Independence Day: Resurgence picks up 20 years after the original installment, the world has rebuilt after the failed alien invasion, alien technology has been integrated into the military and planet earth is about to celebrate another independence day when surviving members of the attack start to have premonitions about another one about to happen. Not long after, the aliens come back bigger and badder than before to wipe out the human race…. again.
Director Roland Emmerich is no stranger to the apocalyptic big budget film and while he rarely strays from this genre he has been very hit and miss over the years. For each enjoyable Stargate or Independence Day there has been a 10,000 BC or 2012 to even out the playing field. There is no denying that visually on the big stage there are few better at mass CGI set pieces than Emmerich but Independence Day: Resurgence once again reaffirms that (especially recently) his plot design and story telling is just crap.
The movie starts off traditional enough, you meet the 3 new main characters in Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher and Maika Monroe and find out their intertwining backstories, you see how planet earth has moved on and a few set pieces early on expose you to how they will defend the planet if another attack comes. The attack does then come and again (very much like the first) there are landmarks destroyed, tsunamis decimating coastal countries and the population of planet earth once again takes a good old fashion beating. Arguably it takes a bit long to get going and all the human character stuff and it was mostly packed into this part, it’s not uninteresting but there’s nothing hugely original about the opening 30 minutes either. Hemsworth actually has a charasmatic turn but essentailly is doing his best Will Smith impression from the first film, Jessie Usher is meant to be the bland and more stoic yang to Hamsworth’s ying (we also find out he’s also Will Smith’s son from the first film) and daughter of ex president Pullman, Monroe, sort of just sits in the middle of being Hemsworth’s girlfriend and Usher’s childhood friend. Bar Will Smith’s Captain Hiller, who we find out died some time between the two films, the rest of the surviving big names from the first film all re-appear and do their part in a particularly unspectacular fashion.This is perhaps except for Brent Spiner’s kooky old Dr Brakish Okun who they actually gave some depth and comic/tender moements to get hold of, but he really is the only exception.
The biggest thing that goes agaist Independence Day: Resurgence is the fact that back in 1996 the effects and destruction that Emmerich et al brought to the big screen was revolutionary to the genre and set the tone for big blockbuster films in the way they are visually presented for the next 2 decades. 20 years on and credit where credit is due, the visuals here are still spectacular but there is nothing original or groundbreaking in the way its predecessor was and the story telling is shaky as hell. There is one emotional payoff that wasn’t a shambles (although what hapened after was horribly cliche’), there are ill placed comedic characters that seemed to be there to relieve tension but actually only serve to annoy and the film is so’pro-America’ that it is one gun toting bald headed eagle away from another revolution. How and why the USA makes decisions for the planet can be justified in a film of this scale that is meant to appeal to global markets is ridiculous and comes across as ignorant and contrived when the film is preaching about unity and bringing the world together to fight an integalictic opressor.
That is not to say it is all bad. As mentioned the visuals are spectacular and the CGI team do a thorough job in integrating alien technology into human tech as well as they do with the unique structure new mothership. To its credit, as a sci-fi spectacle, it is visually vibrant and fun to watch. The action is all encompassing and the mid air dogfigts are equally engaging. By far the best aspect of the film, and no it isn’t the return of Jeff Goldblum, is that you find out a little bit more about the aliens than previously. You get an insight into how they go about destroying planets and take a brief look into some of the mythos of their culture. This is an aspect of the film that really could have been the new, interesting platform to jump start the franchise (which they are doing). Seeing more of what drives the species to conquor other planets and how humans dealt with the aliens left after the first invasion could have made them more than just your archetypical villains, you can’t help but feel the movie has missed a trick here.
Ultimately Independence Day: Resurgence falls into the same trap many other sequels do in that it tries to go bigger and bolder than what was seen before but what is left is a bloated carcass of an alien invasion movie that for two thirds of it is essentially the same imperfect but entertaining film (much like the first) but with some added layers until the third act… the third act which is a complete cluster fuck of a mess. It is like every single idea that the writers came up with was included regardless of how it 1) affected the plot, and 2) left gaping plot holes in the logic. It seemed as if the creatives just gave up part way through and had a mountain of money left over to blow on effects, so why not have a rampaging Godzilla sized alien queen… or a tonado of alien ships acting as a shield… or an alien prison breakout. It goes from ridiculous set piece to ridulous set piece and what started out as a sequel that wasn’t as good as the original but had some interesting mythos in it transforms into a complete mess. It felt more like our protagonists were in a computer game going from boss battle to boss battle rather than logically resolving the conflict.
Independence Day: Resurgence is a poorly constructed sequel that tries to get by on effects and adding a new trio of cast members to reinvigorate the soon to be franchise. The plot hole ridden script has all the subtletly of a blunt force trauma to head and although it is nice to see the familliar faces from the original, they can’t save this movie where the new kids on the block don’t really impress as much as they should have. Nostalgia can only get you so far.