Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2017

Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2017

Say what you will about 2017, but it did deliver many excellent films. Critically it was one of the most fascinating years in recent memory. Instead of only drooling over the usual Oscar-bait, critics praised superhero movies like Wonder Woman while many upheld the horror-comedy Get Out as the best film of the year. As a result, the interests of yours truly actually aligned with many of the critics this year. While it was a refreshing change of pace, certain movies did or didn’t resonate with me like they did with the critics. Here are my top 10 favorite movies released in 2017 (minor spoilers ahead for some films):

10. Thor: Ragnarok

thor ragnarok #1
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ [Credit: Marvel Studios]
Director Taika Waititi reshaped the narrative around Thor films through his bizarre, quirky, improvisational style. Despite the change in approach, Loki still stole the show with his charm, sarcasm and intricate character development. Tom Hiddleston’s approach to the character somehow works every time he appears, but all the other actors clearly got on board with Waititi’s vision as well and made it a reality. The movie finally embraced the cosmos outside Earth and Asgard through the weirdness of Sakaar, complemented by the hilarious Korg and Jeff Goldblum’s callous Grandmaster.

The movie didn’t live up to its complete potential, though, as it sometimes sacrificed important plot points or character moments for laughs. Important information about Surtur and Ragnarok is eclipsed in the beginning by Thor making dumb jokes. Beneath the humor, the film contained an intriguing theme about whitewashing history. Hela’s motivations and backstory relied heavily on this theme and the fascinating revelation that she and Odin built the empire of Asgard off the blood of other worlds before Odin banished Hela and changed the narrative. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t dive into this theme enough. But Waititi’s fresh approach works well overall, and provides excellent development for Thor, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Loki, and Valkyrie heading into Avengers: Infinity War.

9. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ [Credit: Annapurna Pictures]
Following the sensational success of Wonder Woman, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women shares the fascinating tale of creation behind the iconic and more popular than ever superhero. The relationships between Professor William Marston, his wife Elizabeth, and their protégé Olive are deeply moving. Their story demonstrates the raw beauty of human love when stigmas are lifted. Audiences care about their relationships on a personal level, and seeing how their dynamics and personalities shape core elements of Wonder Woman allows audiences to care about these characters even further. Amidst their relationships, academia, feminism, BDSM, and the invention of the lie detector all play integral roles in creating Wonder Woman.

One narrative drawback in the film is that it feels like audiences are shown that William loves Elizabeth and Olive, Elizabeth loves William and Olive, and that Olive loves Elizabeth. However, the audience is really only told that Olive comes to love William and never shown this. This makes their dynamics and relationship less believable, but it ultimately doesn’t detract too much from the film’s many strong elements.

8. Coco

After a few sub-par entries in recent years, Pixar showed they were back on their game with Coco. The imaginative story delivers a celebration of culture, family, and music. The Land of the Dead is a visually breathtaking setting. Creative, meaningful concepts like the customs area and rules of who can and can’t pass over root the Land of the Dead in stellar world-building. Against this backdrop, Pixar brings the family-friendly humor but also explores deeper concepts like the role collective memory plays in shaping legacies and the identity of future generations. But there’s just as much emphasis on the impact of an individual’s memories on legacy and identity. There’s also a pretty shocking, dark twist in the film’s third act that directly influences the film’s exploration of memory. Above all the film is a diverse celebration of culture, family, and music and the healing power of these elements on memory.

7. Beauty and the Beast

‘Beauty and the Beast’ [Credit: Walt Disney Studios]
Disney’s live-action remake acts as a homage to the 1991 animated film while incorporating a variety of fresh elements. One of the best examples is how a key bonding point between Belle and the Beast is their love for reading. This was touching in the 1991 film when Belle teaches Beast how to read and as he embraces the wonders of reading  the two characters find another meaningful bond with each other. This is made even better in the new film through their shared, intellectual passions as already voracious readers. Scenes in the library, where they both read independently or to each other at the dinner table and on the castle grounds honor the previous film while adding new, rich layers to the current story.

