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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Independence Day: Resurgence movie review: Precis of Report on Readiness of Planet YD56201.3 to Join Galactic Alliance

Independence Day Resurgence red light

The Invitation Committee fears that this fictional popular entertainment reflects Human tendencies to illogic, lack of imagination, and rank sentimentality.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): loved the first film

I’m “biast” (con): didn’t need a sequel

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The Invitation Committee of the Most Venerable Galactic Alliance of Estimable Sentient Species has now completed its initial 4-GY (local time: 21.563 solar cycles) observation of Planet YD56201.3 (local designation: Earth; sentient species: Humans), and begs to submit its findings to the Executive Council.

In the sort of coincidence that the Invitation Committee has encountered before — and which is typically not truly coincidental at all but usefully illustrative of a potential member species’ inherent constitution and culture — our observation period was bracketed by the appearance of two chapters in a “movie” series devoted to an “alien invasion” scenario. (See Appendix 145.B for a detailed explanation of “movie.” In short, a type of popular entertainment fiction intended to appeal to a planetwide audience.) Gathered under the joint title of Independence Day, with the second movie, or “sequel,” subtitled Resurgence, these fictions tell the story of how Humans — who had previously been in galactic isolation, as they remain in reality — mount a military response to the arrival of an aggressive “alien,” or non-Human, species in their planetary space. The title is an allusion to a war fought among two prominent “nations,” or Human political subgroups, centuries earlier. See Appendix 87.C for an analysis of how one of these subgroups has just rejected an early attempt at planetary cohesion known as the “European Union,” which takes Humans several steps back from full species unification, the basic initial minimum requirement for Alliance membership. This alone disqualifies Planet YD56201.3 from being extended an invitation to join the Galactic Alliance at this time, but the Invitation Committee sees potential in this speciestweet, and has a suggestion for guiding their further development.

As typified by Independence Day and Independence Day: Resurgence, imaginings of encounters with “aliens,” and in particular wars fought against them, are a very popular subgenre of entertainment fictions on Planet YD56201.3, and the first such Independence Day movie was received extremely well around the planet. (As of this writing, it is too soon to make any suppositions about the global popularity of Resurgence. See Appendices V1 and V2 for the full movies themselves.) The Invitation Committee concedes to finding the first chapter in this story highly amusing in its ridiculousness, but sees worrying indications of Humans’ negative propensities in the second movie in particular.

As noted by the Invitation Committee, this would never be permitted to occur anywhere in the Galactic Alliance, even among unallied planets/species. The Invitation Committee grants, however, that it looks cool.

As noted by the Invitation Committee, this would never be permitted to occur anywhere in the Galactic Alliance, even among unallied planets/species. The Invitation Committee grants, however, that it looks cool.tweet

Resurgence is set 20 years (local time) after Humans rebuffed a planetwide attack by its first visitors from elsewhere in the galaxy, which has prompted Humans to band together as a species to ensure its survival. While this is an appealing vision, it remains fictional, as noted above, yet it also speaks to the Humans’ capacity to imagine such a thing for themselves. Contrarily, however, there is a rather shocking lack of imagination when it comes to envisaging the state of the galaxy itself. It may be forgivable that Humans leap to create fictions about violent non-Human civilizations: given their state of galactic isolation, their own civilization is the only example they have, and it is still in its aggressive juvenile stage; Humans have no way of knowing that a species such as the one they battle in these movies would never be allowed to roam the galaxy unhindered. But the fictional Humans of Resurgence demonstrate a wholly unreasonable inability to deal with even the Galactic realpolitik as they have fictionalized it. The movie begins with the arrival of what is clearly another “alien” species at planet Earth’s doorstep, and investigation of what this species might represent is delayed in favor of celebrating the anniversary of the defeat of the earlier invasion as depicted in the first movie. The Invitation Committee was cheered to see that in Independence Day, Humans, a species known to react violently to anything that confounds it or surprises it, welcomed its unexpected non-Human visitors with open arms, and resorted to violence only once it was attacked. We worry now that Resurgence embraces a Human tendency to basic illogic: this new “alien” may be either a new threat or a source of help and hope to the fictional Humans of Resurgence, and yet their leaders seem to feel no urgency whatsoever to discover which may be the case even though either would appear to be vital to determine.

