Independence Day: Resurgence

2 stars.

Theatrical release: 6/24/2016
[PG-13]; 2 hrs.

Screenplay by Nicolas Wright & James A. Woods and Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich and James Vanderbilt
Story by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich and Nicolas Wright & James A. Woods
Produced by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, and Harald Kloser
Directed by Roland Emmerich

July 1, 2016

Review Text

The best thing about Independence Day: Resurgence is its depiction, however limited, of life on Earth in 2016, 20 years after the devastating alien attack of 1996. Like in Star Trek, the realization of life (and grave threats) beyond Earth, coupled with advanced alien technology that has allowed humanity to solve so many technical challenges, has changed who we are as a people and put an end to war among ourselves.

Granted, this is a future much more like our present than Trek, but there's something to be said for continuing the story and seeing how people picked up the pieces after the credits rolled at the end of an ostensibly feel-good movie that featured the destruction of so many major cities. Despite the (bloodless PG-13) holocaust, humanity has prevailed and apparently figured things out. And they knew that our own challenges must be solved on Earth, because another invasion from above was probably inevitable.

There's something encouraging about that notion, even if you can argue that the creators of this film have cynically and hastily repaired the world merely so they can devastate it yet again. It took more than 10 years to rebuild the World Trade Center site after 9/11 (which itself looked like a horrific real-life version of Independence Day, at least on TV), so the idea here that Earth has healed so completely following the destruction of 1996 sits somewhere between bright optimism and convenient fantasy. (Although let's not also forget that the biggest reason for ground zero's protracted recovery was political. It took years before construction could even reach agreement and then begin — whereas the Pentagon, also attacked on 9/11, was largely repaired within a year. Perhaps in ID4's world, people were able to put matters of such disagreement aside.)

But I'm likely placing way too much importance on such thoughts, while trivializing the images of 9/11 in terms of a movie. The fact of the matter is that ID4 2 (ID5?) only passingly cares about such things, and exists mainly to rehash the first film, while trying to reboot the franchise for a new generation (though the reboot already seems a likely failure given the box-office performance). In that vein, this is not a million miles from Star Wars: The Force Awakens in its intentions. But TFA was able to replicate the magic of its predecessors, whereas Resurgence most definitely does not. Look, the first Independence Day wasn't a great film, but it was an effective and fun mix of summer popcorn sci-fi featuring a visceral (and at the time cinematically new) level of frighteningly realistic destruction.

The problem here, once you get over the initial gee-whiz aspects of life in 2016 (featuring moon bases, lots of futuristic flying crafts, and advanced Star Wars-like weaponry), is that this movie is relentlessly mechanical in a way that has come to typify many summer blockbusters in the wake of the original Independence Day. Boring characters living out movie-cliché storylines occupy a space foregrounded by a plot featuring destruction that has become all too routine.

Liam Hemsworth leads the cast of younger characters (again, following the sequel/reboot format that showcases a generational torch-passing), which also includes Jessie Usher (playing the son of the Will Smith and Vivica Fox characters) and Maika Monroe (as the daughter of Bill Pullman's character), among some others who are largely forgettable, generic archetypes. None of these characters does enough to invest you in their stories or the movie at large. Their presence provides nothing but empty placeholders to give the illusion that there are some people and (lame) stories here.

Most of the major characters also return from the original film to lend to the nostalgia factor, and they are probably the best parts of the movie for fans of the original. Jeff Goldblum does his Jeff Goldblum thing (and is fairly effectively used — until the final act where he's reduced to driving a school bus around a dusty field); Bill Pullman is tortured and crazy but can still rise to the moment and give a rousing speech and jump into an aircraft at precisely the right time; and Judd Hirsch, while even more annoying and superfluous here than in the first film, has somehow managed not to age a day in 20 years. Vivica Fox shows up, but to say the script does little with her is a profound understatement. Brent Spiner's crazy Dr. Okun turns up not dead after all (awaking from a 20-year coma) and has an expanded role that I liked more in theory than in practice.

Of course, there's the issue of Will Smith's glaring absence. Everyone knew going in that Smith wasn't along for this ride (having apparently turned it down after his salary demands weren't met), but what perhaps I didn't expect — and perhaps should have — was how much this film so desperately needed him to be in it. You could argue that the spark that's missing here is precisely the sort of spark that Smith provided in the original, simultaneously grounding and elevating the material. I don't know if Smith could've saved this movie, but after seeing it I do feel it was hamstrung without him.

