Tagged: Liam Hemsworth

Box Office Democracy: Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day: Resurgence is inexcusably boring, the kind of movie script I would expect if you went to one of those experimental Google A.I. routines and asked them to make a summer blockbuster. None of the ideas feel clever or new but instead a naïve attempt to maximize potential profits.  It’s a disaster movie mixtape with a couple alien cliché deep cuts thrown in to appear hip. Resurgence tries so hard to traffic in the positive memories we have of the original Independence Day and while it’s occasionally evocative enough to stir that up, it so much more often completely fails to not only carry the weight of the first movie but to even be a coherent film.

The original Independence Day was particularly relatable because we were offered so many different slices of life. We saw the goofy scientist and his nebbishy father, we saw the air force pilot and his exotic dancer wife, and, yes, we saw the President of the United States and his family but we also saw the trailer parks and the end of the world parties. We got a world that felt lived in. Every principal character in Resurgence is either a holdover character from the first film, now renowned for their work saving the earth, one of their children who are uniformly top fighter pilots, or a spectacularly important global political figure. There’s no relating to any of these people because so few people actually travel in these circles. The problem seems to come from the world being way more science-fiction-y than the original film and there seems to be no desire to explore how things have changed in any respect besides anti-alien war machines. The world feels so much less lived in and so it’s much harder to care when they start wrecking things.

Along with being unrelatable, none of the characters have narrative arcs at all. With the exception of being sad about loved ones being killed or mad that alien invaders are back, none of the characters have any kind of emotional growth. None of them have to change the way they interact with the world to solve the problem of the alien invasion, they just sort of do the same things over and over again and eventually it works and the day is saved. There’s a certain catharsis to seeing a bunch of alien ships explode and everything but there’s no meaningful character work happening here so there’s nothing but hollow victories.

Independence Day: Resurgence is set in a world where all of humanity has come together in harmony after the monumental alien attacks of 20 years ago. This new one world government is composed mainly of American and Chinese people and I’m sure it’s a complete coincidence that these are the two largest markets for movies these days. No other nations are represented in any significant way at all unless you count the African warlord of a nameless country who seems to exist only to provide a vague sense of menace and have a kind of racist interaction with a minor character toward the end of the film. One of the three big disaster sequences also takes place in China, which is either an attempt to underscore the stakes for all of the main players (including the Chinese fighter pilot) or more transparent pandering to the Chinese market, and I’m betting heavily on the latter.

I could go on and on with things that were boring or lazy about Independence Day: Resurgence. The alien queen looks suspiciously like the one in Alien vs. Predator. Two different plotlines have separate bumbling nerdy guy characters, I assume because they couldn’t figure out a way to combine them, and they both get external validation of their masculinity to close out their stories. Jeff Goldblum is carted around from place to place to react to things in his inimitable way and they rely on his charm being so strong that we don’t notice that he doesn’t ever do anything in the film; he could be replaced by a handsome coat rack. The mysterious object that can save the world is stunningly poorly designed and could quite accurately be described as a mecha-Pac-Man. The third movie basically announced in the closing moments of this one is a hundred times more compelling conceptually but still isn’t a movie I want to go see after this wretched chapter. The original Independence Day was an iconic disaster film that shaped a decade of blockbusters, but Resurgence is an emotionless husk, an exoskeleton with no alien pilot, gracelessly going through the motions.

The Tweeks Get the Feels with Mockingjay Part 2

As you know, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 opened last weekend. It’s the Hobbited trilogy of the books by Suzanne Collins and stars our spirit celebrity Jennifer Lawrence, along with Liam Hemsworth (who used to be our favorite Hemsworth, but we can’t pick just one anymore), Josh Hutcherson (he’s Anya’s favorite of all), Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (RIP) and lots of others, we’d be here all day.

There’s so much to say about the final installment of the Hunger Games movie franchise…except we can barely speak…THE FEELS! That Heffie scene! Finnick! Finnick & Annie! Prim! Pollux! The Epilogue. Watch the video as we try to get make sense of this very Tweeks Approved movie and get a few words in about the trailer for The Divergent Series: Allegiant.

