John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV
One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
this year of 2016, Richmond, Virginia lost a local institution.
I’m writing about Dave’s Comics and Cards, a comic-book store which closed its doors for the last time in July of this
year following the death of its owner, Mr. Dave Luebke, in April.
first met Mr. Luebke, and visited Dave’s Comics in the year 1988, although the
store opened in 1982.
To provide some context, 1988
was my first year at the University of Richmond, and the store was (barely) within
walking distance of the campus.
two best friends, Allan and Chris, would often hike with me through the woods to
the Village Shopping Center to buy comics, toys, or other memorabilia from the
store. There was also a video store close-by, so we would stock up on movie
rentals and comic books.
And usually junk food too.
We didn’t have cars (or girlfriends, yet) so Dave’s Comics and Cards gave us
something to look forward to every weekend.
particular, I remember that Dave’s Comics stocked Star Trek comics, Fangoria,
Starlog, and even William Anchors’ Epi-Log Magazine. Being away from home and my family in New
Jersey was tough at first, but discovering Dave’s Comics and Cards with my buddies took
away much of the loneliness and home sickness I felt.
crazy thing is that I didn’t stop frequenting Dave’s Comics when I graduated
from U of R in 1992. I lived in Richmond
with my girlfriend (now wife) until 1994, so I had plenty of opportunities to visit.
when we moved to North Carolina in 1995, we would still make trips to visit her
family in Virginia. Which meant, occasionally, that I could sneak into Dave’s Comics for a visit. Even if
it was just for five minutes.
But totally unexpectedly, this
comic-book store from my youth took on an greater significance for me in the last four years or
Every Christmas holiday, we visit the
in-laws in Richmond, and since my son, Joel, turned six -- four years ago -- he and I have carved out a time to go to the
store and drop some holiday money.
Comics and Cards, in other words, is Joel’s first comic book store.
the years, he purchased a lot of toys there (McFarlane Monster Sets, at first),
and even a giant Mothra (!) once.
Recently, Joel bought some transforming dinosaur
eggs and glass figures in tiny cases. I know that Joel has looked forward,
every year, to returning to Dave’s Comics to see what’s there.
really, the pilgrimage to Dave's Comics has become a father-son tradition.
I’m writing about it
now because -- I realize -- this will be the first year that we don’t make our
December trek together.
Luebke, I must say, always treated Joel with the greatest of kindness and even tenderness. I don’t
know how he felt about a six-year old, enthusiastic child bursting into a store
where there were so many valuable collectibles everywhere, but he always spoke to Joel
with respect, and offered to take toys down from shelves so Joel could see
them more closely.
at least two occasions, Mr. Luebke outright gave Joel gifts (A Marvel superhero
calendar, one year, and a glass figure another year).
I appreciated, so much,
his patience and tolerance.
I also told Mr. Luebke on more than one occasion that I had been a patron of his store since
1988, but I don’t think he actually remembered me.
can’t blame him.
lot of customers passed through the doors of Dave’s Comics and Cards during the
thirty-four years it served the comic-book and sci-fi collectible needs of the
community, and he would have had no reason to single me out as special or unique.
But -- during this first Christmas season since his passing -- I wanted to write
here about how I remember Dave, my experiences at his great store from the 1980s through the 2010s, and the
kindness he always showed to my young son.
Comics and Cards -- and the man behind the store -- will be missed by the Muir family. We will remember him this holiday season, and on the ones yet to come.
“Tarzan and the Graveyard of the Elephants” a greedy king named Aga -- of the
distant city Navordia -- captures Tarzan to learn of the secret location of the
legendary graveyard of the elephants.
refuses to divulge the information, and bears witness to a city obscenely rich
The evil king then makes Tarzan fight a “great beast:” a woolly mammoth
called Bentor. Tarzan recognizes the beast as an “animal who belongs to an earlier time,” and seeks the help of
lions, apes and elephants to protect the graveyard.
