In late December 1995, a few days after Christmas, my father and I went to an Edwards Cinema closest to our house. To us, it was a luxury theater because we were used to going to bargain theaters, and our local multiplex was fairly small. We were given gift certificates (No, not gift cards, actual paper certificates) to go to that theater as a Christmas gift from an uncle. My father and I decided to see the film Heat. When we entered the theater lobby, we were both amazed at how big and grand it was. Me being 14, it was quite a sight. It was the biggest theater I had ever been in. The lobby was huge. And with all that space, came a lot of posters and displays. Amidst all the titles being advertised, one stood out. Well, the fact that there were multiple posters for it probably had something to do with it. There were posters and banners that showed the planet earth and a flying saucer hovering over it along with the phrase in big blue text: “ID4”. My dad and I both looked at each other and said: “what the hell is ID4?”, as we headed into our screening. Before the film started, amidst many great looking trailers, came this one minute long teaser for what was clearly an alien invasion movie. The final shot of the teaser is what shocked and hooked my dad, me and the rest of the audience. I was literally the only teenager in the theater, by the way. Y’all know the shot I’m talking about. It’s the one with the White House being blown the hell up by a spaceship. After that, the title was revealed: Independence Day. Then the phrase “ID4” appeared along with the release date: July 4th, 1996.
Throughout the next six months, we would learn more about the film, trailers were released, interviews were conducted. The hype was real. They even sent a representative from 20th Century Fox to my junior high school on career day to promote the film, handing out posters and giving us a sneak peek at the official trailer. Oh, the hype was very real. It was probably the first time I truly understood what anticipation meant.
Finally the film came out, it was a smash hit, a crowd pleaser, but most of all, it left a massive impression on me. Now, without me going on about the 1996 film, just know that I’ve seen the film dozens of times, on different formats too, and it’s gone on to be one of my all time favorite sci-fi films. Yes, if you dig into it and analyze the film, it’s cheesy, B grade nonsense, but I bought it. It’s a classic B movie in my eyes, as well as many offers. It captured that sense of movie magic we pay to see.
So why did I waste half of this review’s space mentioning all that, which is probably something many other reviewers probably did? It’s really to stress the importance of anticipation and payoff, delivery. Once Independence Day was announced, audiences only had to wait half a year to see the film. The wait felt like an eternity, but it was worth the wait for most people. So here comes Independence Day: Resurgence, a sequel that took 20 fucking years to arrive. 20 years of waiting to see those goddamn aliens retaliate after the characters Captain Steve Hiller and David Levinson blew up the mothership, and President Whitmore give that inspirational speech before leading a defense campaign that took back the planet. 20 years! I was never opposed to an Independence Day sequel, in fact, I wanted it, BUT I DIDN’T WANT TO WAIT 20 GODDAMN YEARS FOR IT!
So 20 years later, we see how the survivors of Earth have rebuilt society and flourished after combining our technology with alien tech. We catch up with familiar characters, and meet new ones. It’s about to be the 4th of July, but more importantly, it’s the 20 year anniversary celebration of what they are calling “The Battle of 1996”. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and his team of scientists find that a new alien threat is imminent. Soon after that, the aliens arri… Wait, am I explain the plot? It’s the same damn thing as the last film, but with better technology.
Like the original film, this isn’t a profound piece of art. It’s a Summer blockbuster, meant to provide you with spectacular thrills, while you stuff popcorn in your mouth. Judging it harshly can be quite unnecessary. How-Ever… this is a sequel, 20 years in the making, to a film that went above and beyond to provide essentials Summertime thrills. Independence Day was goofy, but it had memorable characters, quotable lines, and spectacular special effects that have forever been embedded into our minds. It had heart, soul, wonderment, and rewatchabilty to the max. So after 20 damn years – yes, I’m going to keep saying that – we get a sequel that delivers… probably 25% of that.
Despite advancements with CGI, advancements in filmmaking, the power of marketing, which this film did very little of compared to the original, Independence Day: Resurgence feels like a downgrade. Roland Emmerich reprises his role as director, and even reteams with producer Dean Devlin after having a falling out with him years ago. I’ve never hated Roland Emmerich as a director – even though it’s hard to get over that goddamn 10,000 B.C. crap he made – but while most directors get better with experience, he seems to get progressively worse. To be fair, IDR is his best film in quite some time, but where did that ability to entertain and satisfy go? This doesn’t even have the same tone as ID4. At least, it doesn’t feel like it. I’m not saying IDR isn’t entertaining, but its efforts are no match to the original.
