One of the stories surrounding Independence Day: Resurgence was how 20th Century Fox decided not to do any press screenings before releasing to the general public. Five minutes into the movie, it was evident why.
Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence is a bloated, poorly shot, incoherent, mind-numbing chore of a sequel that’s more likely to induce boredom rather than excitement. Emmerich’s attempt to recapture the magic of the original film was to throw as many actors on the screen as possible at any given time. He should have gone back and rewatched Independence Day to see what worked the first time.
What made Independence Day a great summer blockbuster, was how streamlined the story was. The audience knew who the “good guys” were and who the “bad guys” were. We rooted for Captain Steve Hiller (Will Smith), and fist pumped after President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) inspired the resistance to fight for humanity. The shot selection was simple yet effective. That shot of the alien ship blowing up the White House left audiences stunned, but it didn’t require a heavy amount of CGI. The simplicity in the shot selection during Independence Day created a lean adventure film.
The supporting cast, lead by Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox, and Randy Quaid all turned in compelling performances as well. Independence Day is the epitome of a summer blockbuster; the sequel is the antithesis of that.
Will Smith, the star of the original film, passed on this one. So Emmerich’s answer to not having Smith’s star power behind this movie is to fill it with a truckload of b-level talent and a couple of beefcakes. Jeff Goldblum, the one true star here, is back as alien defense expert David Levinson. Bill Pullman returns as former President Thomas Whoitmore, haunted by the events of the war 1996. Judd Hirsch returns as Papa Levinson, Brett Spiner is back as the eccentric Dr. Brakish Okun, and rounding out the returning cast members is Vivica A. Fox who returns as former stripper turned medical executive (Yes, I’m well aware that makes little sense) Jasmine Hiller. Joining the cast this time you have Sela Ward, who’s playing President Lansford, William Fichtner playing General Adams, Liam Hemsworth playing hot shot pilot Jake Morrison, and Jessie T. Usher, who plays Captain Dylan Hiller (the son of the late Captain Steve Hiller).
It’s twenty years since the invasion of 1996, and President Lansford’s focus is on having the appropriate celebration to commemorate the victory over the alien invaders. Civilization has used the alien technology left from the war to help improve our way of life. Now we can travel farther, we can reach the ends of space, and science is evolving daily. David Levinson is still focused on the alien phenomenon and is trying to learn more and more about those former unwanted guests. While this is unfolding, we are experiencing unexplained events worldwide: power surges and loss of communications. When the United States receives reports about losing a small defense base on Saturn, the decision is made to go to red alert.
What seems like mere seconds after the decision to move to red alert is made, an unidentified alien craft appears out of nowhere, and President Lansford decides to shoot it down. They blow it out of the sky and celebration ensues. In the midst of the celebration, not one of them thought to use some of that advanced alien technology to check if any other ships were headed our way. This idiotic decision proves to be costly.
What initially struck me about this film was how bloated and incoherent the narrative was. In Independence Day, there was at most four major story lines going on during the movie. In Independence Day: Resurgence, there’s about 20 or more going all at once. In one moment we were following David Levinson and his quest to learn more about the aliens, then we switched to Jake Morrison’s storyline, quickly we go back to Dr. Brackish waking up from a coma, then it’s back to Africa with African Warlords who have somehow fought a ground war against the Aliens for many years (?), and then we jump straight into a storyline involving former President Whitemore’s ability to be connected to the alien psyche (no I’m not joking about this). When a narrative has too many characters doing boring stuff, you don’t connect with any of them. How could you? The characters are not on the screen long enough to develop any attachment to them.
The shot selection in Independence Day: Resurgence is downright confusing. During the pivotal alien battle scenes, rather than pushing our attention towards the actual alien spaceships themselves, Emmerich focuses more on reaction shots of the pilots/ people on the ground. So instead of seeing cool shots of the aliens in a dogfight with the Americans, we are forced to see reaction shot after reaction shot of the cast as the battle unfolds. What would you rather see, Liam Hemsworth’s ship shooting down Alien bad guys or Jeff Goldblum’s weathered face agape with awe?
Emmerich also chose to bathe his alien invasion shots in CGI, and not even good CGI but the type of CGI that you would see satirized in Starship Troopers. There’s a scene in the film where the queen of the alien colony is chasing down a school bus of kids (being driven by Goldblum) that’s drowning in CGI. Instead of eliciting suspense, the scene is giggle worthy.
Above all of this is the bigger issue: Independence Day: Resurgence is paralyzingly boring. Who doesn’t remember Will Smith punching out an alien in Independence Day? What about Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith taunting the aliens? Independence Day was a fun and memorable cinematic ride. Independence Day: Resurgence is so excruciatingly boring that nothing stands out. None of the scenes are memorable, none of the speeches stick with you, nothing will last beyond the credits.
Some movies just don’t need a sequel. Independence Day was a game changer and should have been left as a stand-alone film. Independence Day: Resurgence tarnishes its legacy.