Aga responds violently, burning the jungle to terrify the animals and make them
retreat. Tarzan will not back down, however. He fights the mammoth and defeats
the evil king. His elephants reclaim the
tusks stolen to decorate the city, and return them to the graveyard, which
remains “the greatest secret in the
graveyard of the elephants, a key element in the early Weismuller Tarzan films,
recurs in this episode of Filmation’s Legend of Tarzan series. As before, Tarzan is a zealous protector of
the graveyard’s location, and proves once more that he is a friend of the
of the story’s theme is transmitted through the visuals.
Aga’s city is a decadent, terrible place, where elephant tusks – ivory –
are everywhere. There are ivory towers at the entrance, and dotting the roads.
Aga wears tusks on his helmet. We see
that the motif of the city is over-used, and unnecessary. They are a sign of extravagant wealth, a
decoration or affection.
wrong they represent is undone in the episode’s denouement, as the elephants
storm the city and show the (missing) respect for the dead. They take the tusks from the city, one at a time, and transport them...home.
fascinating too, that the monster of the episode is a Mammoth, another creature
with tusks that many people associate with elephants. Aga worships it as a God,
but Tarzan sees it for what it is: an angry animal. He talks respectfully to Bentor, and does not
kill him or harm him. He collapses a bridge so the animal can no longer
terrorize the innocent. In other words, Tarzan even shows his enemies respect, a characteristic which makes him a true hero (and role model).
“Fool’s Gold,” Billy (Michael Gray) and Mentor (Les Tremayne) are contacted by
wise ones inform Billy that “Gold is
where you find it,” and that “friendship
is also a form of gold.”
Furthermore, Billy will soon encounter “someone who doesn’t know this yet.”
words come true when Billy and Mentor meet Seldom Seen Slim (Dabbs Greer), an
old prospector near a gold mine, who is being hassled by some local kids. The kids plot to torment his donkey, Beulah,
and also steal the ores from Slim’s small shack.
soon, the children’s attitudes change, and they start to realize that old Slim
can teach them things, like about prospecting in the mine.
Slim is caught in a cave-in, leaving the kids to seek out the help of Captain
Marvel (Jackson Bostwick). He uses his great strength to free Slim from the
Gold” is another inconsequential, harmless episode of Shazam (1974-1976).
Bostwick returns to the role of Captain Marvel (before disappearing again next
week), and Dabbs Greer portrays a nice old codger who realizes he still has
something important to offer the world.
the icing on the cake is that the whole affair is shot at familiar old Vasquez
last week’s show (“Debbie”), this one feels a little anti-kid, which is weird.
In this case, the children torment and bully Slim until they have a change of
heart. The big lesson this week is not
just for the kids, but for Slim, who sees that even though he is old, he is not
In the 23rd century, the
survivors of a nuclear war live inside The City of Domes, a paradise of plenty.
The world is a hedonist’s delight with the Love Shop and other pleasures, but
the metropolis is not without a downside.
Every citizen must die at age 30, and hope
for “renewal” in a state-sponsored ritual called Carousel that keeps the
civilization perfectly balanced.
Policing this edict are a cadre of armed law enforcement officials, the
One such Sandman, Logan 5 (Michael York)
is tasked by the city’s controlling Computer with determining if the
destination of refugees, called Sanctuary, is real. Logan enlists the help of a young woman,
Jessica (Jenny Agutter) in escaping the city, but is tagged as a “runner” and
hunted by his former partner, Francis.
When Logan and Jessica manage to escape
the city, first they find a malevolent robot, Box, and later see the outside
world for the first time.
In the ruins of Washington D.C., they meet
an Old Man (Peter Ustinov) who proves that the edict of “death at 30” is not
Logan's Runserves as a critical "bridge"
production of the 1970s. It blends the dystopian qualities of such film
of the Apes(1968),
with the elaborate, expensive visual effects and action-adventure qualities of
theStar Wars (1977) age.