Emma Watson plays Belle perfectly through sharp intellect, charm, and fierce bravery. Characters like LeFou and Maurice become more nuanced instead of just existing as caricatures. Luke Evans is the perfect individual we never knew should play Gaston, capturing the character through the strongest singing performance in the film. The likes of Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, and Dan Stevens provide mesmerizing voices that help to bring the beloved characters and classic story to life like never before.

6. Get Out

‘Get Out’ [Credit: Universal Pictures]
Get Out is the rare movie that has a strong idea behind it while the execution of that idea in the film is just as strong. The idea that we don’t live in a post-racial world isn’t mind-blowing, but it is an essential truth that needs to be explored. Jordan Peele’s horror-comedy delves into the facade of a post-racial world, and the ugliness lurking behind such lies. The delightful blend of thrilling, creepy, and hilarious elements make Peele’s approach to tackling these ideas equally entertaining and thought-provoking. Through the gradual buildup, arguably the most shocking film twist in 2017, and the violent ending, the suspense never falters. It’s a movie that’s completely engaging from start to finish, and will stick with audiences long after they see the film.

5. War for the Planet of the Apes

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
By developing character and theme instead of spectacle, this science-fiction prequel trilogy always seemed to be way better than it had any right to be. The concluding chapter in the trilogy continued this success with perhaps the strongest entry yet. Instead of a drawn-out explosive fight between apes and humans, the movie hones in on Caesar’s misguided revenge plot. Like a tragic Shakespearean figure, Caesar is a brilliant, now broken leader, seeking revenge with the futile hope it will heal his many losses. The film particularly excels in quiet moments of beauty and tragedy, all asking the audience what it truly means to be human. The moment in which the mute human child Nova asks Maurice if she is an ape is both poignant and uplifting. The final, wordless confrontation between Caesar and Woody Harrelson’s villain exposes the thin line between their two species and provides insight into what humanity really looks like. It’s heavy stuff, made a little lighter by Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape.

4. Blade Runner 2049

It’s difficult to continue the story of a classic, especially after garnering thirty years of critical acclaim. Blade Runner 2049 manages to not only act as a worthy sequel, but it provides compelling world-building and further enhances the overall narrative. Through visually stunning cinematography and a soundtrack that perfectly captures the mood, the film explores the question of what it really means to be human. Building on the original Blade Runner, Replicants tend to act more humane than humans, leaving the audience to ponder what genuine humanity is at all. Ryan Gosling’s character K has rich development that subverts the “chosen one” trope. His relationship with Joi acts as a poignant and sometimes amusing insight into the relationships modern day individuals share with their prized technological devices. Harrison Ford’s Deckard is used the perfect amount, providing depth and a redemptive arc that enriches his overall character. There are more twists than in the original film, though the sequel lacks some of its predecessor’s rich ambiguity. This is partly rooted in Jared Leto’s performance as the underdeveloped villain Niander Wallace. But overall the core themes and characters are thought-provoking enough and the film beautifully made to outweigh such drawbacks.

3. Wonder Woman

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‘Wonder Woman’ [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

Blending together elements of mythology, history, and superhero origin stories, Wonder Woman became one of the most entertaining and important movies of the year. Gal Gadot’s sensational performance nailed all aspects of the character, along with an inspired supporting cast. Audiences finally got to experience a female-led superhero movie brimming with heart, humor, and epic sequences. The emphasis on mythology and the World War I setting gave the film a unique feel that is grounded with traditional elements of a superhero origin story. It is a refreshing break from the brooding angst of recent superhero films, particularly in the DCEU. In an age where darkness and cynicism often reign both in entertainment and reality, Wonder Woman is an uplifting breath of fresh air.

2. Logan

X-Men films are often constrained by their massive ensembles, leaving many compelling characters unexplored in a race to an explosive battle in the third act. Logan prevented this issue by focusing on the characters of Logan, Charles Xavier, and Laura. The character-driven story leads to the best X-Men film of all time as the three protagonists and their relationships are explored in-depth. Logan and Charles struggle to find their places in a world that has moved on from mutants, haunted by the sins of their pasts. Both men find purpose through Laura, a mutant child who is fierce with her powers, but in desperate need of guidance and companionship. They form a kind of dysfunctional family as Laura learns what it means to not just survive, but to embrace the gift of life.

