Independence Day: Resurgence

'Independence Day - Resurgence' movie poster

Release: Friday, June 24, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Roland Emmerich; Nicolas Wright; James A. Woods; Dean Devlin; James Vanderbilt

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Nothing brings a tear to my eye faster than knowing that Earth’s mantle is going to be safe, at least until the next ill-advised blockbuster sequel. I really felt more for the core of the planet than I did for the core group of humans at the heart of this underwhelming summer spectacle.

You might get away with arguing that Independence Day: Resurgence is simply more of the same, and that’s everything the film needed to be. And I get some of that. While we don’t have Will Smith back (too expensive), we see many favorites return: Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch as the Levinsons; Bill Pullman as the former President; Vivica A. Fox (the exotic dancer mom, remember?); and a particularly odd scientist is back, too (thanks trailers, for spoiling that one). More of the same though, in this case, just means more: more CGI, more indecipherable chaos, more gimmickry that tries to evoke the past (see Patrick St. Esprit’s stand-in for James Rebhorn’s Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki).

For a fleeting few minutes, Resurgence shows its mettle: the invasion of Earth is, once again, astonishingly cool. And eerie. And the tagline for once fits: “we had 20 years to prepare; so did they,” only “they” in this case refers to the wizards responsible for all those nifty visual effects. The hellfire that lights up our skies somehow looks even more ominous this time around; watch as landmarks the world over are uprooted like twigs and repositioned miles away. We don’t get the chess game that resulted in gigantic fireballs engulfing major cities but we do get one hell of a Mother Ship, which, in a particularly memorable shot, is shown clamping down on at least a quarter of the planet like a massive leech. They apparently have an interest in the molten core of Earth, which they’ll drain for energy. Obviously that’s not good news for us.

The problem with ‘more-of-the-same‘ in this case is that familiarity déjà vu creeps in much too soon. Resurgence will never be appreciated on its own merits, but rather how far the apple (spacecraft?) did or did not fall from the tree (outer space?). Comparisons may be unfair, but they become less so when a director decides that humanity once again needs to come together like all the colors of the rainbow to fend off another alien invasion. Talk about some shit luck. It took everything we had in the ’90s to stand our ground, to establish Earth as the only planet that really matters in the universe. And here we are again, shaken by the scary thought that maybe it just ain’t so.

At least Emmerich, with his team of writers, has the sense to try and cover for the mistake made in setting up an almost identical invasion — no small thanks to the overly familiar shot selection — by setting the mood much more pessimistic. President Lanford (Sela Ward) seems to be a symbol of hope and unity at the start but she’s soon overshadowed by former President Whitmore’s moroseness. “There’s no way we’ll win this time.” Not with that attitude you won’t. Poor ol’ Prez; he’s been haunted ever since by the last encounter and now can’t really go out in public. So his daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), who happens to be a fine Air Force pilot herself, dedicates much of her time looking after him. But that benevolence only runs as deep as the script; soon enough not even Monroe is capable of making us believe she’s the President’s daughter.

The plan of attack, drawn up by General Adams (William Fichtner), is shades of grey different from the international united front we launched last time. We’re going after the Queen this time instead of a rogue ship stationed just outside our atmosphere. The goal is to distract this supremely large otherworldly being (no, seriously, think kaiju large) from obtaining a spherical orb/macguffin that ties in to some larger intergalactic story, one that, cosmetically, feels ripped straight out of Men in Black but in concept fits better into Star Wars mythology. (Oh, there’s a cool cross-over idea: Men in Black 4: Star Wars Independence Day.)

Returning characters are given the juicier parts. Unfortunately, few of them share any significant screen time together. Giving those with more experience more prominent roles is an age-old practice that just means we get to spend more time with Goldblum’s David, which is far from a bad thing. Now a revered, distinctive member of the human race, even his dad trusts him more. And no one is telling his David to shut up. In Resurgence a larger spotlight also falls upon the personnel working inside Area 51. The base, once-upon-a-time a secret and mythical location, has since been designated as Earth’s Space Defense Headquarters. And of course President Whitmore has a few wrongs to right, so he jumps back into an aircraft to do his civic duty. On a less welcomed note, Liam Hemsworth replaces Captain Hiller’s sidekick Captain Jimmy Wilder with little enthusiasm; while Jessie T. Usher plays Hiller’s son all grown up. There’s some sort of alpha-male struggle between the two but it’s added in, also digitally, just to give the actors some lines to read. Very little of what they say to each other actually matters.

In fairness it wasn’t scintillating dialogue that defined the classic that came before — yes I’m calling it a classic — but rather an overt but not misplaced sense of American pride. After all, it was the product of American filmmakers and events took place on and around the Fourth of July. In Resurgence, though, the fire just isn’t there. There’s no Whitmore rallying cry. There are only mutterings from a jaded man who can’t seem to believe all of this is happening again.

It’s all numbing special effects stuff that impresses upon us how far technology has come in the last couple of decades. It’s less of a championing of the human spirit as it is a competition to see who has the bigger laser, the bigger home base, the smarter individual beings. Resurgence is pretty brainless. It’s certainly redundant. But I guess there’s no denying the visual grandeur, or the scope of Emmerich’s ambitions, even if all that adds up to is proof that there’s nothing bigger than the greed consuming Hollywood studios who think blockbuster sequels will save us all.

