Let’s call it how it is, the original “Independence Day” is not a great movie (if we’re trying to be as objective as possible in a subjective way). But it doesn’t matter; the original “Independence Day” (that was released in 1996) is one of my favorite movies to watch. I honestly never imagined we’d have a sequel that movie 20 years later and to be honest I’ve always had a little interest in seeing that. I do remember trying to write a rip off alien invasion story as a kid that was essentially Independence Day 2. Now we finally have that sequel “Independence Day: Resurgence”.
Like I said before I love the original for all its strengths and weaknesses. The movie had a lot heart, fun, proper moments of dramatic heft, a great cast, great action, dumb moments, fantastic visual effects for its age and sense of self. Meanwhile “Independence Day: Resurgence” has some of those things. But then again a sequel doesn’t need the same ingredients that the original had to make it a worthy successor. Unfortunately this doesn’t stand on its own with its new ingredients. It has its moments and is easy to watch but “Independence Day: Resurgence” has many issues that keep this sequel down to Earth and not succeeding on the two hour thrill ride that it should be.
Just like in our own time frame, 20 years has pass between the events of the original “Independence Day” and this follow up. Humanity has taken the alien technology for themselves and the world is united under one front; preparing for the aliens return. And as Qui-Gon Jinn said in “The Phantom Menace”, “There is always a bigger fish”. And here, that bigger fish is the return of the alien race with a much bigger ship than before; capable of far more destruction. Now humanity has to defend the Earth once again.
So I didn’t come into this movie expecting a great story. The original movie is fun and basic. Its story isn’t the strong suite of the movie. The same is true here in “Resurgence”. The story is pretty basic. However unlike the first one this movie’s story issues are more prevalent. For the most part the story is similar to the first movie; aliens come, defend Earth, simple enough. However the movie’s biggest problem is it’s over abundance of cast. The first movie had a large cast too but here not only do the writers have to contend with returning characters but the movie also introduces a plethora of new ones. There simply isn’t enough time for everyone and so many of them feel lost in the shuffle. The shocking part comes when the older casts feel like they get short shifted in their own movie. Some are killed off in very abrupt fashion that lacked all emotion and others are just written badly (Bill Pullman’s president springs to mind for myself). Some really have nothing to do and are just given meaningless subplots like Judd Hirsch (whom I still loved but he didn’t really belong there). Jeff Goldblum though is great in the movie. He was a welcome return and I enjoyed nearly every moment he was on screen. Most of the new cast is just….fine? There isn’t anything wrong with them but there isn’t anything memorable either about them. They feel more like blank slates rather than people I really care about and want to see further adventures of. Liam Hemsworth is fine in the movie, Maika Monroe is fine and Jessie Usher is fine (don’t expect the next coming of Will Smith; which is a bit unfair in the first place).
The rest of the issues with this movie are the energy and the tone of the film. Lots of things blow up in this movie but never did I feel like there were any stakes here. I didn’t feel the danger for Earth that was so clearly present on screen. The movie never took it’s time to let the audience digest all the destruction that had just occurred and instead tries to quickly jump to another group of characters trying to find something to do with them. In this, the action sequences don’t carry much weight to them. It’s honestly surprising that many of these sequences feel short and not all that exciting. They aren’t boring either and the visual effects in this movie are simply outstanding. They will entertain enough while you’re watching it but reflecting back on it, I don’t remember too many outstanding things about them.
The tone becomes an increasing problem with this movie. It still wants to retain the goofy nature of the first movie but at the same time it feels like it’s trying to approach the subject matter more earnestly. Sometimes these tones conflict with one another. The filmmakers struggle to find the right places to inject humor. There are moments where I don’t know whether I should be laughing, having fun or be crushed emotionally? A lot of the humor throughout falls flat and there aren’t many memorable lines. Its fine if you want to be more serious this time around but you have to commit to and establish a tone.
So is there any enjoyment to be had? There are some sprinkles here and there of fun. The finale has its moments and in truth “Resurgence” as a whole has its moments. It’s an easy movie to watch. I walked out of the theater thinking, that was solid I suppose. However the more I think about it, the more flaws stem into my brain and I like it less. I do like some of the expanded mythology of the world and could see potential in a third film (because this very clearly sets that up).
Director Ronald Emmerich might be running out of large spectacle ideas. There hasn’t been much recently from him that I have loved and I do like him as a director. The original “Independence Day” is a fun movie; I enjoy the hell out of “The Day After Tomorrow” and really enjoy his historical epic “The Patriot”. But, he doesn’t show that much creativity in this production and at times this film feels like it shrinks into auto pilot. In the past year we’ve a number of films revitalize their dormant franchises like “Jurassic World”, “Creed” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (although let’s be honest Star Wars is never really “dormant” so to say). “Independence Day: Resurgence” could have been that next film to do that. But unfortunately it drops the ball and proves to be an only mildly entertaining effort at times.