I still can’t believe a 20-year later sequel to Independence Day exists even though I literally just finished watching it. I mean sure there always seemed to be a moderate amount of affection for the first movie. The president’s speech is still fantastic and the white house blowing up is undeniably an iconic cinematic image. But even after years of hearing talk that a sequel (and at one point two sequels that would shoot simultaneously) was in the works, I never truly believed it would ever happen. It did! I’ve seen it! It’s…actually pretty decent!
So it’s 20 years after the aliens first attacked and Earth is doing super! We have all these dope weapons and space ships that we made using the aliens’ technology, the latter of which allows us to fly to the moon faster than I’m able to get to work. Seriously, it seems like it takes them 20 minutes’ tops, though sadly we never get to see the actual journey. Also all countries and nations are united in peace. Turns out all it takes is a hostile extraterrestrial race to wipe out most of humanity for us to get over our petty bullshit! Yep, things are going just fine. Except the aliens were not terribly pumped about losing the first fight so now they’re back with a ship that is the size of the Atlantic ocean and they want to drill into the Earth’s core or steal our molten core or something. Something bad that we don’t want to happen! No aliens! Stop! America says no!
Resurgence makes it very clear very fast that this is going to be an incredibly silly movie that doesn’t feel it’s necessary to poke fun at how silly it is. It presents its goofiness with a straight face and I feel it’s all the better for it. This is a movie that spends a good chunk of it’s first third on the moon, with Liam Hemsworth chilling with his friend and drinking moon milk. No really, it’s a carton of milk branded as Moon Milk. I would really like to know the difference between that and the regular stuff us earth folk are stuck drinking. Also later on, Hemsworth gives a group of aliens the finger while pissing on their ship. He’s no Will Smith, but it’s hard to be too upset when your hero is pulling stunts like that.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel the movie lives up to the promise of a ship that big. There are some impressive aerial shots of the ship hovering above earth that give you a good “ooooo shit” feeling and it’s initial landing sequence is the highlight of the movie. It delivers the Roland Emmerich level of destruction you would expect, as the ship now has the ability to lift cities up in the air and then bring the debris smashing down on other cities. It’s a very entertaining piece of the film, but once that huge ship lands, it just sits there for the rest of the movie, drillin’ shit and lookin’ impressive. I get that it can’t be too involved in the action as we wouldn’t stand a chance against it, but if you show me a ship that big in all the promotional material, I want to see more than just 10 minutes worth of it.
From there, much of the action takes place in the skies as we witness a few dogfights between us and the alien ships that are very reminiscent of the first film. They’re fine, but we’ve seen it before and it doesn’t help knowing there are other cooler things lurking about that could be part of the action. There are some hints of ground warfare as the aliens now carry around guns, but I really could have used some more of that.
The finale though? Ooooo man. I don’t want to say anything but when I realized what was about to unfold I was positively giddy. The third act is this movie definitively saying “I don’t give a fuck what y’all think because this is happening RIGHT NOW” and I was absolutely on board.
The characters are as one dimensional as you would expect. Obviously Jeff Goldblum is the highlight, returning as David Levinson and getting more screen time than I would have expected. Though him being the highlight is not really because his character is great, I’m just always happier when Jeff Goldblum is around. Brent Spiner also looks to be having a lot of fun and brings some often needed energy to his scenes. None of the new characters make much of an impression. Jessie T. Usher plays Dylan Hiller, the now grown up son of Will Smith’s character and he has almost nothing to do. He is barely even a character. Hemsworth is charming enough, and they try to give him a troubled background and a loving relationship (Maika Monroe, star of It Follows), but it’s all completely pedestrian and impossible to care about. Though the outlandishness of the whole movie does allow for straight-faced exchanges such as:
“Where’s your boyfriend?”
“Did you forget? He’s on the moon.”
So that’s pretty fantastic. Oh and yes Bill Pullman does give another motivational speech, and no it’s nowhere near the level of the first movie’s speech (which we do get to hear again here). Dude is right up there with Rocky though for being able to launch into speeches at the drop of a hat.
Oh and even though we are all proud because there is no fighting amongst humans any more, we still clearly haven’t completely learned our lesson as early in the movie, the decision is immediately made to attack an unknown entity because that’s how we roll! The revelation that it turned out to be a poor decision is sadly brushed under the rug, but the entity we take down plays a big role later on and presents a lot of ideas that I wish had been touched on even further. This franchise is evidently ready to go to some absolutely bonkers places, and I’m glad my ticket money is maybe able to help it get there!
I really am very curious to see how this movie performs as it’s only opening night as I write this. Clearly they want to make another movie as this one might as well end with a “To be continued” tag at the end. Personally, I hope the next movie just shows the clean-up effort. Wouldn’t that be fascinating? This would be such a pain in the ass to rebuild! Especially a second time! In that situation, do you think there is any temptation to do things differently? “Man we have to fix the god damn Statue of Liberty again? Fuck it, I’m giving her a top hat and crocs. I’m done.” Also the next movie should be rated R because you can’t tell me in this situation that everyone wouldn’t be constantly going “Fuck man! Fuck did you see the size of that ship?! Fuck fuck fuck! Oh shit man we are so fucked!”
Independence Day: Resurgence is a big silly Summer blockbuster that definitely won’t have the legacy of its predecessor, but deserves credit for taking the franchise in some ridiculous new directions. It has at least 2 great set pieces, and makes up in spectacle what it sorely lacks in writing and characterization. Also moon milk.