Independence Day: Resurgence Re-View
What’s a ‘Re-View‘? For starters it is either a horrible pun or a horrible abbreviation. For us it means we’re watching old shows or films and reviewing them. We’re ‘re-viewing’ them, or viewing them for the first time and reviewing them. Or even ‘retroactively-viewing’ them if that’s better for your pun hating soul.
The Internet is home to many contemporary reviews for contemporary shows and films. However older properties have not been given this treatment as often as perhaps they deserve. I say perhaps because we’ll see exactly what they deserve in the process. Enjoy.
There are several commonly held views held about 1996’s Independence Day. Some will maintain that it is trashy rubbish that is unwatchable from start to finish. Others will maintain that same trashiness is exactly why it is incredibly watchable from start to finish. Others will dismiss it entirely either way due to it being ‘gung-ho American patriotism’.
However, I belong to none of these groups. I feel that the original film, in addition to being a classic, is a loud, proud and well crafted blockbuster. In addition to those qualities it has a few simple moral lessons with some subversive political beliefs underpinning those. To me Independence Day (and its divisive Presidential speech) is not a hurrah for America, but a hurrah for the idea of a united humanity that is stripped of its borders. I could go into detail justifying these aspects, but that would defeat the point of a review for another film. Instead I shall link to Bob Chipman’s ‘Really That Good’ video about Independence Day. Whilst I know some find Chipman’s shtick off-putting, he hits every nail on the head here. If you’re still not convinced that the film isn’t gung-ho patriotism, just remember it was written and directed by a German man.
I shall simply summarise my feelings as such: Independence Day is a serious epic with B-movie trappings to prevent it becoming too serious. The action is good, the characters are fun and have satisfying arcs and it’s okay to have a broad moral lesson with the intentions are this inspirational. The problem is that Independence Day: Resurgence has almost none of this.
It’s been 20 years since the alien invasion in the first film. Earth (as the world is now united as one) has rebuilt itself using salvaged alien technology and is a typical vision of futurism. Earth guards itself with advanced laser satellites and a moon base. Captain Hiller (Will Smith) has died in an experimental accident (there’s a great Suicide Squad somewhere in that statement) whilst the remaining original cast are all 20 years older, obviously. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) has lost his love interest from the first film and gained some other woman for the traded barbs. The lesser Hemsworth is also there. And two new actors playing the two kids from the original, the only one I recognise is Maika Monroe from It Follows. Brent Spiner’s crazy scientist from the original film also awakens from a coma, even though said original implied he was dead. Whatever.
The main problem with this film is its length. It’s too short. It doesn’t give itself a chance to earn the big feeling of the original. The 1996 adventure was a punishing journey for its characters. This new one has the character work of a lesser Marvel film (unfunny quippy without consequences) and the action stylisms of a Transformers film, albeit it the first one before they got unbearable. The camerawork is stable luckily and the audience can see exactly what is happening. The film rushes to the returns of the aliens and has few consequences, doesn’t let the drama sink in and then it ends. Despite characters constantly espousing the oncoming apocalypse it never truly feels like it is.
However there is also plenty to like. The world building is imaginative and surprisingly well developed. They don’t drop the threads of the original film’s unified Earth as I mentioned previously. An African nation was stuck fighting the aliens in a guerrilla surface war until as late as 2006. They also continue the mentions of other sentient lifeforms conquered across the galaxy. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) has horrible visions of the aliens and has clear symptoms of PTSD. In spite of the newer and kinder world, there are larges cases of nepotism. Most of the surviving characters from the original film are treated like fabled heroes. In the case of Hiller’s son Dylan (a pilot), he is promoted above the possibly more deserving Hemsworth pilot. It’s also important to mention the pilots now have space jet fighters. Think Star Wars X-Wings, Battlestar Galactica Vipers and F-15s had a love child.
Overall my favourite development is that the aliens have learned the Earthling’s tactics from the first film. Even though humanity’s technology rivals their own, the aliens even see this coming and employ smaller, faster firing, laser cannons to eliminate the Earth satellites. The humans can go toe-to-toe with them without eliminating the shields first and so the villains are made intelligent enough to beat them at their own game.
