INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE: Nostalgic And Underwhelming
Independence Day came out when I was 14. I was a huge X-Files fan (I did a school project on Area 51) and so thought it was pretty much the greatest film ever. It was also at this time that I began to fall in love with movies, and Independence Day was part of that trend of 90's summer blockbusters that opened my eyes
Independence Day came out when I was 14. I was a huge X-Files fan (I did a school project on Area 51) and so thought it was pretty much the greatest film ever. It was also at this time that I began to fall in love with movies, and Independence Day was part of that trend of 90’s summer blockbusters that opened my eyes to what contemporary cinema meant to a lot of people.
It was unifying, exciting, mass entertainment that people could enjoy with their family and friends. People younger than me now regard Independence Day as cheesy, but I say ‘who cares?’ I’m blind to their criticisms. For me it was extraordinary, and remains so to this day.
Honestly, I didn’t care either way if there was a sequel. I’m the sort of person who will easily take or leave a sequel, which is helpful if it turns out to be lacking. I never understand people who demand that a sequel be as good as the original or even believe that a bad sequel somehow taints its predecessor.
For a film to live up to its original, it just doesn’t happen. Because never mind how good a sequel is, great films are also about their audience; the people, and the time in which they were released. So, a sequel very rarely supersedes its blueprint unless a great insight has befallen the scriptwriters. Audiences generally ask too much, me? I didn’t ask for anything. I just wanted to see the characters in the story that I love, doing what they did all over again.
Better Than Expected
I must admit, I had a few notions about what Independence Day: Resurgence might be like. Seeing the current trend for reboots and sequels to long past films such as Godzilla and Jurassic World, I imagined the world of Independence Day: Resurgence to display a plethora of cocky American stereotypes who had outgunned the aliens.
What I saw was different: a story in which Dr. Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) would be forced to show the way alongside rookie, Liam Hemsworth (in place of Will Smith) as the go-to sexy young action star to fight the aliens. What I got was actually something a lot better.
The great thing about Independence Day: Resurgence is that it identifies and elaborates on the original disaster. Alien spaceships still lay in controlled locations, technology has been adapted for human use, and the world is guarded against another attack.
Science is studied and shared, and the survivors of the original event work together, along with new characters who are similarly smart and experienced about such matters, no one is cocky here. A great addition to the narrative is the African warlord Dikembe Umbutu (played by Deobia Operai). He is wise and experienced from years of fighting the aliens. This riff on a stereotype is smart and I certainly appreciated it.
Independence Day: Resurgence has a solid narrative, and while it doesn’t have any stand-out scenes, it is engaging. I consider this to be pretty good when you consider the five scriptwriters who worked on this film. Usually, it’s difficult to blend together so many voices as the narrative can become fractured and confusing. Kudos to Roland Emmerich for keeping the story on track.
An Impressive Bunch
What impressed me more than anything about this sequel is that the people who lived through the first event are still friends, colleagues and compadres. They work together, respect each other, and the government is keen to listen to them (aside from the one important bit where they don’t listen to Levinson).
Jake (Liam Hemsworth) is brought into the mix because of his relationship with Dylan (Will Smith’s son from the first film, now played by Jessie T. Usher) and Patty (President Whitmore’s daughter, played by the ever wonderful Maika Monroe), but he’s not the awesome fighter pilot brought in to replace Will Smith, that role duly falls to Usher.
Though these characters are the innocent, bright sparks who get to have the final hurrah, they’re not the heroes here. The heroes are still Levinson, his father Julius (Judd Hirsch), President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner), which is incredibly satisfying. I’d much rather a film where the experienced and wiser generation get to save the world, albeit with their kids. In this way, what happened in the first film is still the most important part of the narrative. Experience is key, not the have-a-go mentality which the original narrative leant back on.
Female characters are unfortunately a bit thin on the ground. Maika Monroe puts on a good performance and her character is a pretty impressive sort. Newbie Rain Lao (played by Angelababy), however, doesn’t get much of a look in and neither does Sela Ward as President Lanford. Vivica Fox turns up for a few minutes as Jasmine Hillier, but as heroic as her story is, it’s not as it should have been.
Charlotte Gainsbourg is interesting as Catherine Marceaux, but like her female peers, she’s on the periphery. I would have appreciated more than this. While my attachment is to the original main characters (and as cool as Patty Whitmore is), I’ve met more women than men who love disaster movies. We’d like a look in, so sort it out, Emmerich!
Special Effects Ain’t What They Used To Be
What was especially brilliant about the 90’s was that we didn’t have a lot of the CGI that is now available. Filmmakers often relied on more tangible creativity and leaned back on old school model making and experimental filmmaking techniques. With this sequel, however, the filmmakers were a bit lazy.
Some people’s argument with this sequel is that it doesn’t have many big CGI moments, apart from the ending (though it destroys London pretty beautifully). As movies have become so overblown with SFX (I’m looking at you Marvel), I for one am happy to be regaled with CGI only when it is absolutely necessary. However, Independence Day: Resurgence feels that, generally, CGI is always necessary. This is problematic for the overall film because the CGI used just isn’t up to par.
It’s become a bit of a trend lately: that if a film thinks it can get away with shooting in front of a green screen or melding two images together, it will. Unfortunately this leads to some pretty ropey imagery. It’s the landscape equivalent of the ‘uncanny valley’. Films have generally improved their use of realistic backgrounds so the CGI additions actually seem to stand out more. The film isn’t worse because of it, but with the standard and quality of CGI we’re now used to, I would have expected more from someone like Roland Emmerich.
I’m not going to tell you that Independence Day: Resurgence is a rip-roaring thrill ride – nothing could be further from the truth. It has none of the gung-ho fighting spirit of the original, but in some ways it’s better than that. It is a well thought out narrative and a (somewhat) realistic awareness of what might happen after such an attack. It also brings the right amount of the old to join in with the new. Some cheesy jokes are thrown in for good measure, and Bill Pullman delivers a pretty gratifying take on the original Independence Day speech he’s become so famous for.
There are a few moments of dodgy dialogue, questionable acting (Travis Tope really needs to work harder) and ropey imagery, but it’s nothing to write home about. In fact, if it had been too perfect I would have been a bit disappointed. This sequel has a good, solid story with plenty to keep you engaged and there are some great actors in it doing their best. It is a pleasing, nostalgic trip down memory lane, and while it isn’t anywhere near as good as the original, I didn’t mind, not one bit.
Have you seen Independence Day: Resurgence? What did you think? How do you think it compared to the original?
Independence Day: Resurgence is out in cinemas across the UK & US, for the release date in your country see here.
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