This journey with Laura allows Charles and Logan to not only find purpose, but to finally confront their demons and complete their incredible character arcs in service to the future represented by Laura and her young mutant friends. The brutal fight scenes, the dysfunction between Logan and Caliban and a dementia-plagued Charles, and the quieter scenes between Logan and Charles and Laura all play equally well. Ultimately, the film exemplifies the beautiful and chaotic mess of life that Logan, Charles, and Laura all learn to embrace in different ways.

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ [Credit: Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm]
The core reason The Last Jedi is so divisive among fans is the very reason the film should be applauded. Rian Johnson dared to make bold choices and take substantial risks with his approach to the film. He deconstructed what audiences should expect from a Star Wars film. Instead of seeing constraints placed by the existing films and canon, he saw opportunities to expand the universe and test the characters in refreshing ways. This doesn’t just mean shocking twists. It means challenging the misconception from both characters and audiences that Luke Skywalker is a perfect legend. It means challenging the idea that Rey’s destiny relies on her lineage. It means characters figuring out how to resolve a situation when their desperate, half-baked plans fail to save the day. It means pushing the boundaries of the abilities wielded by Force-sensitive individuals, and the beliefs that govern their decisions.

Carrie Fisher delivers one of her all-time best performances in what will tragically be her final appearance as Leia. Her steadfast leadership in impossible situations, wry humor, palpable spirit, and an overdue use of a certain power serve as a beautiful testament to both Leia and Carrie Fisher herself. Mark Hamill sells Luke’s complex and ultimately satisfying journey, an arc that doesn’t destroy the character but that challenges his core identity when he feels like he’s failed the galaxy and the people he cares about most. Learning from his mistakes and with the help of an old friend, Luke experiences some of his greatest development yet with the decisions he makes in the film’s final act.

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are fantastic as well, selling the unlikely bond that forms between Rey and Kylo Ren as they channel their raw power and struggle to find their place and purpose in the galaxy.  They are equally as compelling at portraying how their characters grapple with the mind-blowing consequences of the bond they sought for different reasons. Of the brand new characters, Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo is the standout. Soft-spoken and reserved and appearing more feminine than other Resistance members, she challenges both characters like Poe and the audience to rethink what makes a true leader and hero. This is a lesson that both audiences and characters need as there’s far more to successful heroism and leadership than jumping in an X-Wing and blowing stuff up. With the aid of lightspeed, Holdo also owns one of the film’s most epic moments.

The movie isn’t perfect—such as Captain Phasma being wasted again—but overall The Last Jedi is the most captivating and bold movie of 2017 from start to finish.

If you enjoyed what you read, check out more of my writing on Screen Rant:

What’s your favorite movie of 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Top Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm


The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

***Minor spoiler warning

Between promises to explore our dangerous relationship with technology and an impressive cast, I had high hopes for The Circle. While it proves to be an enjoyable film, The Circle fails to meet its potential through a lack of balanced or nuanced exploration of our relationship with technology. When Mae (Emma Watson) goes “fully transparent” under the direction of the Circle’s Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and his partner Stenton (Patton Oswalt), we get a complete view of Mae’s life through incredible technology. One of the best parts of the movie is seeing the comments pop up when Mae is “fully transparent” as these comments accurately reflect the comments section of almost any YouTube video or online article. Through this pursuit we see Mae fully embracing and even pushing the lengths at which technology should be used with Bailey and Stenton constantly bolstering these ideals. These characters and their actions are all pro-technology which makes sense for Bailey and Stenton but at a certain point just becomes confusing with Mae due to the negative consequences created by her use of all-consuming use of such technology.

On the other side, Mae’s friend Mercer is anti-technology from the start, and soon cuts off from technology completely. Mae’s parents go transparent along with their daughter but after a breach in their privacy also cut off from technology entirely. The movie struggles to tap into the potential of thoughtfully exploring our relationship with technology because the characters and their actions are too pro-technology or anti-technology with little middle ground in between. Ty (John Boyega) is a missed opportunity in this regard. As the creator of the TruYou software that is integral to the Circle, he works at the company but is morally conflicted about the Circle’s intrusive actions and exposes these intrusions to Mae. Through Ty we could’ve received a more nuanced exploration of the film’s overarching questions. Instead the film ultimately uses Ty as a plot device to impart necessary information and act as a resource to execute the film’s ending.

