Movie Review – Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Director: Roland Emmerich

Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe, William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Deobia Oparei

Twenty years after humanity fought of the alien invasion, a signal is received. They’re coming back.

Like many others I was surprised when I heard they were making a sequel to Independence Day. However, I had the pleasure of watching a double bill of the two films this week and after I watched the first one I did find it interesting to think about what the ramifications of humanity would have been in the aftermath, and not to mention the fact that all those aliens were stranded on Earth. Resurgence answers these questions in satisfying ways yet doesn’t get bogged down in showing the intricacies of the world. It’s fast-paced, much more so than the original.

A few of the original cast members return, combined with new faces that have ties to characters from the first film. While it’s good to see Goldblum again his presence is fairly incidental to the main plot of the film and I don’t think the story would have had to change any without him. Same with Hirsch. Pullman and Spiner have good roles though. On a personal note I’m actually going through a re-watch of Star Trek: The Next Generation at the moment so it’s nice to see Spiner on the big screen again.

Perhaps the thing I most liked about Resurgence is how it shows that humanity continued to work together and didn’t fall back into old habits. One thing I also noticed about the film is that there’s very little conflict among humans. Some may complain about this, and say that conflict is the essence of drama, but I appreciated how everyone was working to a common goal and while they may have had different ideas of how to go about it, ultimately they were one people. I also appreciated the efforts made to make this less American-centric than the first, with Oparei’s warlord one of the more memorable characters.

But where the destruction in the original film is visceral and terrifying, somehow it feels less so in the new one. There are some heart-wrenching moments, but in this aspect at least it falls short of Independence Day.  I also felt that even though this film broadens the horizons to space and brings an even bigger threat, it still felt smaller. I don’t know if it’s because the threat is too big, almost too abstract for us to comprehend, or if it’s simply because the actors chosen aren’t able to bring life to their characters, lacking the natural charisma of Will Smith, but I felt more detached from this film than I did the original. However, it’s still enjoyable by any standards and there are some intriguing subplots that hint that they may be yet more stories to tell.

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Movie Review – Gods of Egypt (2016)

Director: Alex Proyas

Stars: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Courtney Eaton, Elodie Yung, Chadwick Boseman, Geoffrey Rush

Set interrupts Horus’ coronation and declares himself to be king of Egypt. With Osiris slaughtered and his eyes taken from him, Horus slinks off, defeated, and exiles himself in a tomb. Set rules over Egypt with a heavy hand, craving more and more power as he slaughters the gods who dare resist him. Meanwhile, Bek, a mortal, is struggling to free the love of his life, Zaya, from one of Set’s most loyal servants. This leads to an unlikely alliance between man and god as Bek seeks Horus’ help to end Set’s tyranny.

The world of Egyptian mythology feels much fresher than that of Greek, and even though I prefer Greek mythology I appreciate the change here. I’m by no means an expert on Egyptian mythology so I cannot comment on the accuracy of the characters but I enjoyed the dynamics between the gods and mortals, as well as the exploration of the ancient Egyptian world. The world presented is a hyper-realistic one in which gods and mortals walk the earth together. I feel that this is well-handled as the film uses techniques to give the gods a larger-than-life feeling, and the script worked well to show the hubris of the gods in not paying well enough to the matters of man.

Horus and Bek form an uneasy alliance as they travel through various parts of Egypt in search of a way to defeat Set, who is growing stronger all the time. Again, I enjoyed the varying locales, and also the mere fact that the film is so bright! It seems common these days for movies to be cast in shadows and darkness, but Proyas does not shy away from using the sun and golden hues, and it made me more immersed in the world as it had an aura of majesty about it.

The cast was mostly good. I enjoyed Thwaites as Bek the most. He was basically playing Aladdin, but he and Eaton shared good chemistry and it was just a shame that her basic function was to drive Bek’s motivation. However, her faith in Horus did play an important part in the story so she was a little more than window dressing. Elodie Yung fared much better as Hathor, goddess of love. Coster-Waldau was decent, although as much as I enjoy him in Game of Thrones I don’t think he’s quite leading-man material. I found it amusing how Butler didn’t even try to hide his Scottish brogue, but he was suitably imposing as Set. The worst actors were Set’s vipers, and thankfully the only had to deliver a few lines but even so, their awfulness is immediately apparent.

I enjoyed the action and while the plot isn’t anything revelatory I liked that it focused on a different mythology than I was used to. The score is bombastic and the effects are, I think, pretty decent. At first I wasn’t sure how good it was going to be having the gods transform at will but Proyas did a good job at making them feel like gods, and after the generic fantasy fare served up by Warcraft I found the golden sheen of Gods of Egypt a welcome change.