Many have tried, and few have succeeded. Releasing a sequel far after the original (two decades in this case) is a risky move, and it is a greedy move. Even though Pixar makes it look effortless time and time again, it really is not easy for studios and directors and actors to try and follow up a classic. But what is most definitely easy is the process of getting a sequel approved. Why? Because there’s already an adoring fanbase, and there’s already the beloved characters; half of the work is done for you. It is just so much easier! But while production companies churn out series after series, quantity can get mixed up with quality, and we are left with films that lack original, creative writing and new character development, banking off of pretty CGI to haul up the critical condition of the plot.
There was a lot of hype, but critics and fans alike condemned Independence Day: Resurgence across the board. Altogether, the film scrapes together a 32% on Rotten Tomatoes and a slightly more encouraging 5.6/10 on IMDb. Variety reviewer Guy Lodge defends director Roland Emmerich, confirming “Emmerich as modern cinema’s most spirited conductor of popcorn chaos.” But David Edelstein says it best with brutal honesty and unsparing candor:
This hodgepodge has been thrown together in so slovenly a way that it’s no surprise the studio didn’t show it to the press.
But while the newest addition to the genre flounders, sci-fi as a whole has not been lost. We may have hit a bit of a rough patch, but there are plenty of masterpieces to hold us at bay until the next Blade Runner or Star Wars comes around. So on the Fourth of July (America’s one and only holy day of obligation), here are four of those masterpieces for your next movie marathon.
4. The Matrix (1999)
Quite possibly the pinnacle of Keanu Reeves’s career (or a close second behind Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), the first and obviously the best installment of The Matrix series subtly intertwined CGI with live action wire fu, upping the ante for all action movies to come. Between its classical allusions and its original script, the Wachowski brothers created a modern legend.
The Matrix was showered with critical acclaim, and it raked in $460 million with four Academy Awards. Moral of the story? Always take the red pill.
3. WALL-E (2008)
Though most animated films couldn’t possibly fall under the category of science fiction, WALL-E isn’t most animated films. It is futuristic and dystopian, lovable and endearing, witty and thought-provoking. A children’s movie that at times doesn’t at all feel like a children’s movie, WALL-E takes an original look at an overused topic, minimizing dialogue but conveying an important message as clearly as ever. It went face to face with Hollywood blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire, taking home an Academy Award of its own. Even though it is under a decade old, it has already made itself a classic.
2. The Terminator (1984)
Although many didn’t appreciate the violence in 1984 (because Game of Thrones wasn’t around yet), Cameron and Schwarzenegger created a masterpiece. It was widely praised for its fast but not unnatural pacing and its captivating action. The special effects weren’t incredible, but they didn’t have to be. At the time, time travel was largely unexplored in cinema, and we could overlook a few minor plot holes here and there. The Terminator spawned an empire of sequels, TV shows, books (comic and otherwise), and a shitty sequel/remake of its own.
1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Consistently ranked as one of the best of all time, E.T. is pretty slow and mellow compared to the rest of its alien-based counterparts, but it snuggled its way into the hearts of millions. And those millions told their friends and their friends’ friends because it soon became the highest-grossing film ever. But every dollar was well deserved. The powerful relationship between E.T. and Elliott charmed audiences worldwide, and its iconic soundtrack conveyed the whimsical fantasy in all the best of ways. God bless you, John Williams.
It earned four Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, and two Grammys for its trouble; although E.T. didn’t snag the award for Best Picture, the director of the winning Gandhi disagreed with the Academy, calling E.T. “inventive, powerful, [and] wonderful.” Though he was afraid, alone, and three million light years from home, E.T. still managed to transform the genre.
So despite the tragedy that is Independence Day 2, the rest of sci-fi is still going strong. Help support the classics with some fantastic, absurd, and original t-shirts!