Review: 'Independence Day: Resurgence' a Dull Film 20 Years in the Making
by Jeremy Kirk
June 27, 2016
20 years to prepare. 20 years of anticipation. That's where we're starting at in 2016 with Independence Day: Resurgence, the long-awaited follow-up to the massive sci-fi hit released in 1996. Though film technology has advanced as much as the defense technology found within the movie, it's no substitute for fast-paced entertainment and human emotion. You know, the stuff that made Independence Day such a crowd-pleasing success back then. Instead we're left with overblown effects and seemingly bored actors delivering dull, meaningless dialogue. Independence Day: Resurgence isn't the worst blockbuster sequel to come down the road, but its mildly amped pace and predictability in story leaves even the most die hard of fans of the original squirming for something more. Maybe they'll get it right in another 20 years.
Chief among the aspects the new movie gets right is the setting. We're introduced to an alternate 2016 where humanity has come together in defense against the possibility of another extraterrestrial attack. Our weapons technology advanced by the alien ships left crashed behind gives us an upper hand including a military base on the Moon and a ring of weaponized satellites circling the planet. All seems well for the planet to celebrate the 20 year memorial of when the initial, alien attack was rebuffed. That is until another spacecraft approaches the planet and begins preparations for yet another assault, a much bigger assault.
The simplicity of the original Independence Day was one of the main attributes that made it an instant classic. Aliens came. They attacked. Humanity banded together to drive them back. It helped that Will Smith was along for the ride to deliver humorous quips that added levity to the thought of millions being wiped out by enormous laser blasts. Smith doesn't return, his character having been killed somewhere between the two films while testing the alien technology. Also gone is that simplicity, with Jeff Goldblum's technician returning to help explain how the new, larger alien craft – this one 3000 miles wide as opposed to the 15-mile long ships from the first one – creates its own gravity and what that means for our planet.
This makes for some impressive destruction across the planet, as the new, alien ship wipes out city after city, most notably London, England. Director Roland Emmerich also returns to provide that destruction, and if there's anything Emmerich knows how to accomplish it's the violent destruction of Earth's great cities. It's impressive on a visual scale, but nothing, not even the sight of skyscrapers crashing down onto London Bridge, ever comes close to the iconic depiction of the White House exploding from within. It's also a drawback that the genuine, human element that aided the first film is no longer present in Resurgence.
Emmerich and long-time collaborator Dean Devlin wrote the screenplay for Independence Day, but the team of "story by" and "written by" screenwriters this time around seems to have only complicated the matter. The screenplay provided goes through the motions of delivering a sequel, but that's about as far as it goes. There are so many minor characters and trivial subplots that go nowhere you almost root for a third film just to wrap all the static noise up into something coherent and, at the very least, entertaining. Independence Day: Resurgence provides very little of the former and even less of the latter.
Among those actors who seem to plod through their dialogue we have Goldblum's David Levinson and Bill Pullman as ex-President Whitmore returning. They, too, go through the motions of their individual characters, offering exposition where it's necessary and vague fits of humor where Smith's return would have been an attribute. Actors Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, and Jessie Usher make up the new, young cast that will surely be the face of this franchise should it continue on from here. None of them provide anything groundbreaking, though, and the sporadic bouts of emotion they attempt to pull off barely register. It's even more of a frustration that Monroe and Usher play returning characters, the children of Whitmore and Smith's Steven Hiller, respectively, but there's no depth to either of them to support the history surrounding their characters. Instead Emmerich surrounds them with more and more computer effects depicting more and more insignificant destruction.
These past 20 years have certainly shown this as Emmerich's bread and butter. His other movies like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 have proven the director's worth when it comes to the mass devastation he can lay on the planet Earth, but none of them show an ability to create real, human emotion from any of that destruction. Still, there was an expectation for a sequel to Independence Day that it would live up to the heart and entertainment that first film provided back in 1996. If Independence Day: Resurgence shows us anything it's that, more often than not, 20 years of preparation still may not be enough time, and the only feeling that can result from it is utter disappointment.