Independence Day: Resurgence a pale shadow of the classic original
My love of film really started with blockbusters in the ‘90s. There are certain films where I know every line, every beat, every moment, and every swell in the score because I watched them relentlessly. Sleepovers were accompanied by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After school visits with friends were peppered with Jurassic Park. Later, The Matrix was a popular topic of discussion and dissection by my fellow teenage philosophers.
Each of these films hold up remarkably well after the passage of time—in fact, I’d take a rubber-suited Ninja Turtle over the over-muscled, hyper-realistic CGI look the superheroes sport now. CGI was new in the ‘90s and blew quite a few minds as it was introduced and refined, meaning that it was easy for story to take a backseat given the spectacles that danced across the screens.
Independence Day was the first film that blew the world up convincingly. That the film effectively launched the movie career of Will Smith, continued in showcasing the brilliance of Jeff Goldblum, and gave Bill Pullman an immediately quotable and rousing “St. Crispin’s Day” speech, making it an instant classic. Audiences have evolved, however. Unfortunately, director Roland Emmerich has not.
Independence Day: Resurgence is almost exactly the same film as the original, yet lacks any of the personality and charm that made original what it was.
In the intervening twenty years between the events of the first film, humanity has quickly adapted the alien technology that nearly wiped out the human race into their arsenal. They have established defense bases on the moon and elsewhere in the solar system, and have eliminated armed conflict worldwide (although certain places in Africa are still ruled by warlords, but who cares about them, right?).
Astonishingly, the human race has also created exact replicas of the cities that were demolished at in the first film. Beyond a few crashed spacecrafts and a greatly increased fortress at Area 51, it’s as if nothing ever happened. However, unbeknownst to the humans celebrating the defeat of the aliens on Independence Day so many years ago, the aliens sent a distress signal across the universe. It has now been answered by the same race of apparently much larger aliens with their own apparently much larger spaceships equipped with apparently much larger laser weapons.
And thus, the film begins: the shock and awe of the arrival, the Judd Hirsh shenanigans, the close encounter, the failed first attack, the Bill Pullman speech, the crazy pilot who sacrifices himself, and the ultimate defeat of the aliens by exploiting their stupidity. Oh, and a close up of Brent Spiner’s rear end. You’re welcome, nerd ladies.
The failures of the film are innumerable. There is not a single relatable character. There is absolutely no one in the film to root for. There are no deaths that matter. The writers of the film made no effort to develop or round the characters into anything other than cardboard cutouts of people. Because of this, the film has absolutely none of the tension of the original film. It doesn’t matter at all who dies and who lives.
The 1996 film spent a considerable amount of time building up the human reaction to the arrival of the ships—it even used a literal countdown to doom. Cliché as it may be, it worked and was certainly more than Independence Day: Resurgence even attempted. The characters are almost entirely interchangeable, save the actors from the original film.
The absence of Will Smith is especially glaring—the character is replaced by a milquetoast version of itself in the son of Captain Steven Hilliard, who appears to share no traits of his father whatsoever. Also missing is Randy Quaid, the tragic comic relief character from the original film. This role is bizarrely foisted on another character, and it works about as well as you’d expect.
Independence Day: Resurgence is a poor copy of the original film. What shreds of originality are in the script are ignored in favor of repeating notes from a twenty-year-old film that was only a classic due to the perfect storm of new special effects and a surprisingly strong cast. Despite this, Roland Emmerich plans a third film, after he finishes another disaster movie entitled Moonfall which is exactly what you think it is. Why not?