While disappointing in this sense, The Circle is still an enjoyable film. It kept me fully engaged as there is not a single moment where I felt my attention wander. The overall concept is intriguing and many facets of the story aren’t that far off from our current reality. Going “fully transparent” in many ways is Facebook live or any form of video live streaming taken to the extreme. The company culture of the Circle is rooted in companies like Google and Apple who provide their companies with more and more benefits in order to keep their employees at work, giving them everything they need at the company so they are incentivized to work as much as possible. The film even satirizes our society’s push to be extroverted and our relationship with social media and the meticulously crafted image many construct through their social media presence. The scene where two Circle employees approach Mae about her lack of presence on social media and lack of presence at the Circle’s social events is easily one of the film’s best scenes. As an extension of this, the ratings consumers give to employees of the Circle reminds one of ratings real-world consumers give to employees at companies like Lyft or Seamless, furthering the artificiality of a data-driven and data-defining society. The tension and stakes build swiftly, though the point to which they climax feels like a strange choice considering the events throughout the rest of the film. Ultimately, The Circle could’ve been stronger and more thought-provoking if it found more of a middle ground concerning our relationship with technology and imparting such balance and nuance to more of the characters and their actions. I am interested in reading the book and seeing how it compares to the film and if it perhaps provides a more balanced perspective.

If you enjoyed reading this be sure to check out my novels as well!

Top 10 Favorite Movies Seen for the First Time in 2016 (in and out of theaters)

Top 10 Favorite Movies Seen for the First Time in 2016 (in and out of theaters)

Top 10 Favorite Movies Seen for the First Time in 2016 (in and out of theaters)

***Spoiler Warning

  1. Labyrinth

I had the unique experience of seeing this movie for the first time at a Times Square movie theater that showed the film as part of a 30th anniversary celebration. The atmosphere was electric, the cheering escalating when David Bowie first appeared onscreen. George Lucas, Jim Henson, Jennifer Connelly, and David Bowie and so many others create a highly imaginative and bizarre film. It’s the kind of movie you’re not sure what to make of when you first see it, but will keep you thinking weeks after you’ve seen it. Labyrinth is even more fascinating and some of the particularly odd scenes make more sense with my friend Timbray’s interpretation that the movie is a metaphor for Sarah’s sexual awakening. Certain scenes are a bit too cheesy for my taste, but overall it’s the epitome of weird and brilliant art.

  1. The Intern

What I love about The Intern is that it challenges typical depictions of older adults in film. Robert de Niro’s performance is both refreshing and important on an individual level and in terms of his chemistry with others characters, particularly with Anne Hathaway’s character Jules. While the storyline of Jules’s husband cheating on her seemed like a weak attempt to add more drama into the story, the character-driven movie overall leaves you feeling good based on the positive portrayal of older adults, their relationships with younger individuals, and the wise insights and knowledge they possess.

  1. The Butler

The Butler succeeds at telling a highly personal, intimate story while also conveying so much essential history. This balance is especially fascinating considering the personal story is based on true events, led by Forrest Whitaker’s shining performance.

Yet, the presidential portrayals are inconsistent. Some excel while others have voices, appearances or mannerisms so unlike the historical individuals they’re playing that it proves distracting. However, this pales in comparison to the other triumphs achieved in this important film.

  1. Hot Fuzz

Satirical dark humor is my cup of tea. Hot Fuzz drowns audiences in the scalding substance through witty writing and a stellar cast. The slow-forming jokes are worth the wait, as are the satirical twists on the seemingly idyllic small town and the climactic final shootout.

