Sunday, February 9, 2014

In Case You Were Planning On It: Independence Day 2

Welcome to a new section of Underrated Heroes that I like to call "In Case You Were Planning On It" in which we take an idea that should never have been in your head in the first place, and explain why you shouldn't do it. This way you get to save yourself from losing some money, feeling disappointed, and hiding your face whenever said idea is mentioned in public. It also fulfills the court-mandated community service that many of our writers still haven't started, so we're looking at a win-win. First up: Independence Day 2.

The Obvious Reason:  No Will Smith

This sequel to the 1996 classic will not feature Will Smith.  Now before your mind takes you anywhere down the road of "Well it can still be a good movie without him.." go take a shower and in that shower think of the memorable moments of Independence Day:

1) Will Smith punching an alien in the face and quipping "Welcome to Earth!"

2) Will Smith dropping a virus from Jeff Goldblum's GameBoy into the mothership of an alien race with technical advancements thousands of years ahead of our comprehension and then barely making it out of the explosion.

Dat 1996 wifi speed.
3) Will Smith's dog jumping over cars to barely make it out of an explosion.

If Boomer here makes it into the sequel I may go see it.

4) Will Smith dancing down the aisle on his wedding day.

Yea, this is from the same movie.

I'm not saying these were the only memorable moments of the movie, but try to picture the movie without these moments. Will's character, both within and outside the script, add depth to this movie that, as much as I hate to say it, can't simply be filled in by The Rock.

Again, Will Smith was not the only star of the film by any means, but what he brought to the movie could not have been compensated by anyone else in the cast. His wit, his badass aura, the way he can make you relate to him in a circumstance that you will probably never be able to relate to, all gave the movie qualities that could not have been replaced by an abducted redneck or former rabbi.

The Other Obvious Reason:  Aliens Are Played Out

Sure, movies about alien invasion have been made since The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951. But none of these movies were quite as balanced as Independence Day. It had the goofiness of Mars Attacks!. It had the horror of Alien. It had the action of Predator. It begged the question of "What if we really aren't alone?" as well as any movie in the alien genre, yet stood out with its ability to still make me feel patriotic watching it even as the NSA monitors my viewing habits.

But more importantly, it was the first to successfully combine all of these elements. Since Independence Day, there have been good alien movies that focused just on action and humor (Men in Black) and some that zone in on the mystery surrounding the idea of extraterrestrial life (Signs, Super 8).
Men in Black
But since Independence Day, most ventures into the alien movie genre resemble Battleship or Keanu Reeve's The Day The Earth Stood Still remake.
Battleship aka Please Join the Navy
These movies and others like them all tried to be what ID2 is trying to be, which is the next Independence Day,  but instead of using their budget and technology as a tool to bring a good concept and plot to life, they relied on CGI to cover up the lack of any thoughtfulness or creativity.

The latter is probably the fate of Independence Day 2.  Hollywood is still in a stage where churning out green screen spectacles is prioritized above taking the time to craft a good movie.  This is the reason we have a fourth Transformers movie. Studios are just buying licenses to franchises that they know will draw people in to their next CGI demo. In fact, they've done this so much that it's probably best to expect a new alien movie to follow suit. 

This isn't to say the genre is dead. Once people stop paying money for movies that clearly don't try further than visual effects, the entire industry might start getting better. Who knows? This may even happen before ID2 comes out. But until I see any indication of that happening, my stance is clear.

In case you were planning on seeing Independence Day 2:

Will's actual reaction to Independence Day 2.

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