Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ Is All Spectacle And No Heart

Title: Independence Day: Resurgence
Director: Roland Emmerich
Summary: Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. But will mankind’s new space defenses be enough?

In 1996, Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day changed the way we look at blockbuster film making. This was the movie that brought on the city destruction that have come to populate the entire blockbuster landscape. The iconic images of the White House blowing up or the absolutely fantastic final speech are timeless. The movie still holds up and with the resurgence (see what I did there) of 90’s properties it was only a matter of time before someone made a sequel or re-made the entire movie. The trailers for Independence Day: Resurgence have been fairly good, but I’ve wondered if anything could top what the original was. Then they announced no press screenings which is always worrying, and as I sat in my Thursday night screening with the public I wondered what I was in for.

Independence Day: Resurgence is certainly bigger with more spectacle than it’s predecessor, but lacks the emotional core that made the original so much more than it was.

Independence Day: Resurgence

One of the things that made Independence Day so ahead of its time was the idea that the world could be united in a way that looked beyond race, religion and sovereign borders. That is a very modern way of thinking and a look to “what could be” beyond the horizon for the human race. I was very pleased that Independence Day: Resurgence took the time to point out that this is something that didn’t go away just because the original alien threat was destroyed. The world is still very much united and the new threat of alien invasion doesn’t make people turn against each other. There aren’t any moments where world leaders argue over anything because they all work together now – no questions asked.

That being said the thing that made the original movie so good were good characters that you were invested in. The various family relationships felt real and were compelling enough that you cared. There were people that lived and died within the city destruction scenes that made them meaningful. The destruction in this movie felt very artificial in a way the original didn’t. Perhaps this has to do with us being so used to seeing cities destroyed that it doesn’t have the same meaning that it did in 1996, but as I watched the world get ripped apart again I felt nothing. It didn’t feel real in the way the original did or even other disaster movies. The cities were getting torn apart but they felt empty. There were moments to try and humanize the destruction to give it weight but it’s a nameless family of kids that connect with Julius (Judd Hirsh), David’s (Jeff Goldblum) Dad, and eventually an entire school bus worth of kids for no real reason.

The movie looks fantastic. The combination of alien and futuristic technology is interesting and the idea that we take the alien technology to improve our own is interesting. The plot is way too contrived though, and they seem to spend far too much time trying to explain why the aliens are here and giving them motivations. It was like the movie decided to spend more time on the aliens than trying to make us care about the various human characters which is a mistake. The core of a disaster movie is that we need to care whether this version of the world is going to live or die. If we aren’t invested in those people, if we don’t care if they live or die, then the entire movie falls apart. This movie misses this point because all of the nameless or forgettable characters aren’t interesting enough to care about. The returning cast members get brief moments to shine, but after so many years I just didn’t care about these people anymore which meant I wasn’t invested in whether or not the world was going to be saved.

Independence Day: Resurgence is not a terrible movie and if it wasn’t connected to such a classic I would probably be kinder to it. As a sequel to one of the greats of the blockbuster genre it is bigger and it’s prettier, but the stakes don’t feel as high and I didn’t care about the various people. After twenty years this feels like the lazy sequel I was worried it was going to be. Independence Day defined a genre and Independence Day: Resurgence is a lower quality rehash of that genre.

Kaitlyn Booth
Kaitlyn Booth
Kaitlyn Booth is a writer, film critic, comic lover, and soccer fan based in Salt Lake City. She has covered such events as the Sundance Film Festival, San Diego Comic Con, and New York Comic Con and been a special guest and panelist at Salt Lake Comic Con and FanX. She has a deep fondness for female superheroes and independent film.