Independence Day: Resurgence is facing an uphill battle. At least, financially. There is not a strong history of successful sequels coming more than three years or so after the previous installment. It happens (Jurassic World), but it’s rare. In this case, there’s been a mammoth twenty-year gap. Also going against it is the lack of Will Smith’s Steven Hiller. The original Independence Day was one of the films that established Smith as a leading man and genuine movie star, yet he’s nowhere to be found in the sequel. In addition to that, the reviews are mixed. So, my guess is that Resurgence will underperform relative to its cost at the box office when all is said and done, although I hope I’m wrong. I like to see movies succeed.
For me personally, I really haven’t felt a lot of anticipation for this one. I thought the original was okay, but largely uninspired and lazy. Director Roland Emmerich brought exactly zero new ideas to the alien invasion genre and instead just did what we had all seen before (many, many times) on a bigger scale. But not once did Independence Day shock or awe me and I chose to see this new installment more out of a desire to be in the know and in the conversation than because I was actively looking forward to it. If there were no new ideas in the original, and Emmerich is still directing, why should I expect any new ideas in the sequel?
Well, I was half-right to think that way. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
Firstly, let me say that Independence Day: Resurgence is about as uneven a film as I’ve seen in a while. While the majority of the dialogue is acceptable (if a little droll), there are a few cringe-worthy moments where it’s painfully unnatural and forced. Some of the characters are poorly written and developed (a few characters who shouldn’t be stupid are stupid) while others are spot-on in every way (the holdovers from the original film, in particular. Jeff Goldblum – even though he practically plays the same character in every movie – is as awesome as always.). And there are moments where logic and consistency are thrown right out the window and under a bus, but others where attention to detail and continuity are remarkably precise. So, even as I was watching the film, I was having a hard time deciding what I thought about it. So, I decided to follow my own advice and focus on both what’s most important for this type of movie and also what I look to get out of it.
As I mentioned, the original Independence Day never resonated with me on a massive scale. And the reason for that, to elaborate on what I previously discussed, is because I felt it held back. Resurgence follows through and delivers what I wanted from the first film. I’m not going to go into detail because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will tell you not to worry because the marketing has not given the whole film away. There’s plenty that you don’t know is coming.
And parts of that involves some interesting ideas, by which I was pleasantly surprised. Once again, though, Emmerich restrains himself regarding these ideas and uses them to hint at a third installment. I have to say, I’d be excited for that one (as long as I don’t have to wait until 2036). Other fresh ideas are smaller, but nice touches. These mostly deal with world-building. In the wake of the 1996 attack, humans have made necessary advancements and plans in the event that something like that were to happen again (spoiler alert: it does). As the poster for the film points out, however . . . so have the aliens. It seems like a small thing but it’s something that many filmmakers wouldn’t have even thought to consider. Also (and, again, in an effort to not give anything away, I won’t specify, here), there are some criticisms that I often hear leveled at films like this that are directly addressed and squashed within the narrative, itself – by showing, not telling. Whenever possible, this is virtually always the approach a film should take, so I applaud Emmerich and crew for that.
Sequels are tricky, though. So many people claim that sequels are an inherent sign of a lack of creativity and that’s a short-sighted line of thinking that couldn’t be farther from the truth. A proper sequel has to walk a very fine, difficult to navigate line between feeling enough like the original installment that audiences get the things they liked from that one and being different enough that it doesn’t feel like a complete retread. Resurgence truthfully walks that line with confidence. I hate to sound like a clichéd movie critic but Resurgence really is bigger and better than its predecessor.
The bottom line is that Independence Day: Resurgence isn’t the best big-budget blockbuster of the year, nor is it the worst. If you look for them (and maybe even if you don’t), you’ll notice problems. A few of them pretty substantial. But when it comes down to the reasons that people go to see a movie like this, Resurgence absolutely delivers in a massive way. It looks amazing, it’s exciting, and it’s fun. Also (and this is something that I did like about the original), there are real stakes. Like the first film, not all of our main cast makes it out alive. And I appreciate that honest storytelling enough that it makes up for some of the film’s other flaws.
So, if you’re in the mood to just have a good, harmless time at the movies, you bring the hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato chips, but sit back and enjoy the fireworks that Independence Day: Resurgence provides!