Saturday, June 25, 2016

Welcome to Earth, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence (herein ID5) is a stupid movie.

It's more bloated than an Avengers movie. It lacks the narrative economy, beats, and emotional resonance of the original. The scale of the alien destruction is so large that it becomes meaningless. There are far too many characters: Who are these children in this car? Who are these treasure-hunting salvagers? A warlord and a lawyer (I think)? The delivery on the promised nostalgia favorites is uneven. It's bullshit that Vivica A. Fox dies. It's bullshit (in universe and out of universe) and it figures that Randy Quaid - the self-sacrificing HERO of the first film - is erased and forgotten, and you can bet his children don't have cushy White House jobs. And who the hell asked for more Brent Spiner?

But I think there's a bigger reason that it's a stupid movie, and a reason that I think is pretty telling. ID5 is Baby Boomer wish fulfillment. There's a moment in the movie where President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) says something along the lines of, "We told an entire generation that we could beat [the aliens]." In other words, the film's Boomers sold its Millennials a crock of shit. Sound familiar? But ID5 presents a fantasy in which the older generation can rectify their betrayal of the younger generation.

In ID5, earth has become a peaceful and unified place since the 1996 alien invasion. It's a bitter bit of sci-fi for a movie that opens the same weekend as the Brexit. In this fantasy, an engaged Millennial couple can buy a house. The new alien invasion is a stand-in for the actual shitty state of the world of the past 20 years. So in the movie, it isn't even really the Boomers' fault that the world has gone  to shit, just that they didn't properly prepare for the future.

But don't worry, youngfolk, the Olds will help you. It's okay! It's not too late! We will fight the aliens together and beat the odds. "I'm not doing this to save the world," President Whitmore tells his daughter, "I'm doing this for you." Daddy's here. Daddy will save you. (But no, he won't retire.)

2016 has been a year of Daddies. The heroes of our childhood are now fathers. I'm thinking particularly of Han Solo and Fox Mulder. But when we grow up we see that our fathers are not the heroes we thought they were. Star Wars and The X-Files did a good job of showing us flawed men who were shitty husbands and failed fathers. But ID5 refuses to hand the reins over, and the men - David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and President Whitmore - are still upstanding and infallible heroes.

ID5 is stupid because it imagines that the older generation can be absolved of their failures. But it's just another failure.