Some Sci-Fi Junk Food

Let’s see if I can ignore the Doomsday Clock for a few minutes and actually get something written.

In the odd evenings that I’ve managed to put aside for movie-watching, I’ve definitely gone the escapist route this year. So on a vacant Friday evening I decided to finally watch two of the biggest flops of the last year, just to go someplace else for a while, even if that place might not be worth the visit.

First up was Independence Day: Resurgence, which was one of many dull thuds in the Summer 2016 box office. It’s 20 years after the first movie (appropriately enough), and the aliens return for a rematch, except this time they’re serious. Stage center is largely occupied by the children of the main characters of the first movie, though Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Vivica Fox and Bill Pullman all return.

And overall… I liked it. Hey, Mikey!

We are told that in the intervening 20 years, mankind is still united, and we’ve reverse-engineered alien tech to a degree that put me in mind of Macross. There’s a thriving military moonbase and, at the very least, an observation post near Saturn. Another alien race attempts to contact us, and given our last experience, we immediately shoot them out of the sky. Too bad they were offering to help, huh? When the new bad guy mothership arrives, it is over 3000 miles across, has its own gravity field, and parks across the Atlantic ocean. The whole ocean.

Guys, that is some cool mind-blowing science-fiction right there, and it’s only damaged a little by Roland Emmerich’s fetish for out-doing Irwin Allen in the disaster department. (“How will we get a speeding vehicle dodging stuff falling from the sky this time?” I wondered. “Ah! Here we go!”) People deride it for being basically the same movie as the first, just bigger – my question is: is this the first sequel you’ve ever seen?

My other question is why with all this alien tech at our disposal are people still driving cars that require gasoline, but let’s not get too far down that rabbit hole, or we’ll be wondering why it takes the aliens three-quarters of the movie to toast the communications satellite network aw crap.

I wanted big and stupid, I got big and fairly stupid. I enjoyed it, which surprised me, as I’m not a big fan of the first movie. I liked it alright, but I wanted to love it, and I didn’t.

So I might as well tarnish that experience by immediately following it up with Ghost in the Shell, which for some reason I felt compelled to watch. I guess there’s a nerd punch card somewhere I needed to fill?

Briefly: Scarlett Johannson is Major, a human brain in a robot body. Major has no memory of her former existence, though she is told her body may have died by drowning. She is employed as an intelligent tactical weapon by an elite peacekeeping force overseen by Takeshi Kitano. As she works to root out a rogue cyborg who is hacking into the data centers of other cyborgs, she begins to find out unpleasant truths about her own existence, not the least of which is her true identity and origin.

Ghost in the Shell is a competently made, if relatively (and ironically) soulless. When I found out this was made by Rupert Sanders, a whole lot of things suddenly made sense. Like Snow White and the Huntsman, this movie uses its technology fairly well, but an essential feeling of reality is missing. In Snow White‘s fantasy world, this wasn’t a big deal, but in cyberpunk, it is. The frequent loving vistas of a futuristic city overwhelmed by gigantic advertising holograms look like they came out of a Mind’s Eye laserdisc in the early 90s, not a big budget CGI extravaganza from 2017.

Sanders seems to rely almost solely upon the talents of his stars to give his movies life and energy; before it was Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth, this time it’s Johannson and Takeshi, and the movie isn’t willing to meet them halfway in that effort. They’re a talented bunch, but they need a script that did more than read the definition of anomie in a word-a-day calendar. I’m going to be honest and admit I haven’t seen the original since it came out in the mid-90s, but golly it sure seems like Major is rendered helpless a lot for an unstoppable killing machine, just so exposition can be delivered. The most damning thing about Ghost in the Shell is that it’s a great comic book and a perfectly fine anime – why was it felt necessary to make a big budget live version? (Truthfully, I can think of more than one movie that needs to have that question asked, but we’re trying to be brief here)

So. Independence Day: Resurgence, thumbs up, Ghost in the Shell thumbs down.

Now I’m going to become scarce around here for a while. Yes, yes, I know, scarce-er. The October Hubrisween event is coming, and I need to get way more done on that than I have at this point. I’ll try to poke my head in, I really will.

(Ron Howard voice: “He didn’t poke his head in.”)

Buy Independence Day: Resurgence on Amazon

Buy Ghost in the Shell on Amazon

Better yet, buy the original Ghost in the Shell on Amazon


  1. Hmmm… that 99-cent rental for Ghost In The Shell via PSN in a few weeks I may still take a chance on even though I know I’ll be face-palming myself with a cast iron fry pan. As for Resurgence, I like your perspective even though the film was the equivalent of eating ten bucks worth of fast food and not expecting the tummy rumbling part later. I’m not hoping for that third film just because I know where it’ll go (bigger, louder, crazier)… but as noted in my review, Fox can and should mine that idea for a mini-series of some sort.

    • Truly. With a small speedy vehicle dodging some different shit falling from the sky every week!

      • Unless… they go all Transporter TV series on us and actually make the car chases boring. I sat through a few episodes of that trash and wanted to drive off a roof.

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