Unlike hive-mind species, Humans do not think in lockstep, and the two “heroes” of Resurgence, a scientist and a military pilot, decide to investigate the new species on their own. This plot, however, only exacerbates the lack of imagination that characterizes Resurgence: it follows a very similar path to that of Independence Day, including many of the same dramatic sequences, visual elements, and lines of dialogue, even when such things make little sense. (One character, for instance, takes time to attend to purely decorative personal needs with regards to the hair on his head and face at a moment when time is allegedly of the essence and the fate of the entire planet is at stake, and only so that he may replicate a speech considered iconic from the first movie even though there is no reason for him to be speaking at all. The Invitation Committee is baffled by this and fears that it indicates a literally dangerous vanity and frivolity on the part of Humans.tweet) It is as if the moviemaker decided to clone Independence Day to create Resurgence, and, as we all know, cloning is never a good idea; replication errors inevitably occur and are amplified.

A Human female character in Resurgence attempts to calculate how she may escape being bestowed upon a male character as a sexual reward for his heroism. (The Invitation Committee is joking. She does not realize that this will be her fate.)

A Human female character in Resurgence attempts to calculate how she may escape being bestowed upon a male character as a sexual reward for his heroism. (The Invitation Committee is joking. She does not realize that this will be her fate.)tweet

A further lack of imagination is noted in the movie’s inability to conceive of one essential aspect of species unification: one between the genders (Humans have two). Humans have not yet moved past the inequality between the genders that is often, but not always, exhibited in multigendered species, one that has been overcome prior to overall species unification (as between political subgroups such as Humans have in “nations”) across all species known to the Alliance. The concept of gender equality is clearly not unknown to Humans, as feints are made toward it in Resurgence, as with a female political leader and two female military pilots, both functions previously seen as exclusive domains of the male of the species. Yet these female characters serve only token roles in the drama, and all are either comparatively ineffectual compared to the male characters, removed from the plot without ever having made much impact on it, relegated to the status of sexual rewards for the male heroes, or multiples of these. (The Invitation Committee wonders whether it might be worth setting a new precedent and inviting only the female Humans to join the Alliance; evidence extraneous to this precis suggests a level of solidarity among Human women across subgroups that Human men have not achieved — see Appendix 2957.S — though the practical application of such a move eludes us.)

The Invitation Committee does not seek to function as arts critics with regards to Resurgence — though, c’mon, Liam Hemsworth is not a suitable replacement for Will Smith, and even Jeff Goldblum is unable to adequately substitute for himself here — but we are deeply concerned about the rank and unnecessary sentimentality on display in this movie. While we may have found it frankly ludicrous that the “aliens” of Resurgence are attempting to slurp out the molten core of Earth as if it were some sort of delicious confection, the makers of Resurgence clearly did not believe that threatening the actual geological integrity of the entire planet constituted high enough stakes to engage the audience. At the height of the drama, when Planet YD56201.3 is on the verge of total annihilation, we are invited not to be concerned that all life on this planet will be extinguished, but merely that a busload of children plus one “dog” are endangered. (“Dogs” are small- to medium-sized, often fluffy semisentient companion animals; see Appendix 51305.K for a detailed explanation of their importance to Humans.) If this emotional and logical narrowness is indicative of Humans’ general response to danger — and we are forced to conclude that the purveyor of a popular entertainment must know such things — the Alliance should be very uneasy about the species’ fitness to join a galactic culture that demands a very wide cultural and scientific perspective.

The Invitation Committee is in unanimous agreement that Human Jeff Goldblum requires a new professional advocate, or “agent” (perhaps the same one Will Smith employs).

The Invitation Committee is in unanimous agreement that Human Jeff Goldblum requires a new professional advocate, or “agent” (perhaps the same one Will Smith employs).tweet

Conclusion: Planet YD56201.3 is too immature a civilization to yet warrant invitation to join the Galactic Alliance. However, it may be suitable for use as target practice by one of the affiliate member species still working through its aggressive phase yet too incompetent to represent a genuine threat. We suggest perhaps the inhabitants of Planet YD3628.4 (local designation: Gzzakrtatkiay, commonly known throughout the galaxy as the Puffy-Carapaced Hug Monsters), whose “planet killer” weapon lacks sufficient destructive power to raze more than a backyard garden. Defeat at the hands of Humans may finally convince them of the fruitlessness of their violent ways, while simultaneously prompting Humans to unite as a species and thereby begin to meet requirements for Alliance membership.

Full report, appendices, and evidentiary supporting materials follow.

red light 1.5 stars

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Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
US/Can release: Jun 24 2016
UK/Ire release: Jun 23 2016

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate threat, action violence, moderate bad language)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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