Friday, June 24, 2016

An Alternate Reality #12: I saw IDR...

Whether one admits it or not, “Independence Day” (aka, “ID4”) is a blatant knock-off of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. That sets it alongside other film versions, official and unofficial, such as “War of the Worlds ’53” and its '86 television-series sequel; plus the three adaptations that hit in ’05 (of which one spawned a direct-to-disc sequel); “War of the Worlds Goliath” (an animated companion piece to the novel); “Invaders from Mars ’53 and ‘86”; “Mars Attacks”; “The Mysterians”, “Earth vs the Flying Saucers”  and well, you get the picture.

As an unofficial remake, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's “ID4” was one of the biggest to come down the pike, though some would argue it polarized audiences as to whether it was the best or worst of its kind. Still, it seemed the epic would have spawned a sequel much sooner than twenty years down the line.

Nonetheless, director Emmerich's “Independence Day: Resurgence” ("IDR") is finally here, offering an alternate, present-day reality, based on the notion that we did, indeed, defeat hostile extraterrestrials via a computerized virus (a play upon Wells' biological version). Regardless of this monumental accomplishment (and that Earth has since incorporated alien technology into everyday life), more creepy creatures are on the way, responding to a stress call that the original invaders transmitted. The question is, can Earth repeat its clever success against its aspiring conquerors?

Our heroes (some old, some new) are determined to repeat the historic outcome, and leading the technological charge is none other than the calculating engineer, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), now director of the Earth Space Defense Program. Per the script (by Emmerich, Devlin, Nicholas Wright and James A. Woods), the scientist eagerly engages the task, with his always encouraging father, Julius (Judd Hirsh) in the consistent backdrop. However, the magnitude of the new tentacled vanguard (led by a gigantic, revenge-thirsty queen) is all the most discouraging, considering there are more monsters now to face. 

Former President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is well aware of what's about to come down, and as in "ID4", he finds the mettle to stand up to the invaders. Though Levinson may occupy the story's center, it's Whitmore's steely pledge to fight yet again that steals the show, inspiring all participants to mount their fortitude. (Sela Ward's President Lanford also pushes the folks along, but in the shadow of the legendary Whitmore, she's at best an honorable johnny-come-lately in this second great war of the worlds.)

Joining the struggle is ace pilot Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher), son of Steven Hiller (portrayed by Will Smith in the original), who we learn was killed in a test-run mishap. Dylan's mom, Jasmine Dubrow (Vivica A. Fox), gives the lad ample support to follow in his crackerjack dad's footsteps, though the youth also gets friendly competition from Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), whose parents perished in the initial invasion. (Guiding their zeal is William Fichtner's General Joshua Adams, who projects a far more reserved, though no less resolute approach to combating the enemy.)

To offset the militaristic zeal, Area 51 expert, Dr. Brakish Okum (Brent Spiner) re-enters the saga (after awakening from a long, prophetic-dipped coma), exuding a conspicuously comical awe toward the unsettling circumstances, but then, what science-fiction blockbuster doesn't need at least one such individual to instill some levity?

Alas, though the leads are identifiable (and are supported by likable characters portrayed by Angelababy; Ryan Cartwright; Charlotte Gainsbourg; DeOloia Grace; Chin Han; Maika Monroe; John Storey; Patrick St. Esprit; and Travis Tope), their mission-driven presence mirrors that of the first film almost to a fault. Like "Starship Troopers" or the alien-modified "Battleship", "IDR" becomes an attain-victory-at-all-costs adventure, with minimal depth and social commentary, differing in this respect from Wells' allegorical novel, which scorned imperialistic conquest. 

Also, though "IDR" teases us with several subplots for its primaries, it never explores such to the extent it could, focusing instead on rapid-fire dogfights and dizzying, global explosions. Such gloss serves its purpose well, but also becomes achingly superfluous. A clever means to defeat the invaders also gets lost in the obstreperous cacophony, making the path toward victory mundane for this type of epic, even when help emerges from an unearthly, left-field source. 

By the time the credits roll, one will likely label "IDR" the proverbial popcorn movie, equipped with familiar friends and scenarios: a compliment in one sense, but a jab in another, if only for the predictability it implies. "IDR" is, therefore, one of many in a long line: a Wells tribute that's satisfying while it lasts, but by war's end falls short of being the best of its kind. 

No comments:

Post a Comment