INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2016)
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Film picks up two decades after the events of the original Independence Day with earth having rebuilt and now using recovered alien technology to devise a better defense system in case the invaders return…and they do. Right before they were taken down in 1996, a distress signal was issued and now it’s getting a response. With a massive ‘harvester’ ship heading towards earth, familiar and new faces must band together to battle this even more formidable invasion.
The first Indepenence Day may have been silly, corny and loaded with clichés, but it was also fun, charming and had loads of heart. Sadly, it’s sequel is a cold, soulless and actually kinda dull, follow-up that can’t even generate some emotional intensity with some major story points involving beloved characters. And while speaking of characters, the film is so quick to get to the destruction and carnage, that none of the new characters get any real development and thus we are never as endeared to them like we were to the first film’s ensemble. In fact, most of this film’s effective moments feature some of the returning characters and the newbies are left to sort of clean-up behind them. The film also feels like it was edited down quite a bit in an attempt to make it more fast moving and get to the explosions quicker. At least the first film took it’s time to set-up the story and introduce it’s stereotyped characters. Roland Emmerich directs this sequel very by-the-numbers and only sparsely does he recapture a little of the old ID4 spirit. Sure, there are a few moments, especially during the final confrontation, though one has to laugh that the battle with the giant alien queen was a far better monster movie than Emmerich’s entire Godzilla. He finally figured it out 18 years later. There is a lot of action here, though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. If Emmerich was smart about something, he keeps the city destruction to a minimum as it’s been overdone in so many movies, including his own, since he blasted worldwide landmarks back in 1996. The SPFX are top notch, but basically boils down to the same Star Wars-esque dog fights that also have been done to death since Star Wars and Emmerich fails to give any of it a sense of urgency or intensity…and they are also kinda hard to follow as all the ships look alike in combat. This keeps us detached from what’s going on. Again, it’s pretty lifeless for a movie that sacrifices story and plot development to concentrate on the action. Speaking of story, Emmerich co-wrote the script with ID4 partner Dean Devlin and three other writers and it’s sad that five people churned out such a routine and formula flick. There are a few interesting elements, such as the previous invasion’s effect on Earth, a really interesting segment in Africa and the possibility that this formidable enemy might have enemies of it’s own, but it’s not enough to make this truly engaging. Even the first film’s goofy sense of humor has been toned down considerably making it a lot drier in the humor department. The first film wasn’t afraid to make you laugh, even in the middle of dramatic moments.
The cast is a mix of familiar and new faces and none of them are given anything really special to do or even the kind of corny, melodramatic moments that made the first film such cornball fun. Pullman, Goldblum, Judd Hirsch and Spiner all try hard to give the flick a little life, but even they seem to be performing by-the-numbers at times. Only Hirsch really feels like the guy we saw in ID4 and he also doesn’t seem to have aged any more in the twenty years since. Pullman has a big moment, too that is mishandled and it’s a shame as it should have been one of the film’s standout scenes. Emmerich blows a lot of moments like this and big moments is what made the first flick fun. As for the newbies, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher and It Follows‘ Maika Monroe all come across as bland and that’s disappointing, especially as this is Monroe’s jump to the big time after getting attention in last years horror hit. It’s not totally their fault, as the script doesn’t give them much to work with and the focus keeps shifting back and forth from the previous to the new generation, which gives the old school cast the advantage, as we are already familiar with them. The new generation are underused and even vet William Fichtner fails to really make a strong general turned President as Pullman successfully did with his war hero president in the first film. A good but underused cast. Will Smith is definitely missed.
So, while one was hoping this would be the surprise delight of the summer, it’s just another disappointment. It never captures the corny fun of the 1996 classic and is very cold, routine and by-the-numbers sequel. Roland Emmerich fails to recreate the magic with some of it’s returning characters and squanders the potential of it’s new generation characters and the charming young actors that play them. It’s a heartless and lazy sequel that only sporadically delivers brief moments that evoke the silly popcorn crowd pleaser that captured the hearts and dollars of a generation in 1996. Sometimes thing are better left…un-sequeled?
Personal Note: At least I can boast that I saw the original on July 4th, 1996 in a packed theater in Long Beach Island, N.J. while on vacation there with friends.
2 aggressive aliens.