Roland Emmerich’s Search for an Independence Day Successor Culminated in a Truly Awful Direct Sequel

The Day After Tomorrow

I think the only genuinely likable characters are the homeless guy, the nerdy black kid, and the rich white twink you’re supposed to immediately dislike because he’s positioned as a romantic rival to Jake Gyllenhaal but he literally never makes a move on the girl and even encourages Jake to tell her how he feels. Any one of them would’ve been a better protagonist than Jake and his dad Dennis Quaid. Well, except for the rich twink. I think he’s actually perfectly utilized as affable, completely inconsequential eyecandy.

Worth revisiting for the orgy of so-so CGI weather disasters, but aside from the aforementioned (all of whom are side characters) there isn’t a single character in this who doesn’t drastically overstay their welcome. This would be a lot more of a chore to watch if it took itself more seriously, but luckily it knows what it’s about so it’s just fine. Not Emmerich’s best effort or one of my favorite disaster movies or anything. Just fine.

(C-Rank)

2012

Wow yeah, that wasn’t as bad as I remembered it being!

It was drastically worse.

So, yeah, when we decided to watch a bunch of Roland Emmerich disaster movies to get ready for Moonfall (I am so unreasonably psyched for that one please don’t be bad pleasepleaseplease), this one did kinda jump out at me as hopefully being ripe for a reappraisal. I don’t like hating on things! But yeah this is just kinda genuinely unpleasant to watch.

One of those absolutely true things that makes you sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist when you talk about it is that rich capitalists are absolutely planning for the apocalypse without any intention whatsoever of stopping it, but rather just ensuring that they can continue to profit off of everyone else (a much, much diminished number of everyone else, mind) and live a life of luxury. We see a scaled down (but still extremely deadly for plenty of people) version of this in the response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s even worse on the horizon when we get around to the climate collapse that’s still coming for us.

Okay, I should take a quick second here and not do exactly the same thing as this movie. I think literally all of this is solvable. I know we keep hearing in the news every other week or so it seems like that we’ve passed some kind of new “irreversible” climate benchmark. But if we overthrow the exploitative and destructive capitalist systems that are forcing things in this direction, and devote the full measure of the planet’s minds and resources to finding a way to fix it, I have to believe it’s fixable. It’s scary, but it’s fixable. Descending into nihilism isn’t going to help anyone.

Anyway. Sorry. Back to the movie. 2012 is the drastically toned down version of the Rich People Save Themselves thing where we’re not all wearing shock collars as part of Jeff Bezos’s private army or whatever the fuck, but like… the toned down version is still plenty depressing? So it’s just genuinely unpleasant to watch, but it also stops short of really being any kind of effective warning?

I just… I watch disaster movies for silly fun, and if it’s not gonna give me that it can at least do a good job of conveying… something? Anything? What was I supposed to get out of this? What was the point?

The usual cast of barely-characters you get in an Emmerich movie doesn’t even have as many redeeming qualities as your The Day After Tomorrows of the world, where all the main characters were bland but at least you had some halfway decent side characters to glom onto? 

This just really had absolutely nothing going for it.

On top of that… okay. Imagine the opportunity that you’ve been given here if you’re Roland Emmerich. You’re one of the most famous and successful disaster movie directors of all time, and more than any other time since the Y2K scare, people are losing their minds with panic that the world is going to end in the near future. It’s literally something they’re casually talking about on the morning news (which is a thing people still watch at the time, gods help them) while nervously laughing and pretending that they’re 100 percent sure it’s bullshit instead of the 99 percent we all actually were while that one tiny 1 percent is in the back of your head going “oh gods oh gods but what if oh gods.”

So you literally have this perfect setup to do a CGI orgy disaster movie that will be extremely zeitgeisty… and what you come up with is “uh neutrinos uh start doing uh a thing and uh I guess well the Mayans knew about that because uh of reasons and uh um uh uh the tectonic plates move around and that makes tidal waves and cracks in the earth’s surface.”

You literally cannot sum up the disaster in this movie without either having recently seen it or Googling it! Why is this what you went with?

“But Miles, that’s so unfair!” You’re protesting, according to me. “What kind of disaster would’ve been suitably dramatic that hadn’t already been done?” Oh, really? You wanna go? You wanna go? Try me! Off the top of my head here are some potentially world-ending disasters that haven’t had a definitive (or any) movie made about them yet:

  • The Yellowstone supervolcano (which is literally in this movie but so incidental that I didn’t reference it in my brief description of the movie’s nebulous disaster).
  • A massive solar flare.
  • The Nemesis hypothesis (the idea that there’s a brown dwarf or similar stellar body orbiting the solar system knocking comets towards earth at predictable intervals and that’s why there is some regularity to the mass extinctions seen in the fossil record).
  • A gamma ray burst.
  • A rogue black hole.
  • Collision with another planet (Melancholia is sort of about this but it’s also not really about it.)

So it’s not the message, it’s not the characters, it’s not the godsdamned disaster itself… what am I supposed to be enjoying about this movie?

I’m sorry, I hate being a hater, I really do, but as someone who’s usually pretty forgiving about these kinds of movies (I GAVE CHRISTMAS TWISTER A POSITIVE REVIEW!), I’m just so genuinely upset about the giant swing and a miss this movie represents.

PLEASE be good, Moonfall. If you’re not, I’m never trusting Roland Emmerich again.

(D-Rank)

Independence Day: Resurgence

This feels like one of those YouTube videos that just clips together all the cutscenes from a video game into a “movie.” Or a pilot for a TV series based on Independence Day where the biggest cast member they could get back was Brent Spiner so they had to figure out a way to resurrect his character, à la Agent Coulson for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And yeah, they also got Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman, but they killed Bill Pullman off in the pilot and surely they’re only gonna shell out the big bucks for Goldblum for the occasional really big episode, right?

(D-Rank)


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