The plot is serviceable. You might even call it more plot than you might have expected from this type of sequel. Then again, maybe not; I set a pretty low bar in my head. As a matter of necessity, ID4 2 is ready to venture full-on into sci-fi lite, revealing the evil attacking aliens as an intergalactic menace among other aliens that want to stop them. There are dogfights in the sky between our forces and the aliens; mysterious telepathic connections between some of the humans and aliens; some third-rate chess games between the heroes and the evil alien queen; an infantry venture into the mothership; and lots of scenes where it's made clear there's just no way to beat them, even with the tech we've gained from them. Naturally, the only way to beat them is through a specific Achilles' heel that has been inserted by the writers solely to be exploited by the characters — but which makes no sense if they're actually supposed to be an intelligence to be reckoned with. A force this unstoppable shouldn't be vulnerable because of such a loophole, but without the loophole there would be no way to resolve the movie (short of Earth's and humanity's certain destruction, yeah right).

As to the movie's need to go ever bigger in its scale, it's ultimately self-defeating. When the mothership arrives, it's reported as an absurd "3,000 miles in diameter" and it lands on Earth (covering the entire Atlantic Ocean) with a plan that doesn't involve the intentional but rather the incidental destruction of cities. I believe, if I heard it right, that Singapore is sucked into the air by the mothership's gravity and then subsequently deposited onto London. (Although, surely that can't be right, because the geography makes no sense.) The destruction is so widespread as to become indistinct, thus losing all its visceral impact. When the Empire State Building blew up in the first movie, it was like we had front-row seats to something huge and immediate; now we have an aerial view of the destruction of what might as well be an ant colony.

After years of seeing Roland Emmerich do this in his films — from Godzilla to The Day After Tomorrow to 2012 — not to mention all those Transformers and comic book movies over the past decade where cities have been leveled or severely damaged, it just becomes rote and the images blur together. I'm glad the mass destruction here is confined to only a few fairly short scenes, because I was surprised how little impact it actually had. There was something about it in 1996 that worked, but like this movie as a whole, the disaster porn has become gratuitous and redundant.

Oddly, Resurgence ends with the promise of a sequel — one that may never be made. Despite my tepid response to Resurgence, I have a certain passing curiosity in where another sequel could go — a big battle in space, presumably. But there I go again — revealing my susceptibility as a franchise sucker for an enterprise that is banking on my devotion to nostalgia in following it long after I should've outgrown it. I'm not above indulging my inner teenager, but in indulging it I should still hold out hope for a popcorn flick more satisfying than this.

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28 comments on this post

    Before someone posts the obligatory "I guess we can forget Jammer ever posting the Star Trek Into Darkness review" comment, let me save you the trouble.

    That review is forthcoming later this month. Yes. It will be the next thing I post on this site. But because I saw this movie last week and the review practically wrote itself, I figured I would offer this up while it's timely. Ideally, I'd like to keep this site semi-active with at least one blog post or review per month, rather than going months without new content. No promises, but I'd like that to be a goal of sorts. So I'll put things out as they come to me. This is what came to me this week.

    @Jammer - We understand if writing the review for ST:ID is going to trigger your PTSD. Don't hurt yourself for us!

    Shorter Jammer: Hello boys! I'm baaaaaaaack!

    Sorry, just had to make that joke :)

    My question is how long will it take for the Star Trek Beyond movie to be reviewed. ;o)


    I was going to see this at the cinema the other day but had to pull out due to low finances (cinema trips involve eating out and then many drinks after to dissect the movie). Now I've kind of lost my mojo for this and will catch it when it is on demand.
    Kind of hoping Emmerich puts his energy into the proposed Stargate reboot/trilogy as that is something I'd really like to see.

    "...the review practically wrote itself..."

    Hehehe, so did the movie.

    I guess the hindsight question is whether the increased box office take if Will Smith had been in this film ends up exceeding what Will Smith's salary demand was. My guess is yes, a script in which his character featured prominently would have ended up paying Will Smith's salary.

    The main alien intent in the original film was yo destroy Earth's population centers roughly in order of diminishing size and importance. So, although not shown onscreen, I suspect London (and perhaps even Kuala Lumpur) was destroyed in 1996, so it was hard to believe that the Tower Bridge was still in tact in this film. I suppose it could have been rebuilt exactly as before, but would that really have been a priority in the post-1996 New World Order?

