By Chaz Lipp
Your reaction to Independence Day: Resurgence may largely be based upon your feelings for the 1996 original. Some hold that first film near and dear, considering it a highly satisfying popcorn film that met every wow factor expectation. In that case, Resurgence – which finds original director Roland Emmerich returning along with cast holdovers Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Judd Hirsch, and Vivica A. Fox – may come across as irredeemably flawed. It’s larded with cornball dialogue, red herrings, and unnecessary side characters. The whole thing feels almost offhanded, as if everyone is just along for the ride with nothing truly at stake.
But if you (like me) have a more cynical take on the original film, Resurgence might be an easier pill to swallow. In fact, most of the above criticisms can also be applied to the bloated ’96 original, which was such a jokey affair that nothing about the worldwide alien invasion felt all that threatening. Aside from its then-spectacular visual effects, the original ID4 had precious little to recommend. By that yardstick, Resurgence is actually a generally successful sequel. It’s more tightly-paced than its predecessor, too (clocking in at a relatively trim two hours). The only major drawback is that we’ve seen the end-of-the-world disaster stuff so many times (always accompanied by the now-standard issue CG effects), there’s no novelty factor this time around.
Resurgence presents a very different 2016 than we have in real life. Because of the events and discoveries of the original film, Earth is far more technologically advanced than ever before. We have an elaborate base on the moon and further installations as far away as Saturn. For 20 years, the world’s leaders have dreaded the return of the aliens who nearly wiped out humanity. There’s an awakening underway, heralded by the open celebrations of POW aliens from the first film. It’s largely up to hotshot space pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) and former president Thomas Whitmore’s daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe, subbing for the original’s Mae Whitman) to save the planet.
Will Smith’s heroic Steven Hiller is long dead and gone, with his stepson Dylan (Jesse Usher) also stepping up to the new challenge. As for the challenge of delivering a charismatic star turn, Usher falls short. So does Hemsworth, for that matter. The returning vets fare better, especially Spiner as Dr. Brakish Okun. After awakening from a 20-year coma, Dr. Okun realizes he has a psychic connection to the aliens. Spiner has a field day with the role, managing to wring laughs from even the laziest one-liners. His manic energy single-handedly infuses the film with a much-needed sense of urgency.
In the end, Resurgence honestly feels like a two-hour setup for a more interesting, intergalactic sequel. In one of the film’s cleverer twists (come to think of it, one of its only twists), Earthlings are introduced to a new ally that might be the key to defeating the alien invaders forever. But it arrives too late in the film, promising far more than it can deliver. In fact, the film’s jarringly abrupt ending (arguably it’s most damning element in terms of low audience reaction) is literally a tease of what could potentially be a more exciting, expansive adventure than what we get here.
Independence Day: Resurgence Images: 20th Century Fox