THEATRICAL REVIEW: Independence Day: Resurgence
Produced by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser
Screenplay by: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, James Vanderbilt
Story by: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods
Edited by: Adam Wolfe
Cinematography by: Markus Förderer
Music by: Harald Kloser, Thomas Wanker
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe, Brent Spiner, Bill Pullman, Deobia Oparei, Travis Tope, Angelababy, Nicolas Wright, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sela Ward, Judd Hirsch, Joey King, Vivica A. Fox, Nicolas Wright
I’ve long held that the first Independence Day was one of the best bad movies ever made. Of course, as a kid, I thought the movie was genuinely one of the best movies ever made, and it was the first movie I was able to convince my parents to let me see multiple times while it was still in theatres. As time went on, the flaws and eccentricities of Roland Emmerich’s ridiculous alien invasion movie became much more apparent, of course. However, what became even more apparent was that I still undoubtedly loved the movie, often more because of its quirks rather than in spite of them. The cast that was assembled for that movie was seriously stellar: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A. Fox, Brent Spiner… And that scene where the aliens finally unleash their ultimate weapon remains one of the standout special effects moments I’ve ever seen. Sure, it’s obviously an effect, but I recall watching the special effects feature on the DVD and being completely in awe of just how much care went into making those scenes. (Did you know they built model cities, tipped them on their side, and then launched the flames upward to get those destructive effects?)
The movie also resonated with audiences, becoming the biggest movie of the year. Naturally, word of a sequel permeated entertainment news sites ever since. In the meantime, Emmerich released disaster movie after disaster movie (and the occasional attempt at a “prestige” picture, too), with none of them coming anywhere close as being as special as the phenomenon that was Independence Day. It’s kind of a wonder, then, that it took twenty freaking years for the studio and Emmerich to finally release the sequel. Unfortunately, that time gap seems to have hurt the movie where it counts most: the box office. Yes, contrary to the previous film’s insane box office success, Resurgence isn’t doing nearly as well as was likely hoped for, though it did release alongside the juggernaut that is yet another long awaited follow-up, Finding Dory. But, hey, it’s the weekend before the Fourth of July, and Americans are once again revved up to see shit blow up and have a mindless good time. And, you know, I think perhaps people should consider fitting this movie into that schedule.
The film starts off twenty years after the ending of the original film, with the world now united and taking advantage of the spoils of their victory – with alien life now most definitely confirmed to be out there, the more secretive among us no longer have reason to keep their existence a mystery, which has led to significant scientific advances, such as moon bases, extraterrestrial fighter jets, and global security systems. Humanity now seems to be more or less living in harmony with one another, and July 4th has taken on a significant new meaning to everyone, as predicted by President Whitmore in his big speech in the last film. Resistance cells of aliens lingered in pockets for some time but have since been quelled, with any remaining survivors held under surveillance in Area 51. Unfortunately, while everyone has since moved on to happier times, not all is well. Whitmore’s health has deteriorated significantly, and his mind has seemingly been scrambled in the wake of his previous experience and telepathic connection with the aliens. Soon, others who have had close encounters with the aliens, including a formerly comatose Dr. Oaken as well as Congolese warlord Dikembe Umbutu, begin to channel a weird signal coming from space… one that suggests that our would-be eradicators are coming back, with a vengeance.
Okay, sure, you in the audience know that this is basically what’s going to happen, and, once again, humanity (specifically, a team led primarily by Americans) is going to have to actually take these guys down once again. That’s basically the point of the movie existing, is it not? You also know that they’re going to be coming back on an improbably large alien ship, one that will eventually cause widespread destruction to famous locales for all of us to gape at in awe while characters, both known and recently introduced, attempt to escape the destruction with varying degrees of success. For those who keep their expectations in check and realize that the first Independence Day was basically just a big budget, dumb B-movie with a lot of entertaining schlock, you may very well find much to like about Resurgence, which shares a fairly basic setup and plotting. The new film even acknowledges the rest of the world this time around, and, most importantly, it avoids repeating itself, with none of the previously seen spectacles, such as that beam of mass destruction, making a return. There’s only one ship here, but it’s quite a doozy, being about the size of the Atlantic Ocean. Those of you who complained that the previous film’s ships would have a significant gravitational effect on Earth will be pleased to know that your complaints are… well, at least half-heartedly addressed. There’s also a surprise finale that I never could’ve seen coming, and while some may roll their eyes at it, I found it delightfully ridiculous.
Even with expectations in check, though, there is some bad news: Resurgence, while very entertaining in that regard, is a lot less ambitious and, despite the bigger ship, feels nowhere near as high stakes. The central destruction sequence seemingly ends before it begins, and, quite frankly, I was much more wowed by the destruction scenes in 2012 (though that movie is undoubtedly inferior to this one and didn’t require alcohol to enjoy). The actors this time around, apart from a majority of the returning cast, are nowhere near on the level of the previous cast, either. Particularly felt is the absence of Will Smith – or even a Will Smith type. While the character of his son makes a return as a fighter pilot following in his footsteps, he’s possibly one of the least interesting characters in the film, merely holding a grudge against the film’s true Will Smith analog… Liam Hemsworth. Hemsworth, to his credit, is actually pretty charismatic here, seemingly taking a few queues from his older brother Liam, but he doesn’t drive the film in the same way that Smith did in the first, and he doesn’t work nearly as well off of the returning Jeff Goldblum, either. Goldblum, however, remains a highlight and helps to make the movie’s far more self-aware sensibilities go down smoothly. Brent Spiner, too, gets to ham it up in what is admittedly a divisive role, returning as an even more nuts than last time Dr. Oaken. Normally, I wouldn’t like characters like that, particularly in a Roland Emmerich film, but… I dunno…. Spiner really sold me on this character, and I had a big stupid smile on my face every time he was on.
In fact, I had a big stupid smile on my face throughout most of this movie. Sure, it’s nowhere near as good nor as groundbreaking as the first, and some of the characters are wasted, and, yeah, I really don’t think Emmerich should’ve simply killed off characters played by actors who were not returning on the off chance that they are able to return for the potential third film (which this movie totally implies is a thing that’s happening before it’s been confirmed to happen – though, thankfully, it at least finishes this story, first). The movie’s incredibly stupid, but it’s a fun type of stupid that had me laughing at it in the most affectionate way possible. I loved the attempts to build out the post-incident world, and even the film’s flaws stood out as endearing. While I wish it had more of Emmerich’s cheap sentimentality driving it to counterbalance the insanity going on, this is at least a movie that knows what it is and succeeds at delivering a satisfying, albeit less nuanced, distillation of what made the first so fun. This is not a good movie, but that’s honestly kind of its charm. And it’s only two hours long, which means that even if you don’t like it, you’ll be losing much less of your life than with most of Emmerich’s other films. What’s there to lose? Only a third magnificently stupid movie if you don’t go see this one first!
… Seriously, go!
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5