Logan's Runis based on the William F. Nolan and
George Clayton Johnson novel of the same name, which was first published in
1967. The novel depicted a bizarre world set post-"Little War,"in which the ascendant youth society
of the turbulent late 1960s (think student demonstrations and sit-ins) had
grown to become the globe's dominant social force. In an attempt to stave off
overpopulation, starvation, and poverty, a new society of the young was forged
in which the mandatory age of death was 21 years of age. It was "never
trust anyone over thirty" (or 21 here...), but as a governing philosophy.
Citizens of this New World Order had
"palm flowers" embedded in their hands which displayed their age and
their chronological proximity to "Last Day." On said "Last Day" (their 21st
birthday...) they would willingly report for mandatory termination at a local
Sleep Shop. Those who didn't choose death would illicitly "run"
instead, seeking escape through an underground railroad, in search of a place
called "Sanctuary." Policing the populace and destroying these
rebellious runners is the bailiwick of a young, fascist military force called
In the book, a dedicated Sandman named
Logan 3 teamed with a female runner named Jessica to locate Sanctuary, but he
was secretly a double-agent for the government, tasked with the destruction of
Sanctuary. Logan was pursued on his "run" by a Sandman friend named
Francis, who also boasted a secret identity...as Ballard,an ally of runners and the man who
knew where Sanctuary was actually located. In the book, Sanctuary was but a
rocket trip away, on Mars...
Many aspects of Nolan and Johnson's
brilliant novel were significantly altered for the blockbuster film, which
earned over 50 million dollars on a cost of less than 10 million.
Specifically, Michael York's Logan 5 (not
Logan 3) was the hero of the silver screen version, and his Sandman comrade,
Francis (Richard Jordan), became a dogged enemy and Agent of the State instead
of a secret aide to the Runners.
Also, the Sleep Shops (actually seen inSoylent Green....)
were replaced with the bizarre but impressive public spectacle of Carousel, a
festival in which those aged thirty (not twenty-one) would be blown up before
the eyes of excited crowds who believed that the doomed were actually being
"renewed," miraculously reincarnated.
The general setting was altered for the
film too. InLogan's Run the movie a nuclear
war rather than a "Little War" precipitated the creation of the City
of Domes, meaning that the world outside the City was almost entirely
than merely futuristic. Perhaps the most significant change in the movie was
that there was no real Sanctuary...no place of safety and peace for the
was a myth, a fairy tale.
Despite such radical changes from the source
material,Logan's Runthrives as a worthwhile, exciting, and
intriguing science-fiction artifact of the 1970s for quite a few reasons. The
one-of-a-kind disco-era visualizations and tenor ofLogan's Run-- the aura of “anything goes”
hedonism -- continue to ably support the film’s didactic narrative. The
glittering, sexy-but-shallow production design, abundantly rich in neon and
mini-skirts, suggests youth and sexuality, even forty years later.
But perhaps the finest aspect ofLogan's Runis indeed the film's capacity to build
in the viewer's imagination a believable and frightening future dystopia. The
City of Domes and its byzantine laws and practices fit the verydefinition of an authoritarian or
Let's gaze a little at what the pieces of
that definition are, and howLogan's
conforms to them.
First, according to one definition, a totalitarian
state "creates myths, catechisms, cults, festivities and rituals"
designed to "commemorate" the State. The central myth of the
City of Domes, of course, is "Renewal," the State-supported lie which
promises immortality. Upon death, the souls of the fallen (those who attend
Carousel) will transmigrate to new, young bodies.
This lie is reinforced bythe numbering systememployed to "name"
individual citizens (Logan 5, Jessica 6, Francis 7, etc.) These numbers, which
replace last names in this future society, explicitly indicate the march of
generations; that a new baby is actually a "new" version of a person
who has already existed, "died" and "renewed." The numbers
are also totally de-humanizing. Humans become one in a vast indistinguishable
The Carousel "festival" --a state-sponsored
celebration of "Last Day"--
is attended by all citizens of the City of Domes, and is essentially the
equivalent of, for example, a contemporary NASCAR race, only govt. run. The
people down on the track or field (those who are ostensibly to be renewed...)
circle around and around, and many of them "wreck" before our eyes,
blown apart by a ceiling-mounted laser device that resembles a crystal. Spectators
watch and cheer for Carousel participants to "renew," but whatthey are really cheering for is
the violent, explosive deaths of friends and fellow citizens.
