INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE Review
Director: Roland Emmerich
What’s your favorite thing about science fiction? The narrative possibilities provided by a fantasy setting? The amazing vision directors have for the world of the future? How about the social commentary by way of recontextualizing modern issues? If you said yes to any of these things, you’re an idiot. Let me tell you why you like sci-fi: bad writing, BIG explosions, and nothing else. That’s what INDEPENDENCE DAY was, and by golly, that’s what RESURGENCE is.
RESURGENCE opens in an alternate 2016, 20 years after the alien invasion from the first movie. The aliens are back now, and this time, it’s personal. Of course, the humans have some deadly new weapons of their own. Repurposed alien technology, an African warlord with two machetes, and a very well-aged Jeff Goldblum are all here to thwart the alien menace.
Don’t count on any help from Big Willie Style, though
There’s no real reason to discuss RESURGENCE’s plot seriously because RESURGENCE doesn’t take RESURGENCE’s plot seriously. INDEPENDENCE DAY was grounded in its fun sense of humor, but RESURGENCE takes the levity to ludicrous levels. Calling this movie aware would be an understatement, and while there are still eye-rolling emotional beats and nauseatingly tacky character arcs, they exist only for the barest necessity. This isn’t a dread-inducing thriller like Spielberg’s WAR OF THE WORLDS. There’s none of the spine chills or goosebumps from the original. This is a film that is more giddily apocalyptic than even 2012. Emmerich only knows how to blow shit up. He knows it, you know it, and he knows you know it, so expecting anything more would just be silly.
Let’s be real now
The humor is what makes what would be an otherwise bad film tolerable, but it also hamstrings RESURGENCE in certain key areas. The levels of devastation from the first INDEPENDENCE DAY are dwarfed here. You thought the White House getting vaporized was cool? Wait till you see a flying saucer bulldoze the entire continent of Asia. The only problem is that all of this is treated so lightly that it’s almost impossible to comprehend, let alone appreciate. Yes, the above .gif shows the Burj Khalifa being hurled from a stupid huge explosion at London’s Millennium Wheel. That clip alone should have been a showstopping scene, but the fact that it’s a mere cutaway that Jeff “The Chest” Goldblum can make a witty remark about removes all gravity from the moment. RESURGENCE has entire countries obliterated and world leaders wiped out, only to be mentioned as an afterthought.
The focus here is clearly centered on the bloated cast and the banter between them, not the ridiculous set pieces, which is the most self-defeating decision that could have been made. What’s the point of destroying the world if you’re not even going to show it. Aside from the brief montage of landmark abuse heralding the invader’s arrival, there is very little doomsday imagery. An overwhelming majority of the film takes place in soundstage military hangars and the reused Area 51 set from the ‘96 film. There’s a Moon base and mentions of installations on Mars and Saturn, but we hardly get to see them. While there are some fascinating shots taking place inside the alien mothership, you’re going to be looking at a lot of desert and steel warehouses. RESURGENCE ends up being visually identical to INDEPENDENCE DAY in too many ways, which is the worst crime it could commit.
Pictured: the only two stars in space
As conceptually bankrupt as RESURGENCE is, however, it is still a blast. You’ll see hundreds of space fighters blowing each other out of the sky, people maneuvering vehicles out of the way of very large and dangerous hazards, and some of the corniest one-liners in recent cinema. Say what you want about the structural integrity of the script or the freshness of the palette, RESURGENCE is mainly concerned with being fun, and it succeeds in that regard. Issues like “Why is this soldier flying a helicopter when all other aircraft on Earth have been replaced with spaceships?” and “Why does this gun shoot bullets when everyone else has upgraded to lasers?” are largely ignored in the face of such spectacle. It’s not so much lazy production design as it is RESURGENCE’s willful disregard for logic and reason on all levels. It’s not long before you stop asking questions and learn to accept the madness.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is a dumb movie. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is often a bad movie. There isn’t a single compelling character and the visual effects flip flop between convincing and abysmal, but I didn’t come here for CITIZEN KANE. If I wanted those things, I’d go watch a film. RESURGENCE is a ride, and a hell of one at that. Watching RESURGENCE will make you a dumber person and you will enjoy it, since that is the entire reason you’re watching a summer blockbuster in the first place.