Sunday, June 26, 2016

Movie Review - Independence Day Resurgence


After 20 years, the long awaited sequel to Independence Day has arrived! Unfortunately, 20 years is also more than enough time to come up with tons of new ideas and then have to squeeze them into a single film.

There are a lot of different story lines and the audience doesn't get enough time with each one to actually become attached to the new characters nor to get swept up in the subplots. I feel it would have been better if Independence Day Resurgence had been a two-part film, giving us all the insights and action needed to understand the horrors and victories of the preceding twenty years, and making the set up for the alien's return much more easily understood - and its full implications more frightening. Additionally, the film tries too hard to be funny. It shouldn't be funny. We're all about to die! Some of the jokes are funny, and even the original had its share of comic relief, but Resurgence could have done with fewer.

Sadly, many of the cast members from the original film that appear in Resurgence only get brief on-screen time, making their scenes pointless to the film. Even more pointless was Judd Hirsch's ("Julius Levinson" - the father of Jeff Goldblum's character) role in the movie. While he added to the original film, his role in Resurgence is meaningless and does nothing to move the plot along (same goes for the rag-tag band of kids), although, perhaps the nice old Jewish guy Mr. Levinson does bring with him some pleasant nostalgia. 

The good news? The CGI is wonderful and the alien queen does bring to mind the original creepy feeling we all got the first time we laid eyes on her species. I'm always pleased whenever a sci-fi or fantasy film allows us to see the wider universe in which the story is being told, and we definitely get to see more of the alien's world and learn that there's a much wider tale behind the scenes. I was also glad that we got to see more of our own planet than just Washigton DC and Area 51. Oh, and considering the recent Brexit vote, I think more than a few Europeans will get a kick out of seeing the Burj Khalifa harpooning London.

Emmerich left the door wide-open for a further movie or two. Hopefully, we won't have to wait another 20 years and that 20th Century Fox learns from their mistakes. In the end, Independence Day Resurgence is a lot like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it is both a sequel and a remake trying to introduce a new generation to a wider universe while praying to god that the original fans latch on and help carry the franchise forward. And as one of those original fans who saw Independence Day on the big screen back in 1997 (well, what parts my mother wasn't desperately trying to cover my eyes for), I do think Resurgence is a fun excursion, both back into memory and perhaps forward to a renewed franchise.

The Science Behind the Events - WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

(Click image for larger view)

First, yes, I know this is a science fiction movie. I know they all play fast and lose with physics, but it's still fun to think about, especially in this case. In the case of this movie, reality would be far, far worse than what the filmmakers had in store.

I'm one of those annoying people who, when I see something off, think (or say aloud), "it wouldn't happen like that!" So what really would happen if an alien harvester ship, 3,000 miles in diameter, came and landed on Earth?

In the movie, the aliens return with vengeance. They send one of their "harvester ships" to finally destroy life on the planet and suck out Earth's core. These vessels are massive. And in the movie, as the ship plows through the atmosphere and collides with mountains you do get to see a lot of really cool, er... terrible destruction, as well as some likely real-world consequences. A ship that size (wider than the Moon!) really would have its own gravitational pull and once it got close enough, the oceans would rise to meet it, ships and cars would fly through the air, and you would have a really bad day.

Side note. While I really did like seeing the Burj Khalifa smack into downtown London, there's zero way it would have survived the 3,400 mile journey - but I'm just nitpicking.

However. While it may be wider than the Moon, the ship isn't a 3,000 mile diameter sphere. It's a disk, maybe 50-60 miles high. Its gravity would be less than that of the Moon's, which as we recall from seeing the fake moon landings, is pretty easy to overcome. During the ship's intro to our world, we find Jeff Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth flying a "space-tug," trying to retrieve an object from a spacecraft we blew up from a totally different alien species. The giant harvester is bearing down, skidding across the Moon's surface and the little-tug-that-could finds itself unable to escape the craft's gravity. Wrong. 

We see these tugs flying back and forth from Moon to Earth, and Earth is definitely bigger than the harvester. If the tugs can escape Earth's gravity, they can certainly escape the alien ubercraft.

Next, we see the ship mowing down mountains and catching the atmosphere on fire. As we all know, when NASA's puny spacecraft re-enter the atmosphere, they glow and leave a trail of flame and smoke. The heat upon re-entry is enormous. So that's all correct. My problem is that as it manages to land, taking ever so much care not to crush our new White House, the fiery winds just seem to go away. Wrong.

We just had a small moon smack into the planet and turn Asia into a skid mark in a matter of moments. Our atmosphere is usually stacked up in nice layers: troposphere, stratosphere, that pesky ozone. The harvester has turned all of that into goop. Not only that, but it was plunging down on us at really high speeds. In reality, a massive pressure wave with insanely violent and tortured winds would have enveloped the planet. The ozone layer would have been dispersed, leaving us vulnerable to deadly radiation, and our otherwise breathable air would be turned into a toxic cloud of debris. The aliens wouldn't even have needed to fight us. Just land. We're all dead.

Additionally, the spaceship would need to be curved so that it could actually sit on the round surface of our dying world. This means that as it landed, the center of the ship that sat over the Atlantic with it's giant plasma drill, would have pushed all the air out from beneath it (along with a lot of water too from the air pressure) - so there wouldn't be any drunken treasure seekers left alive to help report on the alien's progress.

Side note. The equipment used on treasure hunting ships aren't exactly sensitive enough to be able to follow the progress of the "plasma drill" as it bore through tens of miles of crust.

Finally, I'm going back to gravity and weight. While it may not have the gravitational pull of the Moon, the ship does have some. It's also really fat. Once it landed it would have set off pretty much every fault line and volcano the world has to offer. The weight pushing down on its giant landing feet might likewise crack the crust beneath them. 

You may have heard that large earthquakes can alter the rotation of the Earth? Smacking that much weight onto the globe would also destabilize Earth's rotation. Not only would it slow us down, but it would knock us off balance. Given enough time, it would drag the Earth upside down. It would also screw with the Earth-Moon system causing all kinds of madness down the road.

Finally P.S. - even though we win in the end (at least 3 billion are dead so "win" is a relative term here), the harvester wouldn't have just slunk off back into space as it did in the movie. If it came roaring down, it would go roaring back up, causing another set of those winds from hell. 

This was one flick where physics makes for a much more horrifying end than the sci-fi writers. 

--Jacob Bogle, 6/26/2016

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