It's 2.5-hours of carnage and macho chest-thumping thinly veiled as an international thriller. It's also insanely pro-America, if you hadn't have already guessed that by looking at the run sheet.
Another modestly budgeted Bay offering following 2013's underrated Marky-Mark $25M romp PAIN AND GAIN, this $50M 'true story' version of a 13-hour siege on an American military compound in Benghazi does a serviceable job given its director's propensity for insane excess.
Given his track record Bay shows considerable restraint when it comes to unleashing the boom. In fact 13 HOURS is easily his most mature work to date (sorta). That is to say he's only using 2 helicopters to shoot a conversation in a phone box instead of 6 and there's no gratuitous shots of Megan Fox bent over a motorbike.
13 HOURS is, essentially, The Alamo with faceless middle-eastern baddies instead of native Americans.
A squad of American super-soldiers (hoo-raa!) hole up inside the American consulate in Benghazi while wave after wave of baddies attack over the course of 13 hours.
That's it. It pretty much does what it say on the box.
Unlike, say BAD BOYS 2, it's not until an hour in before anything blows up. The first 45-minutes is a slow burn of tense exchanges and heavy exposition on the fragile state of the politics in the area, but in typical Bay-fashion, when it does kick off, it looks fucking spectacular. And hellishly over-stylised to boot.
Saying its Bay's most mature work to date doesn't mean it's not without it excesses mind you; why use a knuckle to knock on a door when you can just drive a burning Jeep loaded with surface-to-air rockets through it? If subtlety and nuance is what you're after don't hire Michael Bay and that is also the reason we watch.
It's a film that exists on the outside edges of hyperbole. This is not an exercise in complexity and grey areas, quite the contrary. The good guys are heroic and are fighting for their kids back home and the bad guys are a sucky mass of faceless assailants and never the twain shall meet in the middle and that really is as complex as it gets. Any comment on international politics goes out the window in favour of some more firework-like explosions and blue lens-flares.
It is, surprisingly, grotesquely violent at times, far more than anything we've seen from Michael Bay; bodies are mutilated by vehicles and heads explode with alarming regularity when things eventually kick-off. While not as savage as BLACK HAWK DOWN, 13 HOURS does have the capacity to take the viewer by surprise when it comes to brutality.
There's also a peppering of humour smartweed throughout, being used to humanise these seemingly indestructible soldiers instead of going for the flat-out laughs like BAD BOYS. The rugged cast (led by the surprise casting of nice-guy John Krasinski) are amiable and charming enough to let them seem almost like real human beings.
It does, however, amount to not much in the grand scheme of things. At the end of the day, no matter how hard Bay tries with the humanity stuff, the film is still flag-waving nonsense masquerading as a deep and serious thriller with something to say about US foreign policy and the sacrifice soldiers make over there but at least it does it with lashings of style.
Essential? No. Fun? Yes.
The original film was far from a masterpiece, but it was a grand spectacle nonetheless (and still a pleasure to revisit to every now and then). The effectiveness of the story was its contemporary setting where the world as we knew it was under threat. The first fundamental mistake that this new sequel makes is it's depiction of the world. Following the events of the first movie Earth now sits on an alternative timeline. Human technology is fused with alien technology and the global community is united as one. Several planets within the solar system have been colonised and spacecrafts litter skyline. The world presented in the film is so far removed from that of the original story that it immediately severs the emotional connection from the audience.
Twenty-years have passed and peace on Earth has prevailed. The human race is exploring the depths of space and alien technology has been applied to better the existence of mankind. That is until the extra-terrestrial villains return in a spacecraft that envelopes a quarter of the globe. Enter Jeff Goldblum with that brain of his and we're presented with a movie that mirrors the original while casting a skewed reflection.
The one virtue of RESURGENCE is the casting. Aside from Will Smith the original cast of the has been reunited and its strangely satisfying seeing them return. Their age adds creditability to the film where it wouldn't otherwise exist. With most of them having dropped off the Hollywood map in recent years it's not surprising that they all agreed to climb back on board. Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Sela Ward, Judd Hirsch, Vivia A Fox and Robert Loggia reprise their roles with Ward, Fox and Loggia occupying minimal screen time (a day or two on-set at the most). Of course they're joined by a band of young hot-shots - lead by Liam Hemsworth - as well as a few welcome new players including William Fichtner and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
What's left to say? INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE is a long-winded exercise in excess. It's mind-numbingly boring and downright tedious. The script is awful with terrible expositions and stagnant dialogue. The special effects are occasionally impressive, but self indulgent, and director Roland Emmerich and his SFX team fail to improve on the work they created 20-years ago. In fact the end scenes of the movie offer some of the worst green-screen effects I have seen in ages. For a film of its magnitude (and budget) you'd expect more than poorly lit actors superimposed on images that are out of scale and out of focus.
So... have I elaborated enough? Or was “Whoa, this is fucking shit!” sufficient?
It is a larger-than life adventure - fraught with imagination and excitement – that salutes generations of directors dating right back to the genius of Georges Melies to the prolificness of Robert Stevenson.
Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan character has endured a multitude of incarnations throughout the years, spanning every medium, and his figure immediately resonates with people. The very mention of his name conjures a specific image, and therefore his story is so ingrained that the prospect of a new Hollywood adaptation bares a heavy expectation.
The creators of THE LEGEND OF TARZAN – under the leadership of director David Yates – have considered the legacy carefully and crafted a story that is respectful to the characters and their author, as well as the viewing audience.
Assuming that we know Tazan's story, the film begins a decade after he moved to London, assumed the name of John Clayton III and became a respected member of society. His days of swinging through the jungle are behind him and life is very civilised for he and his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie). When he is invited to lead an expedition back into the Congo to expose the Belgium kingdom's enslavement of native populations he reluctantly returns, along with his wife and an American ambassador (Samuel L Jackson). Upon his return he finds himself hunted by a merciless fortune-hunter (Christof Waltz), who kidnaps Jane with the intention of luring Tarzan to a violent tribe. He intends to trade Tarzan for a wealth of diamonds.
The storyline is less inspired than the overall spectacle of the film, and it is the simple classic narrative that makes it an effective piece of cinema. By starting the film years after the traditional storyline took place the movie offers a fresh new take on the character, while maintaining the core aesthetics. This not only presents a new adventure for us to relish, but also facilitates a clever use of exposition. Writers Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer have weaved a cheeky string of flash-backs into the story that give newcomers a recap on Tarzan's origins. These moments are used minimally and with absolute precision. Their placement is never cumbersome and bares no effect on the film's pacing. In fact THE LEGEND OF TARZAN moves at a cracking pace and is devoid of fat. It's also unexpectedly humorous, and subtly self-referential, which is a very welcome surprise.
The casting is audacious with Alexander Skarsgard leading the film with ease. With a jaw-dropping physique and a performance that relies on expression, he commands the screen and makes it impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Margot Robbie co-stars as Jane and – again – reminds us why she is one of Hollywood's most sought after actresses. She is gorgeous on screen and offers a graceful and composed performance that perfectly compliment's the character. Lending their support is Christof Waltz and Samuel L Jackson. I was initially apprehensive about their involvement, but their performances are well-restrained and both are careful not to slip into their trademark schtick.
Given the reliance on CGI the film is stunningly realised and absolutely convincing. The environment created is breathtaking and the augmentation between live-action and digital is seamless. David Yates has crafted a spectacular piece of entertainment that reminds us why we go to the cinema. It is 120-minutes of pure and unadulterated adventure. It is brilliantly written, superbly directed and without a doubt one of the year's movie-going highlights.