Independence Day managed to tow that fine line between drama and silliness. Any movie concerning itself with alien invasion and science-fiction would have to either play it for laughs or play it straight-faced and the original 1996 movie did this perfectly. Unfortunately, in waiting twenty years to bring a sequel to the big screen, the makers of Independence Day: Resurgence haven’t afforded themselves that luxury.
A sequel having to be bigger, bolder and more extravagant is a well-worn and often disproved theory but Resurgence is going for it anyway. Rather than ships over specific landmarks, the aliens have returned with a ship over a whole continent. Bigger and bolder has definitely been achieved but what it has in size and ambition, the movie lacks in heart and drama.
The biggest selling point of the first Independence Day wasn’t necessarily the large, science-fiction special effects but rather the fact you cared about the people caught up in the action. As silly as the notion of aliens destroying The White House was, you couldn’t help but see the vein of truth running through it and that thought of “what would I do?” could come into play.
In it’s attempt to be bigger and more destructive, the “revenge of the aliens” moment in the movie actually loses it’s impact with a lack of focus. Rather than one concentrated scene where the destruction of a building or city is clear, here it just becomes random buildings being destroyed in faceless cities. Aside from the odd, fairly minor landmark, you’d struggle to know, or more importantly care, about what is being destroyed.
It should then fall to the characters themselves to convey what has been lost but this is under-sold. Returning characters aside, you’ll struggle to care about any of the new additions to the series. Both Liam Hemsworth and Jessie T Usher play generic pilots with a gung-ho attitude and a barely registering conflict in their past while the only truly female addition, It Follows‘ Maika Monroe, becomes another heroic pilot for the movie’s finale.
It is lucky that the returning characters bring with them some quality. Jeff Goldblum holds the movie on his shoulders as David Levinson while Bill Pullman ably slips back into the role of the troubled former President Whitmore. It is the return of both Brent Spiner as “mad” scientist Dr Okun and Judd Hirsch as David’s Father who steal the film and elevate it slightly in their more comedic roles.
Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. In making the movie bigger and more ambitious, Independence Day has lost it’s dramatic appeal and bordered on the silly. The original worked best because the aliens felt like an unseen, unconquerable force but CGI has advanced so far that the aliens can be a seen force to be battled but with this come a more generic alien invasion movie which has been done plenty of times since Independence Day’s first encounter.
There are some interesting elements within the story, especially the idea of a world-wide peace and alien technology. A side-plot involving a warlord who defended his tribe from aliens on the ground could probably have made a better film but instead we get noisier, louder and more absurd moments which highlight how ridiculous the whole concept really is rather than doing enough to help suspend your disbelief.
Overall, Independence Day: Resurgence may be an example of why movies should be left to hold their initial status without a sequel. A twenty year gap has forced the movie to try to outdo it’s previous installment, to the sacrifice of decent characters, meaningful moments and a story that is more than just loud noises and explosions.
Rating – 2.5
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