Independence Day: Resurgence
Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt
Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox, Angelababy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nicholas Wright, Travis Tope, Chin Han, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Robert Loggia, John Storey
PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Twenty years is a long time to go between sequels, but Independence Day: Resurgence would rather build on fond memories than build something for a new generation. In a lot of ways, the sequel only enhances the memory of the original and not always in the best ways.
In 1996, Roland Emmerich gave to audiences a sci-fi disaster film of epic proportions. He destroyed familiar monuments in cathartic displays of carnage, and engaged audiences with rousing battle sequences. It was a box office phenomenon that took in, adjusted for inflation, over $594 million. That’s staggering even by today’s standards.
What he also did was usher in a wave of dumbed-down blockbusters that relied less on thrilling, well-written adventures, and focused in on large scale destruction and titillating spectacle. He released his own series of decreasingly engaging features, fading as a box office maestro only a few years later.
Independence Day: Resurgence follows the same characters twenty years later. A few are missing, and other than a small handful, are dispatched almost immediately, a shame considering who was unceremoniously dumped. Having embraced the technology the aliens left behind in the first film, the planet has unified under a single banner and has marched towards a prosperous future where advances in science and engineering have put the planet into what it believes is an excellent position to face off against the alien threat should they return.
Return they must. It wouldn’t be a sequel without them. Jeff Goldblum continues as David Levinson who is now the director of Earth Space Defense, responsible for global defense and reverse-engineering the alien tech. He’s still wary and that’s Goldblum’s performance in a nutshell. It’s precisely what we expect. Less expected is Bill Pullman back as President Thomas Whitmore, who has been having alien visions and is kept out of the public eye lest he make a spectacle of himself. Pullman understands how to do bizarre and succeeds at that, but the character’s as paper thin as the original.
New to the cast are Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher, and Maika Monroe as the three primary youthful characters who must strike out against odds when their elders are busy trying to figure out a scientific or technical way of defeating the aliens. As youngsters always are in these kinds of films, they are spunky, rebellious, and victorious. None of them are particularly memorable in their roles, giving them perfunctory tics and grievances without much sense of narrative significance.
This type of performance is key to an Emmerich production. He builds all of his movies on narrow, simplistic stereotypes that seldom change from film to film. Sometimes the gender or the ethnicity changes, but never the attitudes. This is the biggest gripe anyone can have with an Emmerich feature. If he were to create well-rounded, believable characters, everyone would be so distracted by shock that they’d forget to be distracted by the visual effects.
If there’s one thing Emmerich has never skimped on, it’s effects. This guy thrills for explosive and detailed effects. It’s what all of his films are known for and subsist almost entirely off of. Independence Day: Resurgence is no exception. The bigger, the bolder, the more modern effects are everywhere, but compared to the original, they are merely flashier, not better. If you can recall a single momentous effect in this film twenty years from now, you’ll be lucky. Whereas several pivotal effects and events in the original are still instantly recalled today.
Like Irwin Allen before him, Emmerich knows how to engage the audience and get them to cheer on the protagonists, as weakly written as they are, and marvel at the visuals on display. Independence Day: Resurgence hits every mark one would expect with the lone exception that it just doesn’t feel like we’ve seen something different. With Jurassic World, the audience got a different take, something that felt entirely different, even if not remotely close to the original. This time around, viewers will get much of the same as the original, and that’s rather disappointing.
Potentials: Visual Effects
August 23, 2016