‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ – The Aliens Strike Back (Movie Review)

id4 resurgence thumbI 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.


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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.

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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.

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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 may end its run with less to celebrate.

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1 Response to “‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ – The Aliens Strike Back (Movie Review)”

  1. Jason Coleman

    Totally agree with you. Old cast saves the film – new cast are total duds.