  1. Finding Dory

Finding Nemo is a Pixar movie I’ve always enjoyed, but never loved. Thus, I was interested but not super excited about Finding Dory. My feelings changed when I actually saw the movie. At a time in my life when I feel my personality and identity and my way of doing things are wrong and unacceptable according to the standards of society and the standards of my job, Finding Dory is a refreshing and comforting movie. The movie’s message about accepting your identity and personality and doing things your own, often peculiar way was exactly what I needed and what I still need at this point in my life. Thank you, Pixar, and thank you Finding Dory.

  1. Stardust

Stardust masters the feat of challenging and parodying many conventions of the fantasy genre while also adhering to many of the conventions. The end result is a highly exciting and funny movie. It’s also worth noting that Robert de Niro’s performance in Stardust is incredibly different from The Intern, but equally as impressive.

  1. X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse may be one of the weaker and less creative installments within the long-standing franchise, but it serves up a few special elements that allow it to capitalize on the coveted #4 spot. The first element is seeing Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr as a father, husband, and factory worker. We see a compassionate, pragmatic, even tender nature from him that the franchise has never showcased before. The deaths of his wife and daughter (the daughter is revealed to be a mutant!!!) are easily the most emotional and intriguing parts of the movie. I wish these elements were further explored.

The second element is the delightful Quicksilver and the scene where he saves everyone within the mansion.

The third element is that overall it’s a satisfying ending to the X-Men prequel trilogy, even though X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past were superior films. The character development and relationships of the prequel trilogy’s four core characters (Charles Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, and Beast) reach satisfying conclusions. These conclusions are also enhanced by the likes of Quicksilver and a young Jean Grey portrayed by Sophie Turner. I like how young Jean Grey unleashing her power is the key to destroying Apocalypse and saving the day as a contrast to how what Jean’s use of ultimate power led to in X-Men: The Last Stand.

  1. Captain America: Civil War

Stories that challenge the conventions of their respective genres are usually the stories I like best. Captain America: Civil War engages in this pursuit by pitting heroes against heroes more so than heroes against villains. While I love the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), their movies sometimes get formulaic and I was excited to see the formula challenged.

Overall the pursuit is successful. The movie organically builds off the events and relationships from past MCU films and doesn’t paint either side of the conflict being totally right or wrong. Tom Holland shines in the MCU’s introduction of Spider-Man/Peter Parker (The Empire Strikes Back reference will forever endear me to his character). The mystery behind the deaths of Tony Stark’s parents is even tied in via meaningful and shocking means.

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Harry Potter and Star Wars are my greatest fictional loves. I can’t choose between these excellent cinematic additions to both universes. Both maintain the spirit of their respective franchises while creating newly imaginative and meaningful connections. Rogue One delivers a dark, gritty story that still retains the humor and sense of adventure that defines Star Wars and even enhances elements of the original trilogy. Fantastic Beasts possesses intriguing connections and quirky charm both familiar and new within the Harry Potter universe. See my blog post reviews of both films for more in-depth thoughts.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them review:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review:

8 Movies to Look Forward to in 2017

8 Movies to Look Forward to in 2017

2017 promises many terrific films, some being long anticipated sequels in their respective franchises. Let’s take a look at the 8 movies I’m most looking forward to in 2017:

8. Wonder Woman

With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy I’m definitely more of a Marvel than DC fan. However, it’s about damn time one of these superhero cinematic universes had a movie whose title character is a woman. The trailer showcases what a badass Wonder Woman/Diana Prince is and it’s nice to actually experience her character’s dynamic personality, something we didn’t get much of in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’m also intrigued by the contrast of Amazonian culture in the World War II time period.  Moreover, it’ll be refreshing to experience a superhero origin story many are unfamiliar with as opposed to seeing the origin stories of individuals like Superman, Batman or Spider-Man for the umpteenth time. After lukewarm or severely negative reactions to Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, this may finally be the enticing movie that saves the DCEU (DC Extended Universe).

7. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Part of me thinks it’s ridiculous that the Spider-Man character is being rebooted for a third time. Another part of me is stoked based on Tom Holland’s performance in Captain America: Civil War and all the potential connections to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Holland captures the nerdy, high school, wisecracking nature of Peter Parker sometimes lacking in previous Spider-Man films. Skipping the origin story and moving full speed into his adventures as Spider-Man with Tony Stark/Iron Man appearing to be heavily involved creates so much potential for the MCU.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The excitement continues with the quirkiest group of characters within the MCU. This group’s chemistry is eccentric and electric. That alone is enough excitement for a sequel. Add in the bonuses of Baby Groot, Mantis, and Peter Quill’s father being Ego the living planet. You don’t need to convince me that this movie is worth seeing.

