I have both nostalgic love and admiration for the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day. The film turned Will Smith into a superstar, provided Irwin Allen disaster movie-like thrills on a grand scale, and delivered a fun sci-fi alien invasion flick. It was also earnest, heartfelt and audacious. 20 years later we have Independence Day: Resurgence, which ups the ante from a visuals standpoint, but finds itself lost when it comes to channeling what made the first film special. The film was a box office disappointment this past summer, but now has a Blu-ray release to deliver the final word.
Director Roland Emmerich has gone out of his way to put the world in jeopardy again and again at this point. Whether it was due to a giant lizard in 1998’s Godzilla, global warming in The Day After Tomorrow or a Mayan prophecy in 2012, Emmerich has taken the opportunity to destroy plenty of major landmarks, occasionally making us care at least a little about all the lives lost. He never did that better than in the first Independence Day and maybe it was asking too much to hope that could be delivered in a sequel.
Resurgence actually starts off fairly promising. Obviously things needed to get moving when it came to seeing aliens attack earth again, but the world-building was pretty interesting. Having never seen a sequel to a film like Independence Day, there honestly was a wonder of what a world would be like, following massive devastation from an otherworldly force and Resurgence actually has some neat ideas. The 2016 in this universe depicts a planet that is at peace, thriving due to advanced technological progress and being headed by important people like Jeff Goldblum.
Once the aliens do attack, much of what I was enjoying goes out the window. Sure, we still get plenty of Goldblum and other familiar faces including Bill Pullman as former President Whitmore, Judd Hirsch as Goldblum’s dad and Brent Spiner as the totally not really dead Dr. Okun, but the rest of the cast is not quite up to the challenge of charming their way out of the new giant threat presented to them. It’s a shame, as the film instead settles for huge CG battles and a hip, young cast (Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie Usher) that only wishes they had the magnetism of someone like Smith.
To be fair, Smith’s presence would likely not suddenly turn this film into another memorable sci-fi blockbuster. There would be more one-liners for sure, but it’s that earnestness and a care for the characters, melodramatic as it may have been, that really helped the first film stand out. In Resurgence, the biggest problem may be its choice to have everyone be in a hurry.
At two hours, this sequel is surprisingly shorter than the first film (Michael Bay’s next Transformers film could take some notes in that regard), but there is a notable lack of stakes, despite the enormous scale of the alien threat being presented. As opposed to multiple flying saucers, Resurgence settles for one enormous space craft that covers all of the Atlantic Ocean. There is more plot and characters than you can shake a stick at, but at least a glowing orb fills you in on any other details that may be necessary for this film and its probable sequel.
There is stuff that works. As sporadic as the film is in introducing and reintroducing everyone that matters, the first hour is solid. The plotting is ridiculous, but the film manages to hold onto a lot of the B-movie energy that Emmerich knows how to deliver when he’s at his best. Given how he also teases the thought of a world at peace, I can only wonder what further character beats were deleted in order to move us to battle quicker.
Oh yes, we get plenty of battles and destruction in this film, although they never overstay their welcome. The blending of practical and digital effects is missed, but little effort is spared in assuring you that top dollar was spent on making it look like cities are being lifted by the gravity generated by a 3000-mile wide spaceship. There’s even more time put towards seeing the aliens on foot (tentacle) in combat, despite a lack of motivation beyond ‘destroy all earthlings’.
On the plus side, Resurgence may not win many awards for displaying much care for the amount of human life lost (Hirsch rounds up a bunch of kids for a fun school bus ride, keeping them from further dwelling on their likely dead parents), but it doesn’t traffic in darkness either. In an age when so many blockbusters push for bleak and make sure their futuristic societies are gloomy and gray, this is a film full of life and peppiness, regardless of thin character work and an occasionally terrible story.
