There was a point in this movie where I knew that the creative team behind “Independence Day: Resurgence” just didn’t care. I was genuinely excited for this film. The trailers reinforced my hopes for a gritty, yet sleek science-fiction war movie where humanity has to fight off alien invaders using adapted technology against them.
My hopes were quickly dashed, however, within ten minutes, and I could never recover.
“Independence Day: Resurgence” is an incredibly dumb mess of movie, a cynical attempt at recapturing the magic of a successful blockbuster, delivering a heaping plate of CG effects and pablum designed to maximize the box office returns. Joke’s on them because they got their clock cleaned by a movie about talking fish.
It seems strange to think that the director of the first “Independence Day” didn’t understand what made that film a success but it’s plainly obvious that Roland Emmerich had no idea what he was doing. I like the first movie because it felt genuinely apocalyptic. Aliens appear out of nowhere and systematically wipe humanity out and, for much of the film, all of our defenses are completely ineffective. It’s only through ingenuity and grit that we managed to fight them off.
The alien menace was threatening because we didn’t understand them at all. The scene where Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner), the wild-haired scientist of Area 51, is captured and used as a proxy to communicate by an alien soldier is terrifying. “Resurgence” pretty much does away with all of that atmosphere, banking instead on cheap nostalgia, dumb humor, and CG effects that are antiseptic to try provide some thrills. The result feels like riding a roller coaster that isn’t nearly as fast or as violent as it should be.
There are some redeeming qualities to the film even if they are marginal. The world-building was interesting. It was cool to see what technology would look like if we co-opted futuristic sources of power and combined them with human designs. We see helicopters without rotors, held aloft by green anti-gravity generators, huge rifles which fire off green plasma, and impressive cannons which mimic the death ray that caused so much devastation in the first movie.
However, the execution of this was inconsistent throughout the film. There may be futuristic fighter planes capable of exiting and entering the atmosphere but people still drive around in station wagons powered by gasoline. We may have an arsenal of small arms capable of dishing out neon death but pilots are still using Glock-like firearms.
Resurgence is over-saturated with characters both old and new so it becomes a chore when it comes to caring about all of them. Most of them are bland stereotypes or action movie tropes like the disgraced former pilot who becomes a hero or the nervous nerdy friend who proves a capable fighter. There’s even prominent Chinese characters to corner that market. The sheer amount of characters makes it hard keep track of everyone and the constant jumping back and forth is grating.
There are only three characters I liked, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) who has some choice lines, Dr. Okun who provides comic relief, and Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) a warlord who has fought the aliens for years and looks like a GI Joe action figure. Everyone else is expendable or just plain boring. All these characters make the film feel overstuffed and it would have been an improvement if an editor got their hands on this movie and trimmed some of the fat.
Due to the fact that there were so many characters and action sequences, the pacing of “Resurgence” was all over the place. The beginning where we establish the world felt leaden but, once the aliens show up, the movie kicks into high gear and stops for nothing. There’s never a moment where the audience is allowed to breathe or stew in a tragic loss, it’s always “On to the next scene!”. They may as well have carried in a piano to the theater, played a ragtime tune, and fast forwarded the movie because it at least would have saved time.
Nothing felt real, I was simply watching a slew of images on-screen, quick cut to characters reacting in a cockpit, cut to a scene rife with exposition delivered at breakneck speed, then cut back to action, then comic relief, rinse and repeat until the end.
This may be a perfect “check your brain at the door” blockbuster for some but my expectations for the movie, and the cold dose of reality that shattered these, prevented me from doing that. I was entertained periodically but for most of the film I was just plain bored. Independence Day: Resurgence may have taken twenty years to make but the production team couldn’t avoid the pitfalls of sequelitis. The film is a bloated, half-assed, rushed, and cynical attempt at a cash grab. I’ll still watch the third movie though.