The State has thus transformed a mandatory
death sentence into the very "ritual" or "festival"
inherent in the tradition of totalitarianism, one that actuallyreinforces(or "commemorates" as the
definition goes), the Law of the State:mandatory
death at 30.
Economically, this ritual of Carousel
combines the "bread and circuses" aspect of Rome's gladiator games --
satisfying the blood lust of the crowd -- with a "spiritual" or
"religious" church function: the honoring of the dead (or dying); the
belief in transmigration or reincarnation.
of Carousel is also supported by a State-created and encouraged catechism,an education in the faith meant to
indoctrinate the people, here termed in short-hand, "One for
In the film, we witness Logan and Francis
debate the dogma/doctrine of "One for One." Francis accepts
it blindly (by simply repeating it mindlessly) while Logan questions it...the
first sign of his independent streak.
This easy-to-remember phrase means -- in
simple terms -- that one person dies/one person renews. It's the seamless,
simple transmigration of the soul or spirit from the dead to the living. From
Logan 4 to Logan 5. From Francis 5 to Francis 6.It's so simple that there can be
no denying it.
People don't die in the City of Domes,
they "renew" (as if they are just TV programs, not living
human beings.) The light on your palm which signals your death is not a
"death clock" but, tellingly, a "life-clock."
Sandmen don't kill. No, theyneverkill, according to Logan. They
simply "terminate" Runners. And Runners are like"Terrorists"aren't they? Just a faceless boogeyman...not
real flesh and blood people. Additionally, the day of a citizen’s death isn't
called "Death Day or "Execution Day," but known by the pleasant
euphemism Last Day.
This is precisely how Orwell's double-speak,
jargon and euphemisms work. These phrases are widely-disseminatedsimplificationsdesigned
to impede questioning; to preserve and nurture an authoritarian regime and its
A totalitarian state is also defined as one
with a "culture of
military solidarity" in which
"the pursuit and elimination" of Enemies of the State has
become a primary purpose.
Again, it's easy to detect howLogan's Runfits this aspect of the definition of
totalitarianism. In general, the Sandmen lord it over the non-military
personnel of the City of Domes, as Francis specifically does when an innocent
civilian bumps into him at Arcade.Furthermore,
according to City of Domes-style catechism, the Sandmen (the military of this
State) are elevated above other citizens in matters of transmigration too.
"Sandmen Always Renew,"
the catechism goes.
The enemies of the state are termed
"Runners," but they are those, simply, who question thestatus quoand consequently opt out of Carousel,
attempting to live longer than their allotted thirty years. The Sandmen are in
place todestroythe Runners and prevent all knowledge
of "Sanctuary" from the distracted populace. Runners can't be
imprisoned (that would imbalance the population control system); they have to
be "terminated" on sight. And again, the State employs euphemisms
liketerminate(instead of "kill") to make
the act more palatable. When a runner dies, the corpse is melted down by
strange hovering, futuristic machines, but this gory act is euphemistically
termed "cleaning up." If people were to see the destroyed human body
and count it as such theymightbegin to question the government's
simplifications and slogans, not to mention thestatus quo.
Logan's Runsucceeds as a film in no small part
because of the carefully designed and constructed totalitarian state that our
protagonists, Logan and Jessica flee.
This world -- run by an unfeeling computer
-- is so inhuman, so callous, that it does not even permit mothers and fathers
to raise children. No, families create a sense of personal loyaltyoutsideof loyalty to government, and that cannot
be tolerated in a totalitarian state.
A good villain goes a long way towards
making an effective movie, and inLogan's
Runthere is a great
one: a 23rd century Big Brother ordering mandatory executions and destroying
Note too, that like many real life
dictatorships, the City of Domes is carefully erected on lies and deceit.
