Independence Day: Resurgence Review

A DISASTROUS RESURGENCE


 

And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!” are some of the iconic lines (from one of the greatest speeches in movie history I think) from director Roland Emmerich’s sci-fi movie Independence Day. Released back in 1996, Independence Day (abbreviated as ID4) followed a group of various and disparate humans as the world is ravaged by the arrival of aliens, who begin to systemically attack cities all over the globe. With fate of the world literally in their hands, this group makes a last stand counterattack on July 4th, the same day as the Independence Day in the United States (hence the name of the movie). Independence Day went on to gain critic success from fans and critcs as well as box office success, raking in over $800 in its global theater lifespan (Not bad for a movie that only took $75 million to make). The movie also signified the resurgence of sci-fi films to return to mainstream (ending the reign of the action genre of the 90s) with more studios creating science fiction features in the years following ID4’s release. Now, over 20 years since Independence Day came out, 20th Century Fox and director Roland Emmerich prepare for the next alien invasion with the sequel Independence Day: Resurgence. Will this long awaited follow-up rise to the occasion or is it a flashy and bombastic feature that’s waited too long for viewers to care about?

THE STORY


It has been two decades since the War of 1996 and Earth has rebuilt societies with alien technology, keeping the peace with all of its nations as humanity monitors (from there moon base) deep space for any new threat. There hotshot pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) struggles with his meanly military standing, also is very, very long distance relationship Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), who’s back on Earth, tending to her ailing father, former President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman). Confident in the global defense system, President Landford (Sela Ward) and General Adams (William Fichtner) are put to the test when the aliens return to Earth, led by a new queen inside an enormous mother ship, with the intent on drilling to the planet’s core to kill all living things on the planet. Resurfacing to the quest for answers and humanity’s survival is scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), who’s joined by his ex-flame Catherine (Charlotte Gainsbourg), trying to make sense of the visitor’s new plan. Also emerging from a coma is Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner), who holds a special connection to the alien presence, while Jake’s rival Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), son to 96’ war-hero Steven Hiller (Will Smith) lives up to his father’s legacy as he takes to the skies to defend Earth from this new alien invasion.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


I remember I was in 6th grade when I went to see Independence Day in theaters on its opening weekend. Back then, while I did like the movie, I definitely had nightmares about. It’s true. That one scene when Dr. Okun and his team open up the alien and its alive and begins to attack them. And then the next scene with the alien talking saying (via Dr. Okun) “release me…. now!”. Uhhh…. scared the living “crap” out of me when I was younger. Had nightmares for weeks. However, as I grew older, I did learn to appreciate the movie as Independence Day has become a “classic” sci-fi in my catalogue of movies. With all the success of ID4, I remember that Roland Emmerich (the film’s director) said he wanted to do a sequel, but it never materialized…until now. I got to tell you. I had goosebumps when I first saw the teaser trailer for Independence Day: Resurgence and was definitely “pumped” to see the movie. However, after seeing it, I felt that the 20-year hype for an ID4 sequel was deflated by what I saw as Independence Day: Resurgence definitely has the razzmatazz fanfare of a summer movie blockbuster, but its definitely somewhat of a  far cry from the glory of its original film.

With two-decade gap between the two films (both in actuality and the movie’s narrative), director Roland Emmerich returns to the movie universe of ID4 with Resurgence. Emmerich embraces the present day modern technology in today’s moviemaking, utilizing its updated CG visuals to boast some impressive layouts of locales, (the moon base, the hostile inner-dwelling aboard the alien mother ship, etc.) and expansive set pieces. Basically, Resurgence is a tried and true summer blockbuster, carrying heavy visuals to its proceedings, allowing viewers to immerse themselves into the movie’s sci-fi world of aliens return to attack Earth. In addition, it’s interesting to finally see a continuation story to ID4 take form, seeing the return of familiar faces and the “next generation” as well how the alien technology is now incorporated into human technology (a fusion co-opting of the two).

