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Independence Day: Resurgence

2,436 words

IDResurgence [1]The hostile aliens in Independence Day view the planets they conquer simply as repositories for resources. They move to a planet, crush the resistance, then drill to the planet’s core to suck up what’s available and move on, leaving a hollow husk floating in space.

This is an apt metaphor for how culture is produced today. The impact of Social Justice Warriors and multiculturalism makes it difficult [2] to create anything genuinely new. So filmmakers rely on already established franchises which can be mined and drained until all the nostalgia is gone. Then they move on to something else, leaving a hulk behind.

So it is with Independence Day: Resurgence, the lame sequel to the 1996 summer blockbuster.

The first film occupies an interesting place in American culture, as it was made before the global market became the driving force behind these kinds of movies. Thus, there’s a vague sense of American patriotism. It’s America which leads the human race. The belief America will always be there to “save the world” is best expressed by the British officer who, when informed of a proposed American counter-offensive, responds “Well it’s about bloody time – what do they intend to do? [3]

The destruction of American landmarks and cities is meant to be shocking and meaningful rather than simply spectacle. (Of course, one also recalls the scattered reports [4] of audiences cheering when the White House got blown up.) The power of the American military and its nuclear arsenal are also celebrated, even when they initially prove useless against the threat. This is the military Americans want to believe they have – dedicated servicemen, futuristic command centers deep underground, awe inspiring amounts of firepower, and a benign Deep State policing the world. Randy Quaid’s redneck character is played for laughs, but also goes out a hero. And in 1996, only a few years after the First Gulf War and before the attacks of September 11, this view of muscular Americanism made sense.

The speech [5] from “President Thomas J. Whitmore” (can there be a more traditionally “presidential” name?) which defined the first film completely lacked irony. It talked about uniting mankind, but led by America and looking to American holidays as the glue which would hold together the species.

(And in terms of pure style, as this is written in the aftermath of #Brexit, one can’t view that clip without thinking of Boris Johnson’s speech the night before the recent referendum.)

Of course, below the surface, you could see the subversion. It is after all, Will Smith playing a “stereotypical swaggering black guy” and Jeff Goldblum playing “stereotypical neurotic Jewish guy with even more neurotic Jewish dad” who save the world while gung ho white goys flounder about. Will Smith’s success was so great he eventually cut a rap song about the coming “Willennium,” not imaging he’d be best known as the father of some kind of a tranny clickbait kid [6] here in our Current Year.

In the novelization, Jerusalem is destroyed but Mecca is heroically saved, presaging the phenomenon in 2012 where only non-Islamic holy sites can be destroyed cinematically. And President Whitmore is apparently a gun control supporting Democrat. (Which means Vivica A. Fox’s character voted for a Republican in the previous film. Not very likely in our [7] world.)

In Independence Day: Resurgence, there’s a more global outlook. As you might expect, though separate countries exist, there haven’t been any wars since the “War of ‘96” and there’s a global defense force to protect us from the aliens, who everyone assume are coming back. In an obvious play for the Chinese market, the commander of the defense outpost on the moon is Chinese, the Chinese are praised as the key force behind space defenses, a female Chinese pilot serves as the love interest for one of the Americans, and there are some snippets of dialogue in Chinese which take place without subtitles.

Interestingly, humanity has used the captured alien technology to improve both our military and domestic capabilities. This is convenient because it avoids the problem of “alien motherships compatible with Windows 95” from the last film and also explains how human pilots can effortlessly fly alien fighters in this film. Unfortunately, we don’t get much more than a snapshot of this global society which is both devastated by war and dramatically more advanced before the aliens blow it all up again.

The film barely bothers with characterization, dumping a pile of people on us that we don’t care about unless they were in the first film. Will Smith’s character, Captain Steven Hiller, dies in a “test flight” before the film so his stepson Dylan is the token black pilot. He’s the golden boy of the service, but actor Jessie Usher is a lightweight who lacks any screen presence.