Inherent in the system of the City is the belief that one does not need to work
or produce. Its people are occupied
entirely with leisure.
This lie is laid bare when Logan visits
the outer workings of the city and finds that a mad robot called
"Box" has frozen the 1,056 unaccounted for runners to be used as food
for the city goers. Box ran out of plankton and animals some time ago, and now
has resorted to capturing and storing unlucky humans in stasis. So the City of
Domes is actually feeding on itself
to survive. The self-sufficient system (which demands death at 30) is not so
self-sufficient after all.
Rather, it is cannibalizing itself.
Yet if the City of Domes is a cage for its
people, it's rather definitively a gilded cage. The people who dwell there,
according to the film's opening card "live only for pleasure."
And that's another core aspect of the Totalitarian/Absolute State:distraction.
The government wants your mind on
"other things," not the government,not
the way things are. One way to avoid
politics and matters of national import is to focus on materialism, on owning
things, or in the vernacular: shopping.
Well, the people of the City of Domes have been told to go shopping
Their beautiful Cityis actually a colossal shopping
mall, and the film was, in fact, shot in a shopping mall in Texas. This
Arcade offers every manner of distraction and entertainment imaginable.
So if you're feeling vain, why not head
over to the New You Shop, where you can get a quickie face lift (or tummy tuck)
and come out looking absolutely fabulous? If you hurry, you can make your
work-out at the gym this afternoon too (as Logan and Francis do during one critical
scene...). If you seek companionship, head over to another part of the mall:
the Love Shop -- the 23rd Century equivalent of Studio 54. There you can take
legal (and safe!) mood-altering drugs called "lifts" (think Prozac or
Then, you can have casual sex with gorgeous strangers (all under 30!). If
you want to stay in your deluxe Sandman apartment tonight instead (conveniently
located right off the mall's promenade...),Logan's
Runeven offers the
23rd century corollary to our Internet Porn: the so called computer
"circuit" which materializes sexual partners (male or female), right
at your doorstep.
What does all this mean?Well, clearly the City of Domes is
consumed with youth, beauty, sex, and hedonism. Again, this is a pointed
reflection of our culture in the 1970s, and even more so today. Who cares if
the world is burning? We want our MTV!
Logan's Run'santidote to dystopia may be naive,
however, especially in 2016.
The film espouses, among other things a
renewal of the natural order:a
return to the re-born outside world, and a prescribed departure from
computers, climate-controlled shopping-malls and 24-hour-a-day leisure.
Alas, that's a genie you can put back in
the bottle easily.
Although Logan literally sees the
"light of day" when he leaves the City of Domes -- his first vision
of the natural world is an apricot-colored sun rise -- it is not until he
encounters The Old Man (Peter Ustinov) that the pieces of a re-born future
start to come together. In the end, the message ofLogan's Runis that with age comes wisdom, but --
heck! -- "older" leaders were the ones the original youngsters of the
City of Domes inherited the messed-up Earth from in the first place.
One thing is for certain:Logan's
over machines. When faced with the reality that Sanctuary is but a fairy tale, Logan
and the humans go on to (hopefully) construct a better society, a new
"Sanctuary" where death is not mandatory at 30.
By contrast, the Computer that runs the
City of Domes is not able to conceive of such a silly idea -- a fantasy utopia
and paradise -- and it goes haywire in response; short-circuited. Once again,
we see imagination as a critical human quality; but it is a heritage that
Logan's people have largely neglected for hedonism. It takes the odyssey
outside by Logan and the return visit to the City by the Old Man to rekindle
Those who watchLogan's Runand deride it as cheesy or outdated may
have missed the point. Perhaps they have not gazed deeply enough at the world
it so confidently creates. The film -- for all its silliness and outdated
special effects -- reveals what might happen to a society that finally turns
irrevocably inward; becoming obsessed with youth and beauty at the expense of
wisdom. If we let that future become reality, then Washington D.C. and all the
beautiful national landmarks there will end up but monuments to irrelevancy;
artifacts of an age when liberty and intellect actually meant something.
