Everything comes full circle. The weekend Independence Day: Resurgence opened, I was enjoying a sequel of my own: my 20-year high school class reunion. The first Independence Day (or ID4, its more popular label) came out the summer I graduated and became the year’s biggest hit. During my freshman semester of college, it seemed every male dorm room I visited had either a poster of ID4 or Jenny McCarthy (I had a poster of Keanu Reeves in Feeling Minnesota because… it was 1996 and I was edgy, I guess). Some movie buffs liked to brag how they saw ID4 on July 2-4, 1996, when the film took place and proudly displayed their ticket stubs for proof. It was like holding a license to be a patriotic moviegoer. The film frequently plays on basic cable and maintains its popularity.
Roland Emmerich’s belated sequel is much bigger and, somehow, even more colossally stupid than the original. Jeff Goldblum returns as the scientist who cracked the alien code the first time out. The world has rebuilt itself, put “petty differences” aside and established world peace when those tentacle-wielding monsters from outer space return to trash the Earth. Again.
Emmerich is still stealing from Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, George Lucas and himself. He’s better at creating memorable visuals than crafting a consistent story with solid acting and disciplined screenwriting. Emmerich’s movies are fun carnival rides, though he’s spent the past two decades helming turkeys that aim to top ID4 (like 2012) but never come close.
I should applaud Emmerich for avoiding a bloated running time but strangely, making Resurgence two hours was a mistake. It’s been so tightly edited that there are no scenes, just a series of moments. If any movie would benefit greatly from a longer director’s cut, it’s this one.
The epic-sized bus chase at the very end is the film’s best sequence and gives audiences the iconic imagery they expect from Emmerich. Otherwise, none of the characters develop much and some returning ID4 cast members are killed off very early (is nothing sacred?!).
Attempts made to make the cast more international result in one-note stereotyping and offensive caricatures. The younger cast members (standing in for absentees like Will Smith and Harry Connick Jr.) give dud performances but Goldblum still makes this a master class in quirky scene-stealing. Bill Pullman returns as the former president and has a more intriguing character to play this time. However, his big speech is cut short. Viveca A. Fox returns, but she’s a doctor now instead of a stripper. It seems an alien apocalypse made her re-think her day job.
There are lots of delicious plot set-ups that go nowhere or remain unexplained: Earth’s military now uses extraterrestrial technology, Sela Ward is playing a Hillary Clinton-esque president and the mother ship has vast foliage. More time should have been spent with all of these intriguing additions.
There are clever nods to the original (such as a sly acknowledgement of the original’s White House explosion) and most of the laughs are intentional (I think). Oddly enough, this is closer to enjoyable-but-brain-dead ID4 rip-offs like Battleship than the real thing. It’s too silly and disjointed to be a great movie but Emmerich’s delivery of jaw-dropping spectacle carries this farther than it deserves.
Independence Day: Resurgence plays like the ultimate Emmerich movie, with pieces of his original, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and even his early, cheap Moon 44 in the mix. Emmerich’s Stargate remains his masterpiece, while both of his alien invasion movies are as yummy as cotton candy and as bad for our digestive system. Everything comes full circle.
Two and a Half Stars