasional charm, just not occasional enough.)