Independence Day: Resurgence
It’s been 20 years since the original Independence Day movie came out, which managed to create the genre of global catastrophe and helped catapult Will Smith to big screen fame. With the same director returning and a decent amount of returning cast members, is this sequel worth waiting 20 years for?
Since the initial attack on Earth, we’ve since been able to use alien technology to make lives better. We now have weapons platforms capable of attacking space visitors, we’ve got a station on the moon dedicated to protecting the planet, and ground bases have giant alien gun turrets mounted all around them. When our movie opens, we join David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) as he visits an African warlord (Deobia Oparei) who has learned some secrets about the aliens. On the moon, we meet a pilot (Liam Hemsworth) who is reunited with an old rival (Jessie T. Usher), who just happens to be the son of Will Smith’s character from the original. We also have the former President (Bill Pullman) and his grown up daughter (Maika Monroe).
We soon discover that aliens are returning to Earth and that all our advancements are still not enough to stop them.
On a spectacle level, this movie mostly succeeds. There are some great visual effects and some really fun action setpieces, especially the climax of the film. The alien technology and ships all look great and they’ve done a substantial amount of “world building” to really flesh out what’s been happening, so the mythos of this franchise feels much bigger.
So if you want some crazy action and big alien fights, this movie will likely hit some of the right notes for you.
Unfortunately… That’s about it.
What doesn’t work?
While the action looks great, it’s surprisingly infrequent. Fans of the original want that same sense of wonder and destruction, but there’s only one big attack scene with a similar type of scope. The alien ship is much much bigger… but the amount of damage we see it actually doing is relatively tame. And even when it does destroy stuff, I was left wondering what exactly was happening. The days of good ole fashioned lasers and blasts of energy are gone, in lieu of some sort of weird gravity effect, which didn’t quite make sense in context and was not nearly as satisfying.
In terms of writing, it’s also pretty lazy, tending to veer towards corny one-liners that don’t always work (they only worked in the original because of Will Smith’s ability to pull them off). There are entire characters that are absolutely unnecessary, including Goldblum’s dad, played by Judd Hirsch, who takes up much more screentime than he needs, seeing as he contributes zero to the plot of the movie.
In the pros section, I mentioned that they do some significant world building, about who these aliens are, how they function, what they’ve been doing… A big con is that this world building makes this movie feel like a whole new franchise, not a sequel. There’s a certain point when suddenly the scope of the movie opens up dramatically and it feels more like a Star Trek film than Independence Day. The worst part is the obvious sequel nods in the final moments of the film, that almost make me hope we never see that sequel.
A big problem that I’ve had with a few big summer blockbusters so far this year is that they don’t make sense. Studios are prioritizing huge explosions and not worrying about the hows and whys of it all. In this movie especially, almost none of the story holds up to any scrutiny, especially when compared to the events of the first movie. They flex “the rules” of this world in such a way that the two movies seem in direct opposition. “Why did ___ happen in the first movie when ___ happened in this movie?” I found myself asking.
Here’s the problem. Most people will go to this, wanting to see huge landmarks being destroyed. There’s only one moment of that and it’s more confusing than it is exciting. The story doesn’t make sense and is bogged down by unnecessary characters and off-the-mark humor, failing to capture any of the heart of the original. The effects look great and there are some definite moments that might convince you this film is awesome, but when you zoom out and look at this film again, you’ll notice it misses the mark much more than it hits it.