Indeed, they have become inLogan's
Run: meaningless, empty ruins from another epoch.
In the final analysis,Logan's Runis a good cautionary science fiction
film, one that reminds us to hold Big Brother accountable. And to --at least every now and then-- peer out of our happy little gilded
cages and ask, precisely, what is happening in all our names.
Totalitarian States believe you are either
with them (and Carousel) or against them (Runners), but Logan and Jessica find
that a rich life exists beyond dogma, sound-bytes, catechism, and jargon. After
their visit to the ruins of Washington D.C., they find that, at the very least,
life possesses nuances. And that also -- with human experience and age -- shouldfollow...wisdom.
it took twenty long years for filmmakers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin to give audiences…this movie.
won’t mince words about it: Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) is
a terrible, awful, no good movie.
go further. This is quite possibly the worst big budget studio release in a
generation, or at least since I’ve been reviewing movies.
Big, would-be emotional moments in Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence fail
utterly, and even the supposedly spectacular action scenes are flat and
lifeless. Beloved characters and actors return to the franchise, and have
almost no impact whatsoever.
I know there are readers out there who hate Independence Day (1996)
with a passion, but I don’t feel that way.
all its inherent, generic, goofiness, ID4 remains a nineties pop-culture
touchstone. The scene of the alien flying saucer destroying the White House is
And the dramatic material, while schmaltzy, nonetheless carries authentic emotional impact. President Whitmore’s
(Bill Pullman) final, inspirational speech in the film, about the human race
joined as one, finally, in opposition to an outside threat, is remarkably
delivered. It also captures an idea
often spoken, by the likes of President Reagan and others: that the human race
will only truly be united in opposition to an alien attack.
If the Earth is at stake we will come
together as one.
whatever flaws the 1996 film possesses -- namely and most importantly, the relentless pandering to a wide audience -- ID4 still feels like a huge pop
culture event; one with grand, carefully orchestrated special effects, and an
ominous sense of build-up and tension as the alien attack on Earth commences.
new film, Resurgence feels utterly slapdash in comparison. It looks like
a cash grab that should have been released in 1998, two years after the
original film premiered so as to capitalize on some of the good will generated
by the original film.
this is twenty years later -- not two years -- later, and Independence Day: Resurgence
is a disaster of epic proportions. It’s shocking, actually, to watch the whole enterprise go up in smoke before your eyes.
years after an alien invasion nearly destroyed humanity, the human race is once
Utilizing technology reverse-engineered from captured and shot-down
alien ships, the Earth Space Defense, sponsored by the UN, has established
based on the Moon, and operates from an HQ at Area 51.
the twenty year mark nears, however, a mission to the Congo -- consisting of
scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), Dr. Marceaux (Charlotte Gainesbourg)
and the warlord Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) -- discovers that a crashed alien ship
has been transmitting a distress signal to deep space.
those who were once telepathically-linked to the aliens -- including ex-President
Whitmore (Pullman) and Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner) -- begin receiving mental
at Earth’s Moonbase, where hot-dog pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) is
stationed, a small spherical ship approaches. It is shot down immediately, but
is not actually part of the invasion. Instead it harbors the secret to
defeating the aliens, known as “Harvesters.”
a 3,000 mile-in-diameter Harvester vessel approaches and destroys Earth’s defenses. It
begins to drill into the Earth in an attempt to remove Earth’s core, killing
however, believes, that there is a way to stop the procedure. The aliens
possess a hive mind, and killing the Queen will stop the drilling operation.
is a good (and very Japanese-ish/kaiju or Gerry Anderson-ish) idea embedded in Independence
Day: Resurgence, but that’s about it.
the movie features the idea of a unified Earth developing a multi-national
defense force against external threats. It's a pseudo SHADO.