For what it is, Independence Day: Resurgence delivers the large scale spectacle that is expected, but lacks the first film’s heart. Some may laugh at that notion, but Independence Day is more effective than you may remember for just that reason. In addition to groundbreaking effects work it had plenty of personality. This film misses that and merely mining the best elements of the first film and combining them with the technology of today is not enough. I may be bending over backwards a bit in regards to this sequel’s quality, but while the first film did not go quietly into the night, Resurgence ends its run with much less to celebrate.
Encoding: MPEG-4 MVC (3D Presentation), MPEG-4 AVC (2D Presentation)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Clarity/Detail: Regardless of the film’s quality, it should be of little surprise to see an absolutely terrific video transfer presented here. The detail is pretty incredibly, as you get a great look at a lot of the practical sets built to go with the huge scale involving various special effects. As opposed to some of Emmerich’s other recent films with Sony, it seems like more care was done to make the effects really work and they do. Things look smooth and clear throughout here, with plenty to embrace as far as getting a look at sharp imagery presented.
Depth/3D: While not the pinnacle of 3D, the work on that added dimension is commendable enough when watching this at home. There is a lot of darkness in this film, based on locations, space and what not, but it manages not to be too much of an issue when it comes to an unnecessary gimmick that only adds so much. The film may not be enhanced by this level of dimensionality, but it ultimately doesn’t distract either.
Black Levels: Black levels are plenty deep and inky. Plenty to take in here and it all really works. No signs of crush at all and plenty of detail work to see in the darker clothing and material.
Color Reproduction: Colors do a great job of looking bold and rich, with plenty of pop when necessary. Lots of cool blues and neon lighting in this film and it plays quite well. Destruction visuals also come off great as far as color value is concerned.
Flesh Tones: Skin tones and facial textures all look great here. Little details seen in close up mange to stick out appropriately.
Noise/Artifacts: Nothing here.
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 7.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Dynamics: There is a terrific audio track here that only gets docked a minor point for having a bit of a balance problem when it comes to the disaster portions of the film. Minor issue aside, this is a near demo quality disc when it comes to the use of sound. The film manages to get so busy, yet you get a great sense of the work that went into big spaceships and other things going wild in sound design.
Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets a huge workout when it comes to all the big booms, explosions, whoosh sounds and more. Feel the rumble.
Surround Sound Presentation: All kinds of work went into mostly getting the balance right here. Again, there are some issues when it comes to hearing everyone in the midst of all the chaos, but everything else is handled well when it comes to utilizing the front and rear speakers, in addition to the center channel.
Dialogue Reproduction: For the most part, everyone sounds loud and clear.
Independence Day: Resurgence arrives in a 2-disc package that features the 3D version of the film on disc one, with the 2D version and all of the extras on disc two. Not a bad set of extras here, as you get everything you basically expect for a pretty mediocre film.
- Audio Commentary with Director Roland Emmerich – Lots of optimism can be found in Emmerich’s voice, as he discusses the film and all the effort he put into it. I wish he had someone else to join him or more perspective that could have come from recording after the film was released.
- Deleted Scenes with optional Audio Commentary by Emmerich (HD, 8:24) – Features a number of missing character beats that could have been helpful as well as a key cast member being squashed by the alien queen.
- The War of 1996 (HD, 5:11) – A brief piece set in the universe of these films, which bridges the gap between the two movies.
- Another Day: The Making of Independence Day: Resurgence (HD, 55:25) – A 4-part documentary that goes over the various elements of development and production.
- Gag Reel (HD, 6:14)
- It’s Early, ABQ! (HD, 3:07) – Fred Armisen stars as a fake talk show host in this bit of fun.
- Concept Art (HD)
- Theatrical Trailers (HD)
- Digital HD Copy of the Film
It is hard to say I was disappointed with Independence Day: Resurgence, as it is a sequel coming 20 years later with little fanfare and a giant hole left by Will Smith, but it could have been more interesting given the potential. That said, there is some fun to be had in a film that is ultimately a non-starter for what could potentially be an even better follow-up. Still, the Blu-ray features a terrific video and audio presentation, as well as a solid collection of extras. If you need some standard blockbuster spectacle, here’s one that passes the time decently enough.