Recommendation: Independence Day: Resurgence is yet another of those sequels that few earthlings asked for. (I certainly didn’t want it.) The ridiculousness of it all threatens Michael Bay, which is to say the film tries to upstage the competition with brute force via CGI saturation. Too bad it forgets that a) humans will always remember their first alien invasion and b) they will always want Will Smith back. In ID4: 2 spectacle trumps all. Even if that means screwing up the alien mythology. Will there be more? Of course there will be. You can take that all the way to the bank, provided it’s still there. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 120 mins.

Quoted: “They’re not screaming. They’re celebrating.”

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Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com 

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32 thoughts on “Independence Day: Resurgence

  1. Pingback: The Shallows | digitalshortbread

  2. Indeed, some excellent visuals (that sequence depicting the arrival of the mother ship is really well-done) but this feels far to familiar because it is far to familiar. Goldblum made me laugh quite a lot; if only the others had as good a time on-screen — Maika Monroe is ridiculously underused! Great work Tom.

    • Monroe is super under-used it is incredibly frustrating. Oh well. The film basically went as I presumed it would. There were brief flashes of awesomeness but I can’t call this like the biggest disappointment ever (or even of 2016) because I just didn’t have much hope for it to begin with

  3. Definitely didn’t think that this one was going to be good at all. Seems that I was not mistaken in the least. Oh well!

    • It just irritates me to no end that forever on now we will have these worse sequels attached to what is still a great alien invasion blockbuster classic. Cuz I’m pretty sure there will be ID 3 either next year or year after, can’t remember when it is yet. Just damn shameless, I tell you!

  4. I can’t believe this is from the same team (Emmerich/Devlin) that brought us the original. It’s so badly mishandled to the point of incompetence. The new younger cast members are bland, but even the battle sequences are poorly edited and confusing.

    This was shockingly inept. I agree with everything you said. You were pretty harsh, but if anything, I hated it even more.

    • I felt like I wasn’t that harsh and some have said I should have layed into this film some more. I never carried in lofty expectations to this that ended up getting totally hammered by a poor product. Instead, this ended up merely confirming my dread all this time. And so I think there’s where we avoid the dreaded 25% rating here. some sequences throughout reminded me of the fun we had in ’96 but they are so few and far between it’s really not worth mentioning. Agreed about the younger cast as well, they were useless. Angelababy (I think that was her name) had the very envious tasking of getting to stare the entire time, like she was in a Nicolas Winding Refn movie or something

  5. It seems like Will Smith has been involved in an abnormally large amount of alien invasions… I understand why he chose not to get involved again!

    • Haha! I wonder what a healthy number of alien invasions would be to get involved in? Cuz I agree. Smith just has to be all alien-ed out. he must be feeling alienated now. 😉 Wow that joke is even lamer now that I’ve read it back to myself.

  6. The logic of this film escapes me somewhat. Bearing in mind the aliens wiped out so many people and so much of our technology, how are we even able to offer a defence against another alien invasion, even if it’s 20 years on? No sense!

    • That’s a really good point. I hadn’t approached it with that in mind but you’re totally right on the money. I mean, if this doesn’t epitomize the futility of sequel-izing beloved action classics then I don’t what does. Hmm, maybe Speed 2, now that I think of it……

  7. Nice review Tom. Your review is being far too generous, this was one of the laziest film’s I’ve ever seen. Both Pullman and Goldblum phone in their performances and the special effects, the saving grace of the original, look extremely cheap, as if 20th Century Fox realized they roped themselves a flop.

    • Some parts of this were fun but I need to emphasize that they are very, VERY fleeting. I am just annoyed that I figured this was exactly how things would turn out. You simply don’t need a sequel to Independence Day.

  8. I can’t say I’m surprised. Emmerich hasn’t made a good movie since 1997’s Godzilla, which also, most people apart from me despise. And this is had the ‘cash grabbing sequel’ tag all over it. I hope I can atleast enjoy it for the dumb fun.

  9. Nice review, Tom. Having had to recently endure TMNT and Capt. America, I refuse to sit and watch another numbing redo no matter how good the popcorn is. Thanks for saving me the $10.

    • Aw, not a fan of Captain America? (I admit I don’t like the character himself that much but those are actually a decent set of movies within the MCU). 😉 I am sorry for your loss having to watch TMNT though. That thing looks awful. And unfortunately yeah, there’s not a lot of good happening here either. Some of the cast returning is fun but their parts are just woefully underwritten. We always knew this would be a bad idea. And now we have the proof.

      • I was not a fan of the super-fast camera speed during fight shots –it literally made me nauseous. Maybe my grand kids made me sit too close to the screen. 😉

        • Oh man if you were sitting up front (or closer than the last fifteen rows, which is always where I try to go. . . I seriously will walk back out and get a refund on my ticket if the theater is 3/4’s full lol) — then I can totally understand your nausea. These big action tentpole films are usually always over-the-top on the action bits but if done well and viewed from a good vantage point they’re usually fun 🙂

          • That’s an interesting insight about you, Tom. Where you sit in the theater and if not in the center of the last 15 rows, you’d walk out. Ha! I like the middle section but need the aisle. Always have a quick getaway 😉

    • Give it a week and I’ll bet you more than anything that the curiosity bug will bite you and you’ll check it out Keith 😉 🙂 Haha, but no it’s kind of a win-win situation really. You go see it, you could well find something you like about it (there were some fun parts to it for sure, I didn’t give it enough credit for that admittedly) or if you skip it, you save $10 – 15 (though I totally wouldn’t see this in 3D, not worth it).

      To say I’m disappointed i this is kind of accurate even though I didn’t bring in any expectations, I still thought somehow it would be better. Given all the characters who do return.

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