Box Office Democracy: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Harry Potter franchise is, of course, a cultural institution. It was the formative literary experience for a generation of young people and a monstrously successful film franchise. Unfortunately, it also popularized splitting a climactic book in to two movies; a practice that has since gone rampant leading to the division of the very thin Breaking Dawn into two films to cap off the Twilight series, the ludicrous extension of The Hobbit in to three endlessly bogged down movies, and now The Hunger Games is left to limp across the finish line with Mockingjay Part 2, a film that struggles to justify its existence and ends up feeling bloated and insubstantial.

It serves the narrative but there’s so little of what I enjoyed about the Hunger Games movies up until this point. There’s very little Haymitch so there’s no opportunity to enjoy Woody Harrelson one more time. Effie Trinket gets a role I believe was absent in the books so we can get a fleeting glance at Elizabeth Banks. There are similarly small parts for Donald Sutherland, Jeffrey Wright and Stanley Tucci. Basically any incidental character that helped shape this film series is pushed to the side so we can get more of the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, and those characters as presented in these films are far and away the least interesting choices— and while Jennifer Lawrence is trying her damndest to make this material sing, Josh Hutcherson doesn’t get enough room to sell a very complicated character arc, and Liam Hemsworth is just far too bland.

Francis Lawrence’s direction continues to be the best part of this franchise. There are two superb action sequences in this installment: a sewer chase with a bunch of vaguely lizard-like zombie-esque monsters and a stunning battle sequence late in the film. The chase through the sewer and the fight sequences it contains is the best this series has ever seen, we finally get beyond the moral dilemmas and have every prominent character just let loose in a furious violent crescendo. By contrast, the battle scene late in the movie shows how small and insignificant the principal characters are, as they just sort of amble onward as the explosions and gunfire destroy everything around them and, at the end, they aren’t really a part of this war. It’s a wonderfully shot sequence with the camera fixed on Katniss as the action happens seemingly incidental to the framing of the shot. The chaos builds and builds and the audience can feel the frenetic disarray. These bits are arresting cinema and redeem so much of the little problems this movie has.

I’m going to get in to spoilers from here so consider yourself warned.

One big problem is that the story in both Mockingjay films is weaker than the ones that came before them. The idea that invading a city is really just like another Hunger Games is a silly conceit, but it’s one the movie inherits from the books. The way the film deals with the death of Prim is somewhat less excusable. Prim is killed suddenly, out of nowhere and the moment is given no air with which to breathe, to affect the audience. The movie barrels forward from that moment to the end credits with an inexplicable momentum considering how long we’ve lingered on so many more trivial moments. It’s hard to accept the big choices that come after if we don’t have a proper lens to see how this has affected Katniss. If this was the only way to get the scene with Katniss and Snow in the greenhouse I suppose I can accept it, it’s one of the best films in the series, but I bet I could have cut five minutes somewhere else to give this gigantic moment a little more space to resonate.

I’ve grown to appreciate The Hunger Games quite a bit since I grudgingly enjoyed the first film three and a half years ago. The first film was an admirable adaptation of a tricky book and the second film was an honest-to-goodness triumph of the genre, easily the best of the young adult book adaptation films, and a genuinely excellent movie. It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to watch the wheels fall off from there a little bit. Taking the weakest book, the one least-liked by fans, and turning it in to two films has been an artistically questionable decision but it’s even taken a financial toll on these last two installments. Mockingjay Part 2 had a weaker opening than Part 1, which was weaker than Catching Fire. While we aren’t quite in the realm of failure here, it’s a bump in prestige to watch this franchise lazily bounce after soaring to such great heights. I hope this doesn’t tarnish a set of films that could have been an enduring cultural touchstone— but I’m not sure the odds are in its favor.

Tweeks: Giving Thanks For Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Effie replaces Fulvia in MockingjayThe Tweeks are definitely Hunger Games fangirls, but how did the first half of the final book in the trilogy stand up in cinematic form?  This week the girls weight in on Francis Lawrence’s job of hobbiting (breaking a literary property into unneeded multiple movies) Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.