Independence Day: Resurgence Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
There comes a time every now and then when a film is released where you watch it and love it because it was an entertaining experience but upon reflection you begin to question why you actually enjoyed it, picking the film apart and finding all its flaws buried beneath the flashy imagery and special effects. After much deliberation I am finally ready to put my opinions for Independence Day: Resurgence for you all to read.
Starting off, there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that the film’s predecessor, Independence Day , was a great movie. In fact I rate it very highly as one of my favourite films of all time. So naturally Resurgence has huge shoes to fill. I suppose it’s one of those films that didn’t necessarily need to happen but at the same time you kind of wanted it to happen. Twenty years later we see most of the original cast come back to join a new band of characters to fight against the odds of another invasion.
It does seem a little lazy, or clichéd, but the film does go about in giving good enough reasoning as to why this sequel was made. Resurgence also does a good job at setting up the new Earth by showcasing how humanity has adapted from the original invasion. This mostly includes utilising the alien’s own technology to build better defences and weaponry. Through the new characters, namely semi-protagonist Jake Morrison (played by Thor’s own brother Liam Hemsworth), we see the damaging effects of the first film and what was lost and how they had to move forward.
We also see how the original cast evolved from the end of the first film with David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) now in charge of the research at Area 51, whilst ex-President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) stands as a symbol of hope after his long reign as leader. Unfortunately we do not see the return of the third player of the original film Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and we are left with a rather poor excuse as to the whereabouts of his character, i.e. he died off-screen during the testing of one of the new aircrafts, despite him being able to fly the alien crafts through space in the first film, but I digress.
Everything seems perfectly set up for this movie in terms of characters (both old and new) and the nature of the new world but things begin to fall apart after that. What seems like a justifiable long first act to set things up, like with the first film, turns into a rushed product that doesn’t give things time to breathe and overall just feels poorly paced. The alien’s arrival was by far the highlight of this film. It doesn’t quite have the atmosphere of tension of the first film but rather goes for the “You’re screwed” approach showing humanity that an even bigger spaceship is coming their way. This one is so big that it has its own gravitational pull to which causes the destruction of both Asia and the UK in one fell swoop. To expand on its size, they even throw in dialogue to indicate it covers the entire Atlantic sea.
After this I felt like the film jumps straight from Act 2 to Act 3 with the leaders already announcing plans to enter the mothership and blow it up. I know they did that in the first one but there was at least build-up to that idea. I guess it makes sense they would go straight for the victory dance but it did feel rushed none-the-less. And, quite obviously, this new invasion force anticipates humanities’ plan and counters it, which leaves you with a third act where humanity is running around like headless chickens to come up with a new fat-lady scheme. Also, by this point, the new characters are pushed to one side to allow the original characters to come up with the battle plan, making the new characters rather redundant.
The entire third act is a game of “What do we do next?” after plan after plan fails to destroy the aliens, to which point ends with an anti-climactic resolve because by that point blind luck is the only real solution. At least they got the new characters back to help out and save the day because they had to do something right? But the real problem with this film, besides its shockingly bad pacing, was the shoehorning in of “we’re making a third film to form a trilogy”. And this spoilt this sequel because it made it feel like you was watching the second chapter of a trilogy and that this film was just there to set-up the final chapter, which was a massive shame because Resurgence had potential.
When it comes to these shoehorned elements it’s hard for me to tell whether or not I like them because they felt too science-fiction for this kind of movie. And that was the problem with this sequel, the tone was all over the place. It didn’t know whether it wanted to be dark and gritty, overly sci-fi or just tell a sequel to the tone and style of the first film. It felt at times that this was a completely different franchise and moved too much with the times to create something that didn’t match the style of the first film. This is made even more apparent with the idea that for the third film they are going to fight an intergalactic war against the aliens. I know the first film was a science-fiction film but it utilised these elements in order to tell a classic Earth- invasion narrative and that worked perfectly. Now with Resurgence the creators want it to become a rival for Star Wars. What the hell? Sigh.
Then there are the characters of this film. The new characters are without a doubt bland and shoehorned in for the sake of having a next generation line-up. Worst of all two of these characters are actually returning characters from the first film all grown up. We have Hiller’s step-son Dylan (played by Jessie Usher) and Whitmore’s daughter Patricia (played by Maika Monroe). There’s even a weird subplot added where Jake and Dylan disliked one another which added nothing to the overall story other than give them something to overcome during the invasion so it looks like they have accomplished something by the end of the film.
If it wasn’t not giving the new characters good “characters” and reasons for being there it was having no reasons for bringing back old characters and having them in there for the sake of nostalgia. Dylan’s mother is brought back for about 5 minutes before being killed off for the sake of drama. Now, I will admit it was sad seeing her perish, but there was no build-up and it just sort of happened and is quickly brushed over. And there was David’s father who literally did nothing throughout his entire screen-time. He was just there as a pathetic subplot which eventually brought him into the main-action right at the very end, and even then he didn’t do anything. A complete waste of concentration which could have been used for something more important.
I think the best part of the film was where it concentrated on the old characters, and this is my problem with Resurgence. Why didn’t they just have this sequel about them and left out developing new characters? Goldblum and Pullman stole the show every time they were on-screen and their characters were still as good as they were in the first film. It was great seeing the mental affects the aliens had on Whitmore and seeing how he used it to rebuild his character after years of mental stress. Unfortunately his character didn’t have the greatest outcome within the film but it was at least emotional, until it was cheated afterwards. Another great return was that of Dr. Okun, who I swear died in the first film. His character acted as the comedy-relief in the absence of Smith and actually served as one of the best elements of Resurgence. And low-and-behold, his character actually got more development than the new characters.
Another thing Resurgence tried to do was develop the aliens through trying to expand upon their culture which ultimately lowered their greatness. The reason they were terrifying in the original film was because we didn’t know anything about them and they were kept in the dark, with little to no justification for their actions. Here we see just about everything and their fear-factor is dropped completely as they become CGI spectacles. Their evil is still there, and you still hate them because of the devastation they cause but it is definitely halved since the first film. And once you see a giant, rampaging Queen alien causing havoc the unique atmosphere they had in Independence Day is lost.
Resurgence is entertaining on the surface, but when you begin to dissect it there is an equal amount lot to dislike, making it an unbalanced movie. Because there are both good and bad points, and I don’t necessarily hate or like the film, it stands perfectly in the middle. Do I care for the third film (if they make one)? Yes and no. This film could have been a whole lot better, but of course it could’ve been a whole lot worse. To close off I think Resurgence needed better focus, needed to concentrate on all the right elements and without a doubt needed Smith in there. Dear God is his absence apparent. And finally, shame on the film having no mention of the heroic sacrifice of Russell Casse at the end of the first film.