Hiller has a rivalry with Jake Morrison, who is the real Will Smith stand in in this film, played by a blustering Liam Hemsworth, desperately trying to get out of real life fiancée Miley Cyrus’s shadow. (What kind of a man, let alone a Hollywood leading man, would pledge himself to Miley Cyrus?) Hemsworth’s Jake Morrison is the latest in a long history of Hollywood military officers who can endanger their comrades’ lives, flout regulations, steal property, and generally behave in a manner that would have you dishonorably discharged and probably imprisoned in the real American military.

His fiancée is the “munchkin” of the first film, President Whitmore’s daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe). Mercifully, there’s no interracial love triangle, despite some odd looks between Patricia and Captain Hiller. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) himself is back, doing his best imitation of Batman from The Dark Knight Rises, as he hobbles around with a cane and a crazy man beard for most of the film before shaving and then magically becoming good as new when it’s time to do something.

Jeff Goldblum, playing Jeff Goldblum as always, returns as David Levinson with Judd Hirsch reprising his caricature of a Jewish father. Charlotte Gainsbourg of Nymphomania, daughter of Culture of Critique case study Serge Gainsbourg [8], is Goldblum’s new love interest, but she’s clearly here just to pick up a paycheck. The film also gives us another pseudo-Goldblum, a nebbishy character named “Floyd Rosenberg” who finds his manhood by helping an African warlord slaughter aliens.

The “crazy scientist” you thought was killed in the first film is back for this one, and it turns out he’s gay for another one of the Area 51 scientists. Though it’s not aggressively promoted, director Roland Emmerich, a politically active homosexual, admitted last year the inclusion of a gay couple [9] in the film is a deliberate attempt to subvert moral norms and part of a larger process.

We have a gay couple in the film. We don’t make a big deal out of it. You start small and then you get bigger and bigger and bigger, and one day you have a gay character as the lead and nobody will wonder at it no more. But we’re not there yet. It’s really interesting, you know, when you go to a studio and say it’s [the lead] character and it’s a $150 million or $160 million film — they will not allow it. But when you have five characters, they allow [one of them to be gay] because they’re super-smart, you know?

Independence Day: Resurgence seems less like a coherent Narrative than a convoluted collection of subplots, a shortcoming not helped by some of the worst editing of any film in history. “Call of Cthulhu” style, a number of characters around the world are having visions of a certain symbol linked to the alien attack. Among them are ex-President Whitmore and an African warlord. Goldblum and Gainsbourg’s characters are consulting this warlord because he and his father’s army fought off alien ground forces from the one ship that landed in the last movie. Why the rest of the world apparently abandoned these poor Africans to singlehandedly fight off a ground invasion by futuristic aliens is unexplained.

Just before a celebration honoring the victory in ’96, a ship approaches the Earth and is promptly blown up by our new space laser. Some of our heroes use a space “tug” to grab a critical piece of wreckage from the destroyed ship and bring it back to Earth. But not before encountering the real threat, as the villains show up in a different, 3,000 mile long spaceship. In a sequence I still don’t fully understand, the alien ship proceeds to suck up parts of Asian cities and then dump them on London from the sky.

Having learned nothing from the first war, we try a massive air attack which doesn’t get through their shields. Subtly paving the way for Hillary in the same way Deep Impact and 24 paved the way for Obama, there is a female President. But she gets blasted with the rest of the national leadership, though not before growling defiantly at the aliens “there will be no peace.” For some reason, a general (character actor William Fichtner) then becomes President, which lets us have a cool militaristic United States government, which, once again, announces to the rest of the world that we will lead the last attack in some crazy scheme. However, both he and President Whitmore’s big speeches are focused on the need for global unity – we are all “one people.”

Meanwhile, as they apparently did before, the aliens are digging into the Earth’s core – if they get to the core, the plant will be destroyed. Through various twists and turns, we figure out the first ship that approached was actually from another alien civilization, this time, a friendly one at war with the aliens who attacked us. Luckily, they had uploaded their entire consciousness to computers and the wreckage that was recovered, a kind of floating robot thing that reminded me of a spherical Wall-E, contains their sentience. We didn’t accidently murder anyone, so no harm, no foul.

This friendly species is now leading the interstellar resistance to the same aliens who keep attacking Earth. The hostile aliens see this species as a dire threat to them, thus explaining the various visions being experienced by humans who have made a mental connection with the hostile aliens.

With minutes before the aliens tap our world’s core, the humans bait the “queen” of the aliens into attacking Area 51, where the sphere is being stored. President Whitmore heroically sacrifices himself by blowing up the queen’s ship. Somehow, the queen survives this because the creature has its own shield, leading to an absurd Godzilla-esque scene with a giant rampaging alien trying to smash into Area 51 to try to kill this spherical robotic collective consciousness. As you might expect, the audience was deeply confused by this point.

Luckily, Whitman’s daughter and the survivors from the failed air attack show up and manage to blast the alien queen apart from the air. Why are the smaller weapons on an airborne platform more effective than setting off a giant fusion bomb right next to the thing? Lol, nothing matters.

In any event, the head alien is eventually killed. As every alien species in every movie is the same, when the queen dies, the alien ships drop from the sky, and humanity is saved.

The first film managed to create a certain creeping suspense and premonition of doom as the alien craft moved from city to city. The American government fled from place to place as defeat seemed certain. Here, the destruction comes all at once and is so vast and sudden it’s all but incomprehensible. While there was a sense of awe seeing a landmark being blown apart in 1996, now you feel nothing about whole continents being destroyed. And judging from the reviews, most other people are similarly unmoved.

It’s not just bad filmmaking. There’s a certain sense of belonging and identity which has been lost even since 1996. The old symbols and landmarks just don’t have the same meaning except to serve as backdrops in some spectacle of CGI. Obviously, we don’t have giant starships nuking entire continents with gravity weapons. But we see terrorist attacks causing havoc in global cities like London, Brussels, and Paris, and in the end, it has no real significance. Aside from a few hours of a trending hashtag, nothing changes, especially not immigration policy, and we all get back to shopping.

The death toll in this film is far higher than in the first film. But unlike in the first film, it seems devoid of significance. There is one scene where Dylan Hiller sees his mother literally plunge to her death in a scene reminiscent of 9/11. But this potentially tragic scene is immediately followed up with Hobbit style goofy action sequences as the Jewish father caricature rides an impossibly large tidal wave on his small boat for comic effect.

The gay scientist mourns when his partner is killed by aliens near the end of the film. But he sees to have recovered his spirits sufficiently a few minutes to give the cringe inducing line at the end of the film – “we’re going to kick some alien ass!”

The “good” aliens are making us the leaders of the interstellar resistance and giving us more core technology and weapons. So it’s time for another movie, as this time we take the fight to them. I don’t know what forces we will use to launch a galactic invasion as I’m pretty sure all of Eurasia has been wiped out. The Eastern Seaboard is gone too. No one in the movie seems to care, so we shouldn’t either.

After all, anyone who says the people of the world are just “one people” is virtue signaling – no one actually believes it. And we’re not even fighting in defense of the human species anymore but some vague multi-species galactic alliance. As in The Avengers [10], it’s hard to determine what is actually being pushed except a poorly defined globalism.

The film begins with clips from President Whitmore’s “Independence Day” speech from the last film, and it ends with a poorly disguised teaser for the next one. Nostalgia is thus used to prep the way for a larger, mediocre franchise. 1996’s Independence Day was a big dumb action movie, but it kept you interested, and it was sincere on its own terms. Resurgence is a spectacle for the post-national Economic Man. And because it is purely a spectacle instead of a story, it fails. It’s just a product, and not a very good one. The film is pushing some subversion, but it’s practically an afterthought. In the end, Resurgence really is just sound, fury, and CGI signifying nothing – except the hope for big returns in the foreign markets.