5. War for the Planet of the Apes

The prequel trilogy to the legendary Planet of the Apes has been a pleasant surprise. They’ve created a multi-faceted, morally complex conflict that has audiences rooting for individuals rather than purely the apes or humans. Caesar’s character development has been a fascinating evolution to witness for which Andy Serkis deserves a lot of credit. I’m thrilled at the prospect of seeing how the prequel trilogy comes full-circle with the original film. My only concern is that the new film seems to lack any kind of empathetic human character, except perhaps . Caesar’s relationship with empathetic human characters played an essential role in creating the multi-faceted, moral complexity of the previous films.

Update: Based on the trailers and information we’ve had since this post was published, I no longer have this concern due to the character of Nova.

4. Beauty and the Beast

One of my favorite Disney films receives the live-action remake treatment with the incredibly talented likes of Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, and Emma Watson. The cinematography in the trailer is beautiful and I hope to see some clever, thought-provoking twists with this classic fairy tale.

3. Thor: Ragnarok

I’ve always enjoyed the Thor movies for delivering a more fantastical story within the MCU. Furthermore, they feature Loki.

Thor: Ragnarok promises to be even more exciting with the inclusion of the Hulk/Bruce Banner. It’s time to finally understand Thor’s vision from Avengers: Age of Ultron and how this connects to Thanos and the Infinity Stones, and what Loki has been up to since faking his death and masquerading as Odin.

2. Logan

Hugh Jackman’s last time playing the iconic Wolverine is enough to create mass appeal for this film. The story is adapted from the bold and brilliant graphic novel Wolverine: Old Man Logan, and with Charles Xavier replacing Hawkeye’s role from the source material. The desolate setting where most of the mutants are dead, the physical danger and exhaustion catching up to Logan and Charles but contrasted with the hope of this mysterious young mutant girl and the heart that emanates from the relationships between these three characters . . . This is the movie X-MEN fans deserve.

1. Star Wars: Episode VIII

Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended on more of a cliffhanger than any other Star Wars film. I’m among the legions of fans clamoring for the answer of what will happen following the meeting between Rey and Luke Skywalker. The questions and possibilities this film can explore are endless and promising. Beyond the mysteries and character development surrounding Rey and Luke, I’m particularly interested in seeing how the stories of Leia, Finn, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, and Snoke progress. The bottom line is it’s a new Star Wars film and only needs to adhere to what has happened, not what will happen. The Force Awakens and Rogue One are fantastic and I expect the same from Star Wars: Episode VIII. More to say about this film in future blog posts . . .


Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

***Spoiler warning

Independence Day: Resurgence brings fun and sci-fi action, but lacks the heart and clever writing that makes Independence Day still a favorite film of mine.

Before jumping into what I disliked about the movie, I will start off positive with what I liked.

I enjoyed the return of Julius Levinson and seeing how his life has progressed in the last 20 years. It just makes so much sense he would write a book called How I Saved The World and that he’d go around marketing it to an elderly population. The seed is planted in his first scene for the emptiness and disappointment he feels for not having grandchildren and that storyline is played with well as he helps the kids he meets on the journey to David and they help him. It’s one of the only storylines in this movie that had real heart to it. Julius still delivers some of the best lines in the movie and his shtick still makes me laugh.

Dr. Okun and Dr. Isaacs also have heart with what is definitely the cutest and most believable romantic relationship in this movie.

Incorporating a third species that the aliens fear and that can be a crucial ally to the humans is a fascinating twist and a great addition to the story’s world-building (universe-building in this case). It makes a lot of sense as in the original movie President Whitmore saw what the aliens planned and what they’d done, exterminating life on each planet and consuming all resources before moving on. This indicated that there are many more species out there beyond just the humans and aliens. The introduction of this third species is one of the most interesting features of the movie and one that should’ve been explored with more depth. This is one reason why a third movie (if we actually get one) may actually be more interesting than this sequel.

