Review – Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Independence-Day-2-Resurgence-Landmark-Poster-2

by Armando Vanegas

Independence Day: Resurgence continues 20 years since the events of the first movie and the Americans have been using alien technology to defend the world from aliens and the whole world has achieved world peace as a means to work together to avoid any future attacks on Earth. It turns out that the aliens are about to make another attack on Earth. Things seem to be going okay until signs of another attack begin to appear and it’s up to Bill Pullman’s former US President Whitmore, who’s been left traumatized by the aliens and Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson, who’s now serving as an advisor as he investigates the recent signs appearing around the world.

I have very fond memories of the very first movie as it was one of my first movie memories as a kid and it got very big replay in my house. I can’t say that I was super excited about seeing this the way I was with Jurassic World but I was at least interested in how it turned out. I mean, there’s no need for a sequel because that first movie wraps up everything nicely and it feels like a great standalone movie. But, in this day and age with nostalgia bringing everything back, it was inevitable to happen. There’s something admirable about the ideas that this movie brings to the table. For example, the fact that we found a way to use alien technology to defend our country or that the war of ‘96 somehow found a way to bring world peace or that Bill Pullman has an Shining-esque affliction between Brent Spiner returning as area 51 scientist Dr. Okun and the good guy African warlord that decides to help whenever they can sense that the aliens are going to attack. There’s even a female president and everyone seems to be totally okay with that. I actually loved a lot of that stuff.
That said, it doesn’t seem to rise to the level of ambitiousness that it sets up for itself. A lot of that has to do with the fact that this is a Roland Emmerich movie so you can’t expect too much depth or subversiveness but it at least tries. Really, he just wants to make an entertaining movie and for the most part, it succeeds. It’s pretty much more of the same of what you’ve seen in every other Roland Emmerich movie and pretty much every summer blockbuster that followed since the first ID4 came out. Being that we’re so used to special effects at this point, it’s hard to be blown away when it’s become the norm. Even if the action that’s presented on screen is entertaining, it feels ultimately hollow since you pretty much know what to expect with the familiar story beats and you don’t really care about the characters that much.
Granted, the first movie was pretty silly but there were characters in it that you gave a care about from Will Smith and his family to Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch. Bill Pullman probably has the most compelling performance as he’s still traumatized by the events that occurred with a giant beard to prove it. He choice to makes the character seem more off was interesting considering how direct and straightforward he was in the first movie. That part of his character is still there though and it’s interesting he doesn’t go too over the top with his role. His daughter Patricia, played by Maika Monroe, she does a serviceable job as President Whitmore’s caring daughter/professional fighter pilot. She doesn’t get a lot to do but she does the best with what she can even if the whole father and daughter aspect is well worn at this point. Liam Hemsworth is also decent as Jake, the main pilot that has to go into battle and helps out with stopping the current investigation. He has some charisma but the movie yet again doesn’t give him a whole lot to do.
Will Smith’s son and another pilot Dylan, played by Jessie T. Usher, is pretty forgettable and for the third time in this review, he also doesn’t seem to have much to do at all except that he’s Will Smith’s son and the movie needs to remind you of that, especially when said character has forced unnecessary motivation just to keep him in the story. Jeff Goldblum is okay although he’s pretty serious throughout the movie compared to the first one. It’s strange that he doesn’t have the same amount of comic relief that he had in the first movie but the moments he has with Judd Hirsch as his father here are welcome for those. But at least, it shows some growth as he spends most of his time investigating the new invasion that’s about to occur. It’s fine for table setting kind of stuff and it was cool to see him again. Meanwhile, there’s a whole subplot with Judd Hirsch and some kids that feels rather detached from the rest of the movie but he’s entertaining when he appears and I didn’t mind seeing him again. It was also fun seeing Brent Spiner come back and he was pretty funny throughout because of how goofy it was.
It’s interesting how straitlaced it plays throughout instead of continuing the B-movie tone that the first one had. It’s at least keeping in line with what happened in the first movie but it just feels rather generic yet the actors seemed to do a solid job in their roles. There is still that sense of absurdity at times that was very present in the first movie but for the most part, it does feel like a standard blockbuster that could be made by anyone. It does have some nice moments of humor mixed in here and there that fortunately keep the movie from being too dreary. Actually, it’s strange how the whole movie feels to take itself more seriously than the first.
On some level, I can understand and appreciate that it does want to delve in the mythology that it’s created for itself although it makes the movie feels more like Part B of Volume A in the Independence Day franchise, which this certainly feels like. It at least felt like that to me because even when the climax happens, it’s just plays like, “That’s a thing that happened, I guess.” It even ends on a set up for a sequel because of course it has to. It’s definitely well made on a technical level and it’s directed okay. The action isn’t badly executed. It’s just that if you saw the first movie, you’ve already seen these scenes played out in similar fashion. There’s some nice little callbacks here and there like the one reference to the White House from the first movie that admittedly got a laugh out of me. The aliens are okay looking but you can obviously tell that they’re CGI at times as well as a lot of the bigger set pieces in this movie. Really, the CGI is fine in general and it doesn’t look as fake as I thought it was going to. It’s just that there are times where it’s obviously CGI and those parts do tend to stick out at times.
I don’t think it’s as good as the first movie but I wasn’t expecting it to be. If you need to something dumb to sit through, then you could do worse. It’s perhaps too dry for its own good and it feels like a set up to a way bigger movie by the end but I was still entertained by a lot of it. Even with its issues, it didn’t bug me that much mainly because the cast that does a serviceable job and make it watchable enough. It’s not as silly as a lot of the other Emmerich movies that have come before and that’s totally fine. I could say that it would’ve been better if Will Smith had come back but that’s no surprise. But you take what you can get and I liked what I took here. If you like the first movie, there’s probably something to get out of this although it lacks any really memorable sequences like the first one had. Nonetheless, it’s a decent sci-fi adventure on its own terms.
3 out of 5 hairpieces
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