Independence Day : Resurgence isn’t a terrible film, and I truly believe Roland Emmerich had another story he wanted to tell rather than justing wanting to exploit the nearly perfect 1996 prequel for a quick cash grab. Sadly, Resurgence isn’t a great film either, and Emmerich really didn’t need to tell this story.
Long before the modern era of Marvel films figured out the formula for perfectly balancing action, comedy and character development, the best action films of the 90s had already perfected the craft and few did it as well or better than Independence Day.
Director Roland Emmerich has made a career out of making films that are minimized by critics as being disaster porn. While Michael Bay is known for making things go boom in his films, Emmerich is known for bringing the entire planet to the brink of destruction in his. Ironically it’s Emmerich’s past visual accomplishments that are part of what gives Resurgence the feel of being a re-imagining versus a worthy sequel.
My nostalgia and fondness for the original Independence Day didn’t prevent me from giving the sequel a fair shot, in fact that nostalgia helped me appreciate the film more than I believe a newcomer to the franchise would. However, there are multiple scenes and lines of dialogue in the film that are nearly indistinguishable from its 1996 counterpart.
The Force Awakens did a great job of making subtle callbacks to A New Hope without insulting the viewer’s memory or intelligence. Watching Resurgence I couldn’t help but start a mental counter of scenes that were direct copies of the original film and more than once new characters attempted to replicate lines from the original actors with embarrassing results. These obviously were intentional creative and production decisions, but they simply fall flat.
The 2 hour long Resurgence surprisingly doesn’t suffer from bad pacing, I personally had to relieve myself the entire film but couldn’t find a single moment where something wasn’t happening on the screen that I was willing to miss. The film doesn’t disappoint in action sequences, and there were a few genuine nail biting moments for me where I didn’t know how a scene was going to end or if a major character was going to make it.
A few sequences were undermined however by the sheer absurdness of them. One scene in the 3rd act of the film that is to supposed to serve as the film’s climax ends in a dud reminiscent to a tacked on boss battle at the end of a videogame.
While the action of Resurgence can range from mediocre to good, the depth of plot and character development is undeniably bad throughout. Many were worried that the absence of Will Smith would lead to the film being void of charm and boy were they right.
New leads Jessie Usher, Liam Liamsworth,Maika Monroe, Travis Tope & Yang Ying (Angelababy) do their best to fill the void left by the absence of Smith, but none of these characters have any overarching arch to make them feel real. Usher & Liamsworth’s characters implied deep history is explained through a brief 30 second clip instead of through engaging dialogue on screen.
The romantic subplots between Liamsworth, Monroe, Top & Ying also suffer from leaving the viewer questioning why the characters are even dating as there’s never intimate moments shared between any of them aside from the obligatory & cliche “I’m going to make it back” embrace before battles.
Series veterans Jeff Goldbum, Bill Pillman, Brent Spiner, Judd Hirsch & Vivica A. Fox do their best to bring some credibility to the film, and this is where the film does succeed, but just barely. Spiner is fantastic as Dr. Okun and provided 90% of the film’s charming moments with Goldblum accounting for the other 10%. It wasn’t that Goldblum wasn’t great in the film, he just wasn’t given much to be great at. Hirsch meanwhile is one of the few characters in the film that does have an arch, when we first see him he’s a depressing shell of his 1996 self, but by the end of the film he’s able to bring you to tears through joy.
Vivica A. Fox’s character is irrelevant to even discuss. It’s obvious that she was either too expensive to have on screen for huge amounts of time, or that Emmerich couldn’t find anything for her character to do. Pillman suffers from being a confusing character, at one point we’re led to believe that he’s become a deranged and crippled old man, only to have him back in his confident presidential state without any explanation by the time of the film’s 2nd arch.
Independence Day : Resurgence doesn’t do justice to the 1996 prequel. At times it feels as if the writers copied and pasted the script from the first film into the draft for this one and made just enough edits for it to pass off as a sequel. With little character development to make you care about the new cast the action doesn’t hold any weight.
Resurgence won’t disappoint in visual spectacle, but outside of a few charming moments from Goldblum and Spinder there’s little else here to keep you engaged.