The actions scenes are pretty solid, except for when the Queen alien chases the school bus (too absurd). The pilots getting lured into the alien ship, their bombs rendered useless and having to survive briefly in the aliens’ ecosystem within the ship was also neat to watch. Getting to see more of the actual aliens was also cool and a nice benefit of CGI and advancements in technology since 1996.

The concept of Independence Day: Resurgence was promising. Imagine a world that has been peaceful and unified since the alien attacks in 1996 and experienced incredible technological advancements thanks to recovered alien technology. See how the characters we came to love in the original film have been affected by the 1996 attacks and how they have developed since then. And now the aliens have returned for revenge.

Now for the criticism: Unfortunately the actual film doesn’t take advantage of the promising concept. All the interesting information about how this world has evolved from 1996 to 2016 was conveyed in far greater detail through digital marketing than the actual movie itself. Seriously, the marketing was better than the movie. Check out these clever videos and websites that actually flesh out the universe within the film.

The characters we came to love in the original film are largely misused and underdeveloped this time around or completely absent. I was disappointed but not too worried about Will Smith’s absence before seeing the movie. With his absence explained in the film’s marketing and so many characters from the original returning, I thought it would be fine. I was wrong.

President Whitmore was my favorite character from the original film. I loved his bold and courageous and inspiring attitude, made only better by his sharp mind and wit, topped off with endless compassion and being a husband and father before anything else. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty for the right reasons. I have so much respect for a man who rallied and inspired the world after catastrophic attacks that nearly destroyed humanity, a man who despite being a politician, went into the air as a pilot and did what he had to do help defeat the aliens.

In the sequel, this incredible character is mostly reduced to a raving old guy, the one that no one believes but who knows the truth. He knows what’s coming but no one believes him until it’s too late. He’s mostly limited to this role until he makes a decent speech that pales in comparison to his brilliant speech in the original film, and then he shaves and to save his daughter Patricia Whitmore and the planet, he makes a crucial sacrifice that barely anyone except his daughter seems to care about or acknowledge.

I was excited that Jasmine, one of the bravest and most compassionate characters from the original movie would also be back, but I couldn’t believe they killed her so soon. With a completely evil and destructive enemy like the aliens, it’s not like they needed to give her son Dylan Hiller more motive to fight back against them with everything he’s got. I suppose her death helped to create peace between Dylan and Jake Morrison as Jake tries to comfort Dylan in the aftermath of her death, but I really didn’t care about their feud and would definitely have preferred to see more of Jasmine instead. At least she and Whitmore die as heroes, even if their deaths go largely unacknowledged and their heroics unappreciated. Unacknowledged deaths seems to be the trend for most deaths in the movie, from President Lanford and her Cabinet (they didn’t take enough advantage of her character as the president and first female President of the United States), to the nameless pilots who infiltrate the alien ship and are trapped inside with Jake and Dylan and Charlie and Rain Lao, and Jiang Lao and others on the moon station. It also doesn’t help that most of the new characters are pretty one-dimensional, worst of all being the beyond irritating Floyd. Even the death of Will Smith’s character Stephen Hiller that happened in between movies receives the same treatment. The absence of his character definitely contributes to the lack of heart in this new film.

I love the original Independence Day because you got to really know and care about the characters before the sci-fi action commences, before destruction reigns. It’s about 45 minutes into the movie when the aliens unleash their primary weapons on major cities, 45 minutes spent on character development before action. And many of the film’s heroes are everyday people, people like David Levinson and Jasmine and Russell Case. Furthermore, the writing is really smart. Defeating the aliens through “giving them a cold” is brilliant. Also, part of what I love about that movie is it plays with the question “Seriously, what would you do if aliens came to Earth?” No one knows what to expect and it helps build terrific suspense. But in this movie everyone knows what the aliens are and generally know what to expect.

Independence Day: Resurgence is still a fun sci-fi movie, but unfortunately just falls short in so many ways, particularly compared to Independence Day.