    I should've known jammer would review this given how many times he's mentioned the original in his writings (his review of Voy's The Killing Game comes to mind).

    I too want to see this since I enjoyed the first one well enough as an eight-year-old, but after reading the reviews I will probably just wait for it to show up on streaming services.

    Also, I think Star Trek Beyond is going to perform similarly to this at the box office. The Fanbase just is not energized and nothing I've seen suggests that it will draw in a big mainstream crowd even with that Rihanna song. I hope the movie is good and I am wrong, but I'm quite skeptical.

    Thanks for the review!

    Mike (aka Mr. Plinkett) and company at RedLetterMedia actually liked this movie better than the original, which was enough to send me straight to the theater. I wasn't disappointed! It is what it is, and is completely fun. It doesn't overdo the destruction, yet the visuals overall are beautiful. It's a shame Resurgence was panned when overall it actually is a better movie than the original. I think a trilogy finale would serve it well.

    Looking forward to the STID and STBeyond reviews!

    I think the fact that this is almost half an hour shorter than the original and doesn't run past two hours might automatically make it better than the original.

    I watched a little of red letter media's peace on it last night although the half in the bag format is terrible. Mike should stick to the Plinkett format, he doesn't perform well enough off-the-cuff for the half in the bag pieces to work.

    I haven't seen this yet, but when I heard Will Smith wasn't going to be in it, I lowered my expectations...

    Good lord, how do you not include him in this?

    Not doing well at the box office... not surprising I guess... when you leave the first movie's main actor/character out of the sequel...


    "Also, I think Star Trek Beyond is going to perform similarly to this at the box office. The Fanbase just is not energized and nothing I've seen suggests that it will draw in a big mainstream crowd even with that Rihanna song. I hope the movie is good and I am wrong, but I'm quite skeptical."

    I agree...with the new Trek Series on the horizon, written by freaking Nick Meyer and set back in the Prime Universe, this is likely the final NuTrek outing.

    Shame, it started with such promise, and then STID happened...

    "But I'm likely placing way too much importance on such thoughts, while trivializing the images of 9/11 in terms of a movie."

    No your not. This aspect of the movie took me right out of it from the beginning. In my town, it has taken 2.5 years to build a bridge. In ID5, it took 20 years to become a space fairing race, rebuild the planet, while designing and creating huge amounts of technology. It would take the lifetimes of millions of people to reverse engineer the kind of alien tech showed off in ID4.

    In reality, after the destruction caused in 1996, this planet would turn into chaos. "100 million dollars" wouldnt mean anything anymore and it would be anarchy.

    Also I wanted to add how awful the dialogue was. When the President was hiding in the bunker (why didnt she take the Stargate to safety?!!) and the aliens busted in, "THERE WILL BE NO PEACE!!" Like, yeah lady, no kidding, I think they are aware.

    I wasn't planning on seeing this originally, but the other night this was the only movie a friend of mine and I could agree- in on that was playing in the nearest theatre. If anything, I think two stars is way too generous, but then I also feel like I'm not *quite* the target. My friend, who is a few years older than I am, remembers vividly seeing the original Independence Day in theatres and it being a good experience, whereas I...didn't see it in theatres, and remember liking it on video but not enough to have a huge nostalgic connection. Of course, he hated the sequel more than I did, because he had a sense of disappointment and came out wondering if the original was as bad as this one, which, based on some of the comments above and Plinkett's "this is better than the original" take, may well be true, though of course the main purpose of these seems to be to support this one rather than trash the original. What I will say is that the original had some moments which were significant at its time -- the image of the (clearly fictional) White House destruction, the use of REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It," the jock/nerd unification in Smith and Goldblum which somehow felt right as a way of (re-)selling the alien invasion story as an action vehicle.... I'm not so much trying to make the case that the original was good, because I suspect it wasn't, but even in my spotty memory from watching it nearly twenty years ago there are things that stand out. This one just seems like hot air to me, mostly, and I already feel like I have fewer strong memories of this one than of the original, and I saw it last week. Well, it's nice to see Brent Spiner getting work and Jeff Goldblum is especially always a pleasure.

    Note: I'm aware I didn't actually offer any criticisms beyond "I didn't like it." Oh well. Consider this less an argument and more a reaction.