Perhaps the biggest disappointment with Resurgence is that it isn’t as impactful as its predecessor, even though it desperately wants to be capture the same “magic” ID4 culminated back in ’96. Yes, Emmerich has plenty of fun and creative science fiction ideas for Resurgence, which are spread across the entire movie, but (as a whole) the movie lacks a quality “oomph” and only appears to have a flashy, yet shallow outline in almost all aspects (plot, characters, etc.). Emmerich also seems to get lost into adding more to the mythos of ID4’s universe, expanding upon certain aspects that seem to contradict what was said in the first movie. This is clearly noticeable with the alien backstory, which has been expanded upon, but somewhat undermines the more simplistic (and better thought-out) nature of them being a “locust-like creatures” that move from planet to planet and drain the planet of it resources before moving on. Resurgence creates a new yarn to that, adding a more nonsensical and complex angle to their alien world domination that just comes off as being ridiculous and almost a bit of a rip-off to other sci-films.

Overall substance in Resurgence is in short supply, crafting a vivid world of CG visuals that, while impressive, are more prominent than the actually narrative of the feature. Perhaps another culprit in Resurgence’s problems are to be found in its uneven mix between being serious and not too serious. While Independence Day had its moments of being silly with some over-the-top dialogue and / or a couple of silly moments, Emmerich still allowed the feature to develop into something dramatic, sobering up scenes of comedic levity with cinematic scenes tragedy, victory, and sacrifices within its casts and its theatrical proceedings. Thus, it made the movie feel more impactful and meaningful (with a couple of winks of comedy). Resurgence dials those over-the-top moments up so much that it becomes apparent that the movie seems to not take itself seriously, with more jokes and scenarios that are presented in an unrealistic manner (I mean who has time to make witty jokes when I giant alien ship, the size of the Atlantic Ocean is landing on Earth?) and rendering some of the heroes of the feature into more cartoonish personas without a proper nor sincere send-off by the film’s end. In short, Resurgence just comes off as hokey at various points.

Then there’s the lack of intense and sense of dramatic poise. The original Independence Day was creepy, exhilarating, and partial horrifying as us (the viewers) watched the arrival of the alien ships systemically position themselves across the globe and create fear and pandemonium amongst the masses as they fire their deadly weapons and wipe out cities and countless lives. The shots of the aliens themselves were effectively terrifying and brought a sense genuine otherworldly horror. Even moments where there wasn’t any sci-fi action going on and was just pure character building moments and / or reflection scenes of those who survived and the destruction of their loss were additionally meaningful and crucial to the film’s “humanity” story arc.  Resurgences, on the other hand, seems too distracted and overstuffed to slow as the movie down to soak up its own moments, whether moments of destruction, sadness, or joyous victory. Everything moves pretty fast in the movie, hitting this point, then this scene, then that scene, and the cut to this character, and then back to a previous character, etc. Compared to ID4, Resurgence doesn’t have a sense of cinematic wonder and suspense in the feature. Even the scenes of destruction of chaos with building, cars, and people being thrusted into the air and then shot back down seems more manufactured than in the previous installment. Even the people in these destructive scenes are, more or less, “digitalized” CGI creations rather than live action extra running around through various locales, desperately trying to escape the alien’s ship blasts. Again, it just lacks something impactful for viewers to resonate with, whether it some horrifying, dramatic, and an overall story. Resurgence just seems senseless with more bombastic ridiculousness than a cohesive meaningful narrative.

Another problem with Resurgence is in its characterization. While summer blockbusters are notoriously known for “action” and then character building, it sometimes came be overlooked if all the other components of the film are in top-notch shape. Resurgence doesn’t fall into that category, with a sprawling cast of characters that are spread too thin to cultivate a memorable role. Well, some do, but to a lesser degree. Of course, fan favorites from the first ID4 movie return, including Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Brent Spiner to reprise their roles once again. Goldblum, for his part, gets to ham-it up with his return to character David Levinson, which he does quite well and keeps the character entertaining, but maybe a little too much as he needs someone with a “straight man” role to bounce off his quirky dialogue lines. In addition, his story arc is push to aside a bit (within his large ensemble cast) and even a feign love interest with ex-flame character Catherine Marceaux, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, has no desire effect of sparking any romance whatsoever. Even David’s Jewish father from the first film Julius Levinson, played by Judd Hirsch, returns in Resurgence, but is in a side story that feels like a disjointed misadventure. The idea works well on paper, but not in the film’s final product and offers little to no substance to Resurgence.

