There are two schools of thought when it comes to Independence Day. One is that it is a spectacularly stupid disaster movie that helped usher in our current era of mindless KABLOOIE! blockbusters. The second is that it is a spectacularly stupid disaster movie that helped usher in our current era of mindless KABLOOIE! blockbusters… yet is nevertheless pretty freaking awesome.
I’m in that second camp wholeheartedly (although I do completely understand why others set up their tents in the first one). Independence Day rules. Is it stupid? Oh, you bet your life it is. But as a butt-kicking summer popcorn movie, it can’t be beat. What this thing lacks in smarts, it makes up for in enthusiasm and endless charisma. Watching the spectacular world destroying carnage and the wonderful Smith/Goldblum banter puts a smile on my face every time and in an era of punishingly bleak blockbusters like Batman v Superman, I’ll take any smile I can get.
So, I entered Independence Day: Resurgence without any of the usual cynicism that usually follows a movie reviewers into a 20 years later sequel. I very strongly hoped that this sequel would be able to recapture some of the magic of the original. With the aliens returning to suck up earth’s resources and destroy cities, I was hoping this movie would make me stand up and cheer again as humanity once again welcomed them to Earth.
It didn’t. The magic is dead. Movies suck now.
Independence Day: Resurgence is movie made of bad idea after bad idea and it sadly only comes to life in its more “so bad it’s good moments.” The best thing I can say about it is that it made me want to revisit the original very much.
Where this thing goes the most wrong is in its characters. The Internet has talked extensively about Will Smith’s absence from this movie ever since it went into production without him. He is greatly missed in this.
Obviously, Smith, being one of the most charismatic performers of our time was a big highlight of the original and the new leading man for Resurgence has huge shoes to fill. So who in their right mind thought that it was a good idea to cast Actual Block of Wood Liam Hemsworth as the new Smith-esque cocky, one liner spewing, fighter pilot leading man? He is awful here and certainly one of the worst parts of an already fairly poor film.
William Fichtner is obviously an actor with talent, but he is wasted here as the new president of the United States in a role that could have been played by anyone. The same can be said for Makie Monroe as Ex-President Pullman’s daughter who is given a very bland character to play.
The returning cast members from the original fair a bit better for the most part. Jeff Goldblum is still his very charming Goldblum self and he has most of the best scenes. Brent Spiner is back (turns out he’s not dead… just in a 20 year long coma) in a much larger role and he’s fun as the comedy relief. Bill Pullman’s role didn’t work very well despite the actor’s commendable efforts. His part is a beat for beat recreation of Randy Quaid’s part in the original. It’s tiresome to see this over again. Vivica A Fox has the most thankless role as disaster fodder.
The disaster scenes are 50/50 in terms of quality which won’t cut it when the scenes in the 20 year old predecessor are still 100/0 to this day. It’s fun watching buildings topple and there’s an actually quite cleverly staged action set piece toward the end. However, the over abundance of CGI and the tacky green screen keep you from getting engaged. I shouldn’t be watching spectacular disaster porn and thinking about Jeff Goldblum standing in front of a green sheet. Especially in 2016.
As for the plot, it really feels needlessly convoluted at times in an effort to 1) justify it’s existence as a sequel to a movie that does not need a sequel and 2) keep you from noticing the gaping Will Smith shaped hole. As I said though, this thing roars to life in it’s more unintentionally comical scenes. Just try watching Judd Hirsch on a boat outrunning a tidal wave and a massive alien spaceship and telling me that isn’t hilarious. Good stuff. Could have used some more scenes like that.