However much Will Smith wanted for this film, they should’ve given it to him.
Independence Day: Resurgence teaches us that destroying the world can’t be upped without destroying credibility. In this bad case of sequel-itis, what worked in the first film must be repeated in greater amount in the sequel, as long as they don’t have to pay any heavy actors. What does that get us? It gets us a soulless, by the numbers, inconsistent, and illogical, supersized even more ‘destroyingener’ movie, that had me rooting for the aliens. It’s a two hour summer money grab that took my $15 and left me hoping for at least twenty more years before the next installment. So how bad was the movie? Bad enough that I’m making up new words!
The first Independence Day was no intellectual masterpiece. It was little more than a special effects laden monster flick that exploited our love of explosions, patriotism, and fast jets. It occurred in a less scandal ridden Clinton-esque America, where we were all going to make our millions on dot-com businesses, but only if we took recycling seriously, and the jarring sound of dial-up was life. The myriad characters of the film were cardboard cutouts and the cheese was enough to give your doctor a heart attack.
Yet Independence Day wasn’t awesome because it had no flaws- it was awesome despite those flaws. It was the right time and the right place with the right special effects. Roland Emmerich managed to breath new life into the disaster movie genre- he took what would have been an earthquake movie or burning tower movie and made it global. He made us believe that cities could be destroyed, and he kept refining the basic formula for the next two decades- go for the landmarks. The CG was new enough to impress, and mixed in with real models there was a concrete feel to it that still managed to convey destruction; real destruction. You only got to destroy miniature New York once.
Computer viruses were a new concept and using one to disable the alien threat, while silly if you think about it, still managed to be a modernized telling of War of the Worlds. And it gave us action star Will-Smith. Independence Day has rightly been described as lightning in a bottle, because that’s how rare and perfect it was.
Back to the present, and Resurgence, because we must. Where does it fail? Well, how much time do you have? The big three are story, characterization, and the final sort of MacGuffin. Without dipping more than a toe into spoiler territory, lets touch on those:
Story: Clearly the world rebuilt after 1996, with Earth using alien tech to advance far beyond our current capabilities. Cool. Nice idea. Bad execution. Too much, too fast, too unrealistic. Then there’s the curiously punctual arrival of a new alien threat; bigger and stupider, while employing tactics that are in contrast to the goal expressed in 1996. Aside from London and a Chinese city (work in that new market), the movie ignores that an object large enough to straddle oceans would have disastrous effects on the entire planet destroying life as we know it. But the last sin is the central mind/queen alien trope. It’s old like the computer virus from 1996 was new.
Characterization: Jeff Goldblum tried, and clearly he needs the money, but it didn’t feel like the same character. Brent Spiner was a high point, as ever. Then it’s all downhill. Turning Bill Pullman into the Randy Quaid replacement was a fail. Speaking of Quaid, where were his kids? The legacy crew idea should have worked, and Liam Hemsworth had no depth to his character, even by Emmerich standards. There was the Chinese pilot though, Angelababy, who also could have been explored more. I’m betting the Chinese release has more footage of her. Because sequel-itis, Judd Hirsh’s obnoxiousness was beyond cute and into maddening here. All in all, despite the holdovers from 1996, it was difficult to care about anyone in the movie, with the possible exception of an African warlord.
MacGuffin: There’s a thing in this movie. It reminds me of a thing from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The thing is so out of place and silly in appearance and concept and it ruins an already weak movie. But it’s necessary to set up the third one. Yay!
Also, dishonorable mention to the music choices. Every dog fight between the Earth fighters and the aliens was accompanied by a generic Star Wars rip off that drove home the complete lack of originality in any aspect of the film. Ultimately, that’s the movie’s greatest flaw- they double down on everything that went right with the original without understanding you’re not going to win the lottery twice playing the same numbers.
Is there nothing left to rebuild after the destruction? Was the damage in all categories absolute, or was something redeemable in Independence Day: Resurgence? Let the Geek Stranger Score decide!
There it is in all its horrible glory. The special effects were good, Spiner is a favorite, and I do occasionally enjoy the hate-love viewing experience, which says more about Geek Stranger than I’m happy to admit. But even being generous of spirit, there is no fun, and very little surge in Independence Day: Resurgence.
Independence Day: Resurgence on the Web: