Independence Day 4Ever

White House destroyed in ID4

When I went to see Independence Day: Resurgence recently I couldn’t help but be disappointed with the film. It lacks so much of what made the original Independence Day so great. That film still resonates today for many good reasons.

Independence Day had something for everyone. It was a true epic that was funny, suspenseful, exciting and full of drama. But most importantly the original film had a simple core message about how we all had to come together and put aside our petty differences. All these elements were packed together in one movie and it meshed well. This all went to how Roland Emmerich and his partner Dean Devlin came up with the inspired idea for Independence Day.

Shortly after the success of their film Stargate, Emmerich was asked about alien life and he stated that if alien spaceships would suddenly show up he would be paralyzed with fear. This got the two filmmakers thinking about an idea that would become Independence Day.

ID4 aliens arrive

Alien invasion movies have been around since the 1950s and they wanted to try something different. They melded that genre with the tired one of the disaster film, which had their heyday back in the 1970s. What they did was very smart, they took two distinct genres to make one great film that had the best elements of both genres. For instance, let’s look at the cast. The two main stars of Independence Day were Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Emmerich and Devlin filled the cast with lots of terrific character actors like Robert Loggia, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Mary McDonnell and Vivica A. Fox. That was something directly inspired by the all-star casts of those old epic disaster films like The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno.

Another element they took from the disaster film genre which is related to the diverse cast is having several different characters with their own distinct stories and backgrounds that were scattered across the country. Their stories were actually interesting, especially Smith’s character who had to battle the aliens and was concerned about his girlfriend.

Smith and Goldblum triumphant

Meanwhile, she and the First Lady, who were completely different were reduced to equal terms as they struggled to survive the alien attack. The arc of Goldblum’s character was great also since he played the likeable nerd who saved the day in the end. Another story that worked was the one with Randy Quaid’s character who was seen as a kook by his family and society, but is redeemed by his heroic sacrifice.

The film made a point that these characters with their own strengths and flaws couldn’t defeat the aliens on their own. But when they finally converged, they pooled their efforts and beat the aliens.

id4 alienAs for the aliens themselves, they were among the most stunning movie aliens ever created. Originally, Emmerich wanted to use the standard grey aliens with the big heads but add something different to the look. Creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos came up with two different concepts, one of them was putting a new spin on the traditional grey aliens and one that was gigantic. Emmerich liked both concepts and so he decided to use both of them. This is how we got the small alien in the living exo-suit with the tentacles.

What is really amazing is that the aliens, like the rest of the film’s effects, were done largely with practical effects. In fact, Independence Day is the last, big-budget epic to use practical effects with models and puppets. Very little CG was used for the film unlike Independence Day: Resurgence and every other blockbuster these days. What the special effects and production team accomplished is incredible being that what they did largely holds up today, twenty years after the movie was released.

Thinking about Independence Day’s ID4 speechsuccess is that it wasn’t done by Lucas, Spielberg or Disney. Yet this film holds its own even now twenty years later, which is something that cannot be said for Independence Day: Resurgence. Some snobby critics have argued that the movie appealed to the lowest common denominator but seriously who cares? The bottom line for me is that I leave the theater happy and satisfied. Independence Day did that for me and that is all that matters. What added to that feeling of joy was the triumphant score by David Arnold that was the best John Williams soundtrack he never made.

Independence Day had so many great ingredients that were salutes to other films like War of the Worlds, with the virus that defeats the aliens being a computer virus, the final battle echoing a Star Wars space battle and the final triumphant scene in the desert that was taken from the Chuck Yeager moments in The Right Stuff. But most of all Independence Day resonated because of its simple message of mutual cooperation to defeat a powerful threat. That message is still valid today and will carry on for a very long time .

Steven L. Walterson

Ten Films To Look For In 2016

team cap 2 id42

We’re clearly in the decade of the superhero film and this year’s slate of films reinforces that notion. Yet, there are plenty of other interesting genre films that range from fantasy to solid sci-fi. Here are ten films being released this year that are the most anticipated.

10. Passengers: The two superstars of genre films Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence co-star in this film about a man (Pratt) who wakes up prematurely in a generational starship and awakens a second passenger (Lawrence) for companionship. Given its release date and potentially controversial subject matter (the morality of waking someone up in that situation just to cure loneliness), this film may get lost or get moved to a different date. Still, Passengers sounds like a fascinating film worth watching if done right. (Release Date: December 21)

fantastic beasts9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Inspired by the book by J.K. Rowling and set in the Harry Potter universe, it’s directed by David Yates, who helmed the last few Harry Potter films. Focusing on an adult sorcerer who comes to America and the strained relations between magical and non-magical people (muggles) the trailer captured the mood of the Harry Potter film universe. The question is will it please the die-hard fans who will miss Harry Potter? (Release Date: November 18)

8. The BFG: The latest genre offering from the master filmmaker Steven Spielberg is based on a Roald Dahl fantasy book of the same name about a girl who befriends a friendly giant. It may be off putting to some fans who may want a genre film from Spielberg with more heft, especially those aching for the long-delayed Robopocalypse. However, it’s a Steven Spielberg film and he is arguably the greatest living director around, so The BFG is something worth checking out. (Release Date: July 1)