President Thomas Whitmore returns (hooray!), but he’s an uneven character, plagued with a mentally disturb and physically impaired from what he was 20 years ago. Of course, Pullman returns to the role and us (the viewers) get glimpses on the once stoic Whitmore, but it’s a shell of a character that doesn’t resonate as strong as it did back in ID4. I loved Pullman’s Whitmore in the original movie and it’s sad that they couldn’t make him more well-rounded in this feature. Lastly, Brent Spiner reprises his role of Dr. Brakish Okun and I have to have mix feelings about this role. In ID4, Dr. Okun was an eccentric “off-kilter” Area 51 scientist, but now (in Resurgence), he’s more of a comic relief role. Granted, Spiner does a great job, but he seems like he’s in the movie for laughs and bit of a departure from how he was portrayed in the first movie.

Resurgence’s also showcases the so-called “next generation” of ID4 world, seeing newcomer to the series to fill in for the “old guard” in various parts of the movie. Perhaps the best of these new character is Liam Hemsworth as the hotshot pilot Jake Morrison. It’s not a relatively new character persona, but Hemsworth dishes out the cocky attitude with ease and provides to be suited as Morrison. Unfortunately, the other two “new recruits” to the franchise, including Jessie T. Usher’s Dylan, the famed son to ID4’s character of Steve Hiller, and Maika Monroe’s Patricia Whitmore, the daughter of Ex-President Whitmore, are serviceable, but are shallow and thinly written characters, which is sad because had the potential to be great roles (especially the character of Dylan).

As side characters goes, Resurgence adds more than enough to bolsters its already large principal cast, which again is another one of the film’s problems. Sela Ward and William Fichtner do serviceable jobs as President Landford and General Adams, but are, more or less, caricatures in Resurgence’s grand scheme, Joey King, Patrick St. Espirt, Vivica A. Fox (an ID4 alum), and Deobia Oparei are also in the film, but these performances (by talented individuals) are merely supporting roles to help drive the narration forward, whether by comedy or plot point, acting as part of the background rather than a fully fleshed character.

Literally right now (as I’m writing this review), I’m watching Independence Day on HBO and I can definitely see a difference between the two movies and appreciate ID4 over Resurgence.

FINAL THOUGHTS


The aliens have returned for their second conquest of Earth as mankind makes their “last stand” in Independence Day: Resurgence. Director Roland Emmerich’s long-awaited sequel to the original 1996 film definitely has its moments with creative fun, impressive visuals, an interesting cast (both returning and newcomers), and continuation a narrative to what began 20 years ago. However, the movie doesn’t resonate as strong as it predecessor, feeling hokey and cheesy with over-the-top dialogue lines, ridiculous plot points / development, flat characters, and a less “emotional” story arc (for both its immediate characters and for humanity). To me, it was just medicore (not as completely deplorable as some are calling it to be), but I was somewhat disappointed with Resurgence. It has its moments, but just wasn’t impactful as the first film was (even for a summer movie). Thus, Resurgence is a really tossup as some diehard fans of Independence Day will embrace Emmerich’s roll coaster ride of ridiculousness in Resurgence (as a rental), while others might “skip” the feature altogether, preserving their ID4 memories without tarnishing them. In short, Independence Day: Resurgence represents the epitome of today’s “big budgeted” blockbuster by Hollywood, choosing to be more of a mindless visual spectacle rather than a solid sci-fi sequel follow-up.

2.4 Out of 5 (Rent It/ Skip It)

 

Released On: June 24th, 2016

Reviewed On: June 25th, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence  is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language

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