Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

[yasr_overall_rating] • 3.2837491876^14 STARS

A cardinal rule regarding film: sequels have to justify their existence. There must be more story to tell, character arcs to continue or fulfill, and an otherwise interesting story to extend the universe in which these sequels exists.

Independence Day: Resurgence does just that, in spades.

With a returning cast of characters who lived through the events of 1996’s Independence Day, the table is set for the next round of conflicts, some twenty years beyond the events which found Randy Quaid delivering the knockout punch to, and I quote, “those alien bastards.” Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Vivica A. Fox return to the epic for a second round of invasions from the same aliens. They return across a 20-year expanse of space for… strange…reasons.

Extending the sequel rules: When a sequel arrives, the original characters we know and love (or loathe) must advance their respective arcs forward.  David Levinson (Goldblum) is now a Director in an organization that works to keep Earth safe from extraterrestrial threat. President Whitmore (Pullman) has been having a rough couple of years, with visions and what, on the surface, appears to be dementia progressively worsening. The elder Levinson (Hirsch) is on a book tour around the country, peddling his ‘How I Saved The World’ book to anyone who’ll buy. Dr. Brakish Okun (Spiner) has been in a coma since he was choked out by a pissed-off, tentacled space alien twenty years ago. Least convincing of all the characters we return to is our favorite exotic dancer with a heart of gold, Jasmine Hiller (Fox) (formerly Dubrow, and yes, that’s a hint, if you’re paying attention), who is now either a doctor or an administrator in a hospital.

You’ll note from the trailer, mine and other reviews, and the lack of any appearance on anything to promote it, that Captain Stephen Hiller (Will Smith) didn’t make to the events of Resurgence. The story handles it with grace. The reality is the producers couldn’t afford him, supposedly. In his stead we get his son, dutifully played by Jessie T. Usher as Dylan Hiller, getting his first crack at big-screen fame. He does an acceptable job filling the void where Smith left off. He’s not as fun as his movie Dad, but he’s completely capable in the role he’s given.

A sequel must introduce new and interesting characters to help further the plot, the existing characters arcs, or both. Enter Liam Hemsworth as ‘Jake Morrison,’ a forgettable name, but a fun, loose-cannon fighter pilot who’s been grounded from an event involving the aforementioned Hiller. Then there’s Morrison’s fiance, Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), daughter of former President Whitmore, and washed-out fighter pilot who was also a part of the aforementioned events involving Hiller and Morrison. Floyd Rosenburg (Nick Wright, pulling double-duty as writer of the movie and supporting actor) is Morrison’s best friend, an orphan from the events of the first movie, and fellow pilot (of course). Rounding out support is William Fitchner as 5-star General Adams (you’ll remember him from the tense nuclear bomb scene with Bruce Willis in Armageddon) and African warlord Dikembe Umbutu, played in a standout roll by another relative big-screen newcomer Deobia Oparei. You’ll know his face from the many supporting roles he’s had, but this role, in my opinion, is his all-time best.

The movie in general isn’t great as an overall film, but a movie like ID:R doesn’t need to be. There are times when the film attempts to make sweeping statements about humanity, quick with the trigger from any existential threat after the events of the previous movie. The United States President is a woman, in a seeming attempt to be prescient. World Peace(TM) seems to be a reality as we as humanity have realized there are threats beyond us that require more of our attention than our in-fighting. We’ve taken the tech we’ve acquired from the crashed alien ships and advanced our society immensely, both in day-to-day life and as a species working our way towards protecting and escaping our solar system. Using the tech brought to Earth by the previous antagonists, we’ve made our way out to Saturn. The opening of the film finds us building defenses on our closest orbiting body, the Moon. In Producer/Director Roland Emmerich’s vision of future humanity, we’re pre-Star Trek and post-Reagan ‘Star Wars’. We’re better, but we’re still a quick-draw in lieu of intergalactic diplomacy.

Once the inevitable alien invasion begins, we get the real treat, from action-packed pew-pew-pews to the quintessential one-liners and summer-blockbuster bangs and booms of the disaster porn we’ve come to love (or accept) in current cinema. Spiner’s roll was quirky in the first film; in the second, his role is expanded and cherished. Oparei, playing the African warlord recruited to assist for reasons you’ll have to see, is a stand-out character of few lines and great action pieces. Humor and humanity is delivered by the father and son Levinson duo (Hirsch and Goldblum, respectively), who, while being on disparate sides of the planet, and sometimes not at all, bring a sense of determined levity to otherwise dire predicaments. Pullman get his due, and the rest play their parts with equal parts intensity and popcorn cheese you’d expect from just such a movie.

I very much enjoyed this movie for what it is. Act 3 of the film is ludicrous, much as Quaid delivered the final blow in the first film, the setup for the finishing pieces, as well as the pieces put into place for Independence Day 3 are fantastic, and a movie I very much want to see made, should it be done correctly. A new character is introduced in Act 3 that changes everything we understand about the structure of the movie universe the Independence Day films play in, and I can’t wait to see the next installment, should ID:R make the money necessary to justify the expenditures of what should be an awesome and surreal third film. This movie is fun, worth the money in the theater, if but just to support it enough to get Emmerich able to green-light ID3. Then, it’s going to be ridiculous fun on-par, I imagine, to comparing Mad Max to Mad Max: Fury Road, and how the films progressed in style and world-building across three decades. Independence Day: Resurgence is a lot of plot-hole-riddled fun, but the possibilities going forward are amazing.

Film notes from the viewing:

  • Brent Spiner – great fun
  • Gravity consistency…
  • Go Dikembe!
  • Will Smith cop-out
  • Wait… Independence Day or Armageddon?
  • Kids in the car deliver the emotion
  • Pacman?
  • <Spoiler>
  • <Spoiler>
  • Plot device recycle: What’s old is new in the ship
  • Big doors closing!
  • They have comms on those ships?
  • “Your father’s a putz!”
  • Space Tank
  • “Dad?!”
  • Dammit, Bill.

Editorial note: Several of my notes, in retrospect, spoil or allude to plot that should be revealed in real-time. They’ve been redacted or omitted completely. Seriously. Go see this in theaters. Preferably at your local Drive-In to support them and keep them alive.