Action-wise, the film is pretty cool at times, showing us some intense aerial combat, space combat, and even something I was hoping the sequel would have, ground level combat. The special effects shine in these sequences, and they don’t fail to entertain. However, for some reason, with all the CGI enhanced combat scenes of spacecrafts and alien-tech enhanced fighter jets flying on the screen, none of them seem to match the intensity and urgency of the action sequences from the original. The alien attack in Asia was especially disappointing. In ID4 the alien ships blow shit up, disintegrating entire cities. In IDR… they suck everything up like a giant vacuum… I just thought of a scene from Spaceballs, excuse me (chucking)… Anyway, it just seems like a lousy, time consuming attack. As an action sequence, it kinda, yup, I’mma say it… sucks.
The running time is 20 minutes shorter and the pacing is quicker than the original, and you’d think that would make the film great, especially since the action comes quickly into the running time. But whereas in the first film, where we get to know each character, spend enough time on them to enjoy what they have to offer, here, everyone’s screen time and their subplots feel very sporadic. The editing is so rapid, few sequences and scenarios seem to go on for more than a minute without cutting to a different scene. This affects the development of the characters and the coherence of the story in a big way. The film is not boring, but with its constant cutting, it makes it very hard to care about or grasp what is happening on the screen. When something happens to “our heroes”, I personally didn’t feel anything. Didn’t care. I cared in ID4. What happened here?
When it comes to the characters of this sequel, as I mentioned before, the editing is so rapid, we don’t get any proper development from anyone, or at least not enough to care about. Even the returning cast members and characters feel underdeveloped, and we already know who they are. Again, this film downgrades everything, including the characters we loved in the first film. Jeff Goldblum as David, though being the most welcomed returning cast member, isn’t as charming. Bill Pullman as former President Whitmore, who was once courageous and valiant, is reduced to acting like a crazy old man who can sense the alien attack but for some reason, no one can believe him. ‘Cause, you know, what sounds crazier in that reality than another alien attack, right?. Vivica Fox, pfft, forget it, not even worth mentioning. Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson wasn’t as funny. Brent Spiner as Dr. Okin, who seemingly gives the most effort in the returning cast, is goofier than the original film. It should have been fun catching up with these characters, but they all seem so joyless, unimportant, and in Whitmore’s case, tragic.
There are two other returning characters now played by different actors. There’s Dylan Hiller played by Jessie T. Usher, who portrays the son of the late Capt. Steven Hiller. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a fighter pilot. Then there’s Whitmore’s daughter, Patricia, played by the lovely Maika Monroe, who is also a fighter pilot, but I didn’t pick up on that until she climbed in a jet. Monroe was fine, she gave everything she had in a part that was lacking. Same can’t be said for Usher. I found his character to be dull and had no charisma like the Steve Hiller character. There are a lot of new characters and none of them are worth talking about, except for Liam Hemsworth’s Jake Morrison. He was by far the most interesting and gleefully cocky new character. He wasn’t necessarily a well written character, but he was likable and courageous. Considering Liam Hemsworth isn’t the greatest actor, he did quite well in this film. Although, I was not invested in his relationship with Patricia at all.
In the most fairest way I can say it, Independence Day: Resurgence just isn’t satisfying, and after a 20 year wait for this damned sequel to happen, it’s obviously a disappointment, but really quite frustrating. I doubt they set out to make a weak sequel, but something happened along the way. The script wasn’t very good, and the editors were in a hurry for some reason. It’s not like they necessarily did anything vastly different than the original film as far as try to provide a Summertime spectacle, but it sure as hell doesn’t match the fun, emotion or heart. They even have the uplifting score from the original film playing through the credits. I love that score. I was humming it for weeks in anticipation for this sequel. But when it plays in Resurgence, it just makes me feel indifferent. The twenty year wait should have actually worked from a narrative standpoint, but with the script this film went by, it just makes this sequel feel like it’s too little, FAR too late, and that Independence Day should have been a stand alone film. This is a sad reminder that anticipation doesn’t always pay off.
Big Gabe’s Stuffed Burrito Entertainment rating: 2.5 outta 5