All the Earth planes and ship designs featured in the film are
futuristic in design, powered by the alien’ anti-gravity technology. There isn’t a lot of dialogue about this upgrade in
the film, which actually works in the movie’s favor. It is a brand new world we encounter here, twenty years
after the invasion, and a lot of the technological progress is (rightly)
un-commented upon. Rather, it is merely
accepted as being a fact of life.
that idea, there’s not much here to recommend Resurgence to thoughtful
audiences. The movie features three creative specific failures worth describing in detail. One involves the actual
invasion, the second involves the new characters, created for the sequel, and last
regards the handling of the characters who return from the original.
take each issue in turn.
Day, there was a slow-burn build up to the attack, and accordingly, a sense of
suspense and mounting anxiety. The aliens didn’t just arrive
and start smashing landmarks. A signal was detected, suggesting a coordinated
attack around the globe, and then a mysterious countdown. That countdown was detected too late, and an
evacuation of government sites began, only half-successfully.
understand that the mystery is gone now about the alien intent. We know they
are hostile. So the same card can't be played a second time.
the whole premise of this movie seems to be, simply, that bigger is better. That’s
it: shock and awe, CG style.
we get a huge spaceship arrive, latch on to the planet, and pretty much wipe
through Europe in one over-the-top scene. The ship is huge, the destruction is huge too, but it
is over in a few short moments. There’s no sense of a pitched battle, no sense
of the people who live in the affected city (London). It’s a digital cartoon, without human
scale, and therefore, without human impact.
second such scene, with Julius Levinson’s boat escaping the giant space ship, is
played more for laughs than horror, and it feels impossible. We know he is going
to survive, even as every other ship in the sea is pulped. Why, because he's the movie's indestructible comic relief.
special effects are lacking in human impact, perhaps, because the new human
characters are conceived and performed in the most generic way imaginable.
Hemsworth, Jessie Usher, and Maika Monroe are utterly forgettable as this “next
generation” of characters, and the audience doesn’t ever come to truly care
about them. They never leave a footprint on your mind, let alone on your heart. Jake (Hemsworth) and Hiller
(Usher) are given some back-story conflict that goes nowhere and means nothing. It's just a way to waste time, and make you feel that there is a "history" to these cardboard creation.
you know the movie is failing on a catastrophic level when it looks, for a
minute, that the young heroes have died in an escape from an alien saucer, and
you find you just don’t care. The movie’s soundtrack rises to a crescendo, and you realize that you are supposed to be
concerned, engaged. You are supposed to care.
can’t remember, offhand, another blockbuster movie where the crowd-pleasing
moments, the big victories, the prospective failures, fall so utterly, horribly flat. The young, underwear-model cast is
never able to generate any real or genuine interest on the part of the
returning characters don’t fare all that much better. Bill Pullman registers strongly as President
Whitmore at first, but then the character is sacrificed for what is, finally, a
meaningless death. He gives another speech that is supposed to register as
inspiring and stirring, but plays as a pale shadow of the original ID4 oratory. His death, again, doesn't reach the emotional heights the movie aims for.
Hirsch continues to be over-the-top as the senior Levinson, while Jeff Goldblum feels oddly
disconnected from the material, simply walking through the part. By contrast, Vivica A. Fox gets what should be a powerful
death scene, but again…the moment carries almost no emotional weight. She's been given so little screen time here, that there is no chance to reconnect with her.
all the original characters, Dr. Okun is the only one who comes off well. Brent
Spiner steals practically every scene he is in, but even he can only do so
much heavy lifting. He gets the last lines of the
film, which should be a rallying cry for the sequel, but feels more like a slapdash joke.
his best, director Roland Emmerich can rouse audiences with efforts such as
Stargate (1994) or Independence Day (1996), and at his
worst, he provides audiences empty thrills and brain-dead narratives like 10,000
BC (2008) and 2012 (2009). His Godzilla (1998), widely-derided, falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.
is a new career low, as it leaves out even the emptiest of thrills. The whole movie flies on automatic pilot, with no apparent creative investment. It's all just a formula, without heart, without emotional connection or creative distinction. We have no idea, from this film, why we should love these characters, or invest in their world.
The title of this sequel was once proposed as Independence Day: Forever.