-This overblown, unnecessary sequel has missed its window for being able to “wow” us with large-scale explosions.
What hurts about Independence Day: Resurgence is that its the type of sequel that manages to damage our nostalgic, comfortable view of the first film. Back in 1996, Roland Emmerich, a fairly new director at the time, managed to reinvigorate the disaster film with some good creature design, powerful speeching, and a sense of destruction and wonder that encapsulated the 90s craze of the alien invasion. It seemed like a sequel could’ve come at any moment over the last twenty years, but instead, we get it mired in a long summer of endless sequels, poor CGI, and murky screenwriting, and this disaster film has plenty of usefulness for its genre: it’s a disaster alright.
It’s as if Emmerich was ahead of his time and just waited for the rest of the industry to catch up. This film is the same as many of the others lately: big, dumb, and a lot of people die.
“We always knew they’d come back.” Well, they are, and sliding through our solar system and into our planet are the slimy, tentacled war aliens from the 1996 film, now armed with better weaponry and a much bigger ship. Considering the proposed distance between the original attackers from this species and the arrival of the second wave, my guess is that their technology shouldn’t be that updated because they would’ve had to leave for Earth, what, like 20 years ago? I digress.
Earth has changed, now using the advanced weaponry of the aliens as our primary source of destruction, we have fended off any problems since the ’96 invasion. Now out of office, President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is now a bearded recluse, paranoid and predicting a return of the aliens. (In his place now is the first female president played by Sela Ward. I think that films have forgotten that us men can still be presidents too.) His daughter (Maika Monroe) works for Ward and also is a trained pilot, engaged to the second in command of the Air Force (Liam Hemsworth). The air-force leader is the step-son of the now-deceased Will Smith played by Jessie Usher, and Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson, the scientist in charge of keeping Earth safe from alien attacks. Other supporting players return as well from the previous film, including the immensely annoying Judd Hirsch as Goldblum’s father.
This is a bit of an aside, but considering that this review is coming mostly as a stream of conscience following the viewing of this movie today, I can’t help but feel like this could’ve been a very good, possibly better installment than the original. If we look at the lore that is attached to these aliens and their invasion, this could’ve been very exciting, especially with the integration of alien technology into our military. The result, however, is so stale that it fits right in with the useless pile of garbage that has been the 2016 summer in film.
The effects are bombastic, and that’s fine, but it’s just not possible to be wowed by explosions or imploding cities. Once you’ve seen one big disaster movie, you’ve kind of seen it all, and outside of the tasteful destruction in 2014’s Godzilla, I’m not going to really be impressed by these battle scenes. In order to create stakes, we have to feel something for the characters and the world that’s created, and we do, slightly, but our subconscious gives up on the material after fifteen or so shots of a giant ship ripping apart our planet. It just gets repetitive and boring. My point about the ‘grey rubble climax’ that dominates the modern blockbuster still stands. There’s lots of smoke and grey rubble flying around while people die, cities are destroyed, and yet it all feels inconsequential. It’s almost spooky how obsessed filmmakers are with killing us all off.
Our characters are fine, Goldblum and Pullman do everything they can to recreate the fun of the original without phoning it in too easily, but some of the other returning cast is really unnecessary, including an annoying subplot of Judd Hirsch with several young kids and the scientist Brent Spiner’s quirky tone ruining the darker elements of the story. These kinds of films don’t understand tone at all, when misfire humor takes us out of trying to establish the stakes for mankind’s endurance.
It’s really the new characters (minus the pretty awful Jessie Usher as Will Smith’s step-son, but at least it isn’t Jaden Smith) that carry the brunt of the movie, notably a decent Liam Hemsworth and the film’s shining actor Maika Monroe of It Follows fame. Hemsworth’s character acting with real people is always surprising, and he delivers some of the sturdiest lines in this and with the overrated ‘Hunger Games’ cycle of movies. If you take out his pretty awfully delivered cockpit screaming (there’s a lot of OH NOs, AHs, OWs, and EEEs when navigating spacecraft), you get a structured performance where he does the best he can with the material. I like Liam Hemsworth, and I want him to get a real role at some point. Monroe has the most to lose, a crazed father bent on saving the planet and a brave fiancee who wants everything to do with courage. Her mixture of worry for her loved ones but fearlessness in her duty is commendable, and her performance has the most depth; she’s definitely a face to look out for in terms of becoming big.
Yet, it’s Emmerich and his team of TNT wielding computer cronies who dominate the film’s image, tone, and events. It’s another useless disaster movie in a sequel that deserved much better, and even the creature design of the original has been replaced by crisp CGI and laser-filled gunplay that takes the intimidation right out of the film’s wheelhouse. Maybe a decent movie could’ve been made had Emmerich not left his brain at the door with the audience members who could possibly enjoy this piece of filth.
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Director: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow)
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, Jessie Usher, and Maika Monroe
RT Score: 33%