In fact in the general the Sci-Fi tech is very enjoyable. It’s easy to see how it was reverse-engineered from the alien tech in the ’96 movie and it is well rendered by the CGI team on the film. Some may complain about the amount of green screen in this movie, but there was plenty of dodgy compositing in the original too. I enjoyed the ridiculously giant alien space ship and the ridiculous sequences it led to. And *SPOILER* the giant alien Queen is also just the right side of ‘not too giant’ for the film the spectacle to collapse under its own stupidity. Unfortunately much of this alternate future stuff furthers the feeling consequence-free action. We never get a chance to care about this world that is very different to our own (unlike their version of 1996) and the characters making jokes constantly takes any remaining edge off completely. Then there’s the holes in the franchise’s own mythology.
The 1996 film established that the mother ship gives power to the smaller vessel’s energy shields. After the mother ship was destroyed the armies of Earth still had to go toe-to-toe with the shield-less alien ships before finishing them off. In Resurgence they explain that there is an alien Queen whose death will result in the aliens ceasing to fight. Levinson speculates this is how they won in the first film (forgetting the events of said first film) and then later *SPOILER* a visitor from a friendly alien race contradicts this new development by saying no one has ever killed a Queen. Logically this indicates that Levinson’s speculation was wrong, but some clarification would be nice. *SPOILER* It’s irritating in any film for the minions to instantly die or give up with the head of the snake is cut off. Yes, there is also a cliched line about cutting the head off of the snake.
Earlier I mentioned that the villains in this film are cunning. Thus when it comes to time to defeat them they become incredibly stupid. The Queen is drawn into an obvious trap with obvious bait, one that her readily available armada could deal with instead. This same armada comes to defend her at the last minute and just spins around her rather than eliminating any threats. One could defend this that the first film was dumb too, but it still followed its own rules and used them for dramatic tension, rather than ignoring them to get the protagonists to their victory faster.
At first a great joy occurs when our gang of pilots crash lands inside the mother ship. The truly alien eco-system teased in the first film will be seen close up. Initially this leads to some tense sneaking bits. The pilots have to hold their breath in the swampy alien fields whilst only a few feet from their predators. But then they get a hold of guns and the aliens are falling down like Star Wars battle droids. Resurgence abuses inverse ninja law. Early on a well armed team of secret service agents cannot deal with a single alien at close range when outnumbering it completely. However, later the pilots, whose training is more focusing on flight than marksmanship and close combat, easily deal with the same aliens who outnumber them on their own turf.
Independence Day: Resurgence has cool ideas and technology in it. It has well shot and executed action sequences that don’t overstay their welcome. It has a sense of adventure, but without a sense of dread or threat. No one *important* dies and it begins and ends too quickly. What do I mean by *important*? *SPOILERS* Dylan’s mother, Vivica A. Fox of the original, dies as a footnote to elicit emotion and then former President Whitmore sacrifices himself and it doesn’t even kill his target. The music swells you feel sad, but you feel sad because of the memories of another film, not this one. They aren’t important to this film, at least not on a narrative level of effecting the plot progression.
Our new characters are broad just as the originals were. However this is harder to accept when the surrounding film simply isn’t as good as it needs to be. The character arcs are sufficient for the remit of basic storytelling. This film keeps its B-movie charms from the original, but doesn’t attach them to anything of significance. Cheesiness works better when you do care at least on some level as a viewer. Even a subplot about the normal humans on the ground trying to survive falls flat due to sheer convolution and coincidence.
The film ends on a note that teases a potentially more interesting sequel in every way, but given the poor box office results we will likely never see it. One almost gets the sense this film was designed as a delivery system to another film that never arrived. Given that this was intended to be shot back-to-back, with a sequel as a two-part story, this theory is very likely.
Oh well. The film is still fun, somewhat imaginative and doesn’t diminish or undo the achievements of the original.