Independence Day: Resurgence Review
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Brent Spiner
A review by Ryan M. Holt
Before diving into the proper review of Independence Day: Resurgence, I want to explain my relationship with the first film for context. Independence Day was the first movie I remember seeing in theaters with my full family. After my first and only theater viewing I made it a point to watch it every year on the 4th of July since. After turning 21 it has become my favorite drinking game. It is so cheesy it turns the corner to really great.
Independence Day: Resurgence is not that movie, nor is it in the same league. Sure some of the characters are the same, and it follows some of the same general beats, but it is no where near as polished or complete. The premise of the movie is in the tagline “We had twenty years to prepare, so did they” and that premise is much cooler than the end result.
Other fun ideas are planted throughout Resurgence, but go no where. Apparently a single ship from the first invasion landed, resulting in a 10 year land war with the aliens. This event only gets a passing mention. A minor character mentions something called “Alien Psychic Residual Effects”, but that too falls by the wayside. I would have loved to have seen these ideas fleshed out further.
One of the over arching themes present is that of legacy and consequence, but it never hits those beats. Resurgence wants us to believe that this is a world built upon the devastation from its predecessor. However, the few glimpses of city-scapes we see show Washington D.C., London and New York are as pristine and lovely as ever. To put things in perspective, One World Trade center took almost 10 years to build alone.
This weird polish after a near miss of global destruction also applies to the characters, both old and new. The newer cast of characters, lead by Liam Hemsworth, don’t feel like they have actually grown up in this world. It feels like the global uniting that was implied at the end of the first film never happened. Even Jessie T. Usher’s Dylan Hiller, who is the leader of the multinational Legacy Squadron of fighter pilots, speaks exclusively English.
As for the returning cast, Jeff Goldblum slides right back into the role of David Levinson. Instead of being reluctantly brilliant he is now in charge. Leadership isn’t really his style though and he slowly regresses back into fact-based observation like any good scientist should. In Independence Day Brent Spiner had a glorified cameo, so having his nutty professor back with even more screen time is a treat.
Structurally the movie is all over the place. The first film used its simple structure to its advantage, using July 2nd, 3rd and 4th as act breaks. Resurgence abandons that set up, making the previous days events miss their mark. Characters deliver cheesy lines like “On behalf of the United States, Happy Fourth of July” while blowing up aliens, but I didn’t find myself smiling a stupid grin at all. Overall Resurgence is dry and formulaic, with the third act standing out as the most fun. During the third act the film moves into full on Kaiju territory, and it is a nice break from ominous ships and mega weapons.
Don’t see it, watch the first film instead. It is better paced, holds up incredibly well, and has Will Smith. Resurgence tries, but ultimately fails at capturing anything that made the original great. Despite the final scene obviously setting up a third film, I hope it never happens.