Independence Day: Resurgence
After 20 years of peace and unity the planet Earth faces the second wave of an invasion from alien forces in Roland Emmerich’s heavily belated sequel Independence Day: Resurgence.
Independence Day was groundbreaking in its own way back in 1996. It was one of the films that helped shape the modern blockbuster as we know it and taught us all that it’s fine to have some well made spectacle in our lives. Now that we’re 20 years down the line and what constitutes a blockbuster has moved on, is there really a place for a follow-up to this beloved film?
The answer is a complicated one. I’m of the opinion that when it comes to movies there is no such thing as a bad idea. The execution of that idea is what makes it good or bad so is there potential for an Independence Day sequel to be as good, if not better, than the first one? I’d say that there definitely is. The idea of humanity working together to rebuild and dealing with the threat again under different circumstances has lots of potential.
In terms of execution, this film is a very strange one. The story is largely what you expect it to be with a second wave of aliens attacking Earth using a much bigger ship and deadlier technology than last time. This means that an eclectic group of characters are needed to save humanity as we know it all over again.
The cast is a mix of old and new characters with Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner reprising their roles from the first film. There are other returning characters but those are the main ones. We also have new faces playing old characters include Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher) and the former president’s daughter Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe). Of course there are new characters in the mix as well with Liam Hemsworth’s hot shot pilot Jake, William Fichtner’s General Adams and Sela Ward as the current president of the United States. There are plenty of other new faces but I can’t spend the entire review listing names so I’ll cut it off there.
Generally speaking the old cast pretty much phone it in with the exception of Brent Spiner who seems to be having a blast with a significant role in a 2016 blockbuster. Any 2016 summer tent pole willing to give Spiner plenty to do definitely earns some recognition in my book. Goldblum lacks any of the entertainment value that he’s known for and Bill Pullman’s performance is really strange, so much so that I’m struggling to describe why.
The new cast are a mixed bag of poorly developed characters. Liam Hemsworth is perfectly fine but his character is fairly bland. Jessie T. Usher struggles with being essentially a leading man and Maika Monroe has laughably little to do despite how significant her role could have been. Much of the film has her wanting to get involved and being told that she isn’t needed which seems a bit regressive considering there is a lack of strong female characters in blockbusters generally. Not that she was going to redefine the landscape or anything like that but her contribution could have been far more significant than it was. If she had taken Hemsworth’s role then at least the film would have had a prominent female character leading the charge on much of the action going for it.
Impressively the film keeps the running time at a lean 2 hour including credits which really surprised me considering the tendency to bloat the running time on big films like this but there’s also the feeling that the whole thing has been cut to the bone in order to achieve that running time. The setup of the film is rushed through and there are a lot of scenes that are really incoherent due to really shoddy editing. My thinking is that there is a much longer cut out there somewhere that might feel like a more complete experience. As it stands this whole thing feels unfinished but maybe we’ll see a better version when it is released for home consumption.
The special effects are also not quite up to scratch. Some of the set piece moments are entertaining enough but for the most part everything looks somewhat cheap with laughably bad CGI in parts. The first film did some great work with models but here there is far too much reliance on CGI effects and many of them look terrible. I was lifted out of the experience at several key points because I couldn’t believe what was going on.
For the most part the story was a standard second wave invasion story with a bigger ship, more destruction and amplified stakes to show that there was still a massive threat out there. There’s nothing outwardly wrong with that and the marketing certainly pushes for the film being all about that. I won’t go into specifics but there are things going on in the film not spoiled in the marketing that attempt to tell a more interesting science fiction story.
It is buried under the invasion plot and it does make the film feel like it’s only the first in a long running franchise that will answer those questions later but I like that there was an attempt to do something different even if the surface is barely scratched. I do wish studios would stop planning for a franchise before seeing how the first entry pans out – Terminator: Genisys anyone? I know this isn’t the first film in this -now to be called- franchise but it does feel very much like a first entry. Who knows, maybe it will do well enough and we’ll get to see what these more interesting ideas lead to. Time will tell on that one.
A solid if uneven movie that doesn’t come close to matching the first entry. Returning actors essentially phone in their performances and the new characters are so thinly drawn that it’s hard to root for them. The film suffers from some really bad CGI as well as an overall unfinished quality that makes me wonder if there’s a longer cut. There are attempts to do something a little more interesting beneath the surface but broadly it’s another alien invasion movie that is trying to coast on past glories.
- some decent set pieces
- Brent Spiner
- the slight attempt to tell a more interesting science fiction story
- a lean running time
- bland characters and phoned in performances from the returning cast
- terrible CGI
- an overall unfinished quality to the film