7. Deadpool: After a long gestating period deadpool poseand a terrible debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with the Mouth gets his own solo film. Thanks to a tireless campaign by star Ryan Reynolds and others, 20th Century Fox finally greenlit the film last year and soon we’ll see if the efforts were worth it. Everyone involved promises that Deadpool will be a no-holds-bar, in-your-face but most of all, a faithfully violent interpretation of the Marvel Comics mercenary with the superhuman healing power thingy. (Release Date: February 12)

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars anthology film comes out a year after the mammoth return of the space fantasy franchise. Eager to cash in on their billion-dollar franchise purchase Disney will increase the Star Wars movie presence with this prequel of sorts that is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Alan Tudyk. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story details the effort of a team of Rebels out to steal the plans of the Death Star. (Release Date: December 16)

star wars rogue one cast

5. Suicide Squad: A film that expands the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), focuses on a group of captured supervillains sent out on a deadly mission by the U.S. government. Highlighted by a Batman (Ben Afflec) cameo and Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and guaranteed scene-stealer Jared Leto as the new Joker, Suicide Squad will explore a darker corner of the DCEU as it gives audiences a unique spin on superhero films. (Release Date: August 5)

suicide Squad

4. Doctor Strange: The second MCU release for 2016 is already making waves on the Internet ever since we got our first glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios is known for not resting on its superhero laurels and Doctor Strange doesn’t seem like an exception based on released concept art, which is quite eerie. Now forging a new storytelling avenue, that of the mystical and horror realm, this live-action presentation of the Marvel Comics character will hopefully be another hit for Marvel Studios. (Release Date: November 4)

doc strange

3. Independence Day: Resurgence: Finally after twenty years, we’re getting the sequel to Independence Day, the smash hit of 1996. Reuniting most of the original cast and newcomers like Liam Hemswoth, director Roland Emmerich picks up the alien invasion story twenty years after the giant alien motherships nearly destroyed humanity and the world. Now armed with hybridized alien tech, humanity, led by Jeff Goldblum, prepares for another confrontation with the aliens when they return to our solar system. (June 24)

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Eagerly awaited ever since this film was announced back in 2013 during Comic-Con, it’s the first live-action meeting between Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and it looks like a monumental event! Not only does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice boast the first encounter between the two but it also has the debut of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and a new Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). The last character may not thrill fans who aren’t too keen with the casting of Luthor, but Affleck’s once-controversial casting has won over many fans. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DCEU will boldly engage the MCU in the Superhero Film War. (March 25)

batman meets superman

1. Captain America: Civil War: The epic throwdown between Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is the centerpiece in the third Captain America film. Loosely based on the Marvel Comics’ mini-series Civil War, this film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, promises to be as hard-hitting and thought-provoking as the last Captain America film. But that’s not all Captain America: Civil War has going for it. The film will also feature the MCU debuts of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Marvel’s flagship hero Spider-Man (Tom Holland) himself. Still, with all this going for Captain America: Civil War can the Russo Brothers beat the director sophomore curse that has plagued the second MCU films done by veteran directors (see Joss Whedon and Jon Favreau)? On the other hand, the Russo Bros.’ Captain America: The Winter Solider was one of the greatest superhero films ever made and showcased their talents as directors so they should be able to repeat their success. (May 6)

cap vs iron man

Other noteworthy genre films coming out this year include: The 5th Wave (Jan. 22), another young-adult sci-fi film about an alien invasion; Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jan. 29), Dreamworks Animation’s martial arts, talking animal saga continues with Jack Black; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (February 5), adaptation of the horror romance of the same name; Midnight Special (March 18), delayed from last year about a father on the run with his superpowered son; The Jungle Book ( April 15), Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic; X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27), apthe sixth X-Men film brings back the rebooted franchise and a new slate of characters, including a mighty foe; The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (June 10), this sequel directed by James Wan reunites the stars from the first frightfest, but many wonder if it can be as scary as the first one; Finding Dory (June 17), Pixar’s sequel to the classic underwater animated film looks just as magical and colorful as the forgetful Dory goes missing; finding doryWarcraft (June 10), director Duncan Jones hopes to beat the video-game movie adaptation with this epic-looking fantasy adventure; Ghostbusters (July 15), a controversial, all-female reboot/remake of the beloved, comedic paranormal hunters; Star Trek Beyond (July 22) the terrible trailer with its Beastie Boys music dampened expectations for the latest Star Trek film, but it could be better than the trailer lets on; The Legend of Tarzan (July 1), David Yates directs this jungle epic starring Margo Robbie and Alexander Skarsgard as the title hero; Pete’s Dragon (August 12), a remake of the Disney classic about a boy and his oversized but cuddly dragon; Gambit (Oct. 7), another live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comic book character starring Channing Tatum; and Assassin’s Creed (Dec 21), stars Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch/Aguilar, a master assassin in this long-awaited, video-game adaptation.

José Soto