Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

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Last summer, 90’s nostalgia propelled Jurassic World to become one of the highest grossing movies of all time and Fox was clearly trying to tap into that same nostalgia with the 20 years later sequel Independence Day: Resurgence.  It didn’t really work out for them as Resurgence is just another OK summer blockbuster.

Picking up 20 years to the day from the first movie, humanity has joined together in peace and used alien technology to create the Earth Space Defense force, led by David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum).  Shortly before the Fourth of July festivities, a spacecraft is shot down over the moon, which now houses a base armed with a massive laser cannon.  While Levinson leads a mission to the craft against the world council’s orders, a 3,000 mile long spacecraft of the evil aliens arrives and plants itself over the entirety of the Atlantic Ocean and proceeds to start drilling toward the Earth’s core to drain the molten energy within, destroying our planet in the process, so it’s another battle for survival for humanity.  The strange thing about Resurgence is that even though the threat and the alien ship is bigger, the movie feels a lot smaller and less epic in scope than the first movie, even though the budget is double what the first movie cost in 1996.  Most of the action takes place in Area 51, which is now the main base for the ESD, and there’s only one big sequence of city destruction, which is most of the appeal of the first movie.  It feels like everything that happens in this movie would have been just one subplot happening in the first movie while the rest of the world was doing other things. The one thing that is enjoyable is the crazy world building, as everything on Earth is now some sort of hover vehicle and there’s all sorts of alien/human technology hybrids.  Also, the characters are also constantly referencing the events of the “War of 1996” but a lot of the time it only proves to remind you how much more fun the first movie was.  There is a little bit learned about the alien threat in this movie but their species still doesn’t even have a name and a lot of their tech and look is still the same as the last movie, only now it’s all CG.  One major thing plot wise that may annoy some people is that it ends on a fairly significant cliffhanger/sequel setup that, based on the box office performance, may not be a sure thing.  The threat of this movie is resolved but it definitely feels like table setting for a bigger, crazier Part 3.

Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and the welcome return of Brent Spiner pretty much carry the movie as the new cast is kind of dull and forgettable.  Spiner’s Dr. Okun wakes up after being in a coma for 20 years and is almost immediately back to his kooky, alien obsesses self, pulling out giant lasers to try and get into a mysterious object Levinson recovers from the moon.  David Levinson has grown into one of the world’s leaders and, as such, you don’t get a lot of the neurotic Goldblum you might have wanted but he’s still fun and it’s nice to see that, unlike some heroes, he doesn’t have to reprove himself in this one.  Pullman still gives former President Whitmore a ton of gravitas, even as he’s been rocked by visions from the alien hive mind for the last 20 years and there’s a great bit where, even though he’s just sort of giving a pep talk to David in one scene, he still draws in everyone around him just like he drew in the world with his famous address back in 1996.  They try a similar scene with William Fichtner and even he can’t match the pitch perfect blend of inspiration and cheese of that ID4 speech.  The big hole in the movie is obviously Will Smith and, combined, Liam Hemsworth and Jessie Usher have, generously, maybe half the charisma and swagger of Smith’ Steven Hiller and they, along with Maika Monroe from It Follows, are just kind of generic and bland, which doesn’t leave a lot of hope if they are going to be carrying the series in the future.  The rest of the legacy cast gets either killed off fairly quick or, in the case of Judd Hirsch, stuck in dead end subplots that just drag on whenever they get cut to.

Being the perfect age to see the first movie in 1996, I have a ton of nostalgic love for it and the city destruction and charisma of it’s trio of stars (Pullman, Goldblum and Smith) is still great.  This sequel is OK but just doesn’t have the same charm or impact.  Everything’s shinier and more high tech but, except for the returning actors, lacks the soul and weirdly the scope of the first movie.  There is some fun as far the action and there’s some potentially insane plot threads to follow into the third film if it happens, but unless you are a die hard ID4 fan, you are probably best seeing this one during a matinee or wait for it to hit VOD.

 

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