    I watched the original with my girlfriend who hadnt seen it in a long time (she was 5 when it came out, so hadnt seen it at all) and it brought back all the good vibes except the pro-Americana nonsense at the end (not that im anti-American, but the Yanks are here to save the day is so cliche in 2016). I thought it was very well balanced between terror, humor, and drama. This movie was just.....crap. It didnt know if it wanted to be funny, be dramatic, have inner conflict, or terrifying and in the end it didnt really accomplish any of it very well.

    Oh, believe me, the American flag waving was goofy even in 1996, though I suspect it was at least a little bit tongue-in-cheek. I laughed out loud in the theater during the exchange where some characters get word that the Americans are organizing a counter-attack and a guy says: "It's about bloody time! What do they plan to do?" Subtle.

    You can count me as someone who not only liked the original, but thought it was something special in certain ways and was the best of a certain type of low-brow niche. It had good action, light-hearted fun, some gravitas, good performances for what they were supposed to be, and it was, above all, cohesive in that difficult-to-define way. It wasn't a good film, but it was a very good flick.

    I was definitely it's scant-to-be-found target audience. I had some nostalgia for the original, and if the second had been even half as good as the first I would have been pleased.

    As it turns out I think Resurgence was a catastrophic mess. It was easily the worst movie I've seen in the last few years, and was beyond merely being bad in a conventional way; it was actually fairly insulting. Some of what it had *could* have been fun, like Spiner's manic energy or Pullman's bizarre presence, but instead the manner in which they were written into the script made it impossible for either of them to come out looking good. I was embarrassed for them, to be perfectly honest. Even the final action sequence lacked any internal logic. This isn't even a nitpick - what I was seeing was simply random results occurring for no reason. I found the climax of the film rather boring, which should be an impossibility in even a mediocre blockbuster. It's not often that when the credits roll my facepalm and say "" even after expecting to be disappointed going in. Going in expecting nothing and still being let down is depressing.

    To its credit I'll agree with Jammer on the one insane effects scene where the ship lands being...impressive in some abstract sense, even though I felt that its cinematic effect was much weaker than it should have been given what came before and after it. I do like a movie that has an imagination for scope, mind you, which is one reason I liked the original.

    But in case it sounds like I'm trying to find a way to praise an action movie that plodded along like a garbage scow, I meant to say that it should be hauled away *as* garbage.

    OK, Jammer should likely be posting his STID review soon. WHAT ARE YOUR PREDICTIONS FOR THE NUMBER OF STARS?

    My prediction: 2.5 stars.

    Please note: this is not what your opinion of the movie is but what you think Jammer will rate it.

    Also, are you planning on seeing the new Star Trek movie? It's getting fairly good reviews (although so did STID). Be honest.

    I probably will be seeing it, although not on opening weekend.

    My prediction: 2 stars. (Which is what I would rate it too, although I might go as low as 1.5)

    I'll say he's been holding off for so long because of the tremendous backlash he's going to get from the community due to his PERFECT FOUR STAR RATING.*

    *Maybe not, but it'd be funny!


    Yeah, I'm seeing the movie for sure on Monday with my daughter. I haven't seen the Rhianna trailer and have avoided everything else just in case of spoilers but that 2nd trailer looked awesome.

    "I laughed out loud in the theater during the exchange where some characters get word that the Americans are organizing a counter-attack and a guy says: "It's about bloody time! What do they plan to do?" Subtle."

    No kidding. These other "world powers" are sitting around CB radio just waiting for the yanks to come save the day. Yawn.

    They did the same thing in this movie too if im not mistaken.

    Roland Emmerich's best movie is Stargate. Its still a movie that holds up to this day but im hearing he wants to remake it which scares me as a fan of both the movie and TV show.

    Happy to see that Beyond is getting great reviews, looking forward to your thoughts on it Jammer.

    As for Independence Day, loved the original when I was younger, but I never had ANY interest in seeing a sequel to it. Maybe I'll check it some day.

    I didn't think this movie was even good enough to be bad. It was just boring. Which is even *worse*. It wasn't fun at all, and Other Hemsworth and the other newbies had no charisma to speak of. Goldblum was on auto-pilot (and he didn't have much to do, anyway), and Spiner's character just didn't work.

    When Bill Pullman is the best actor in your movie, your movie has problems.

    Oh dear. This movie is the product of 20 years of rewrites. It's clear that every time they started a new draft they kept one 'cool idea' from the previous version.

    The best one for me was the idea that a ground war had been waged in Africa. This would have been a great premise for the entire movie.

    Never mind.

    1 Star.

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