I was significantly more thrilled for Independence Day: Resurgence than I am for most of these brand new sequels to 20+ year old movies that never struck anyone as “totally in need of follow-up”. The reason for this is that among the characters/actors recycled from the first Independence Day was Jeff Goldblum; a man whose unusual presence is almost as endearingly strange as that of Christopher Walken. And no, it didn’t seem like a Jurassic Park 2 scenario where all the Goldblum was sucked out of him when the sequel came around.
David Levinson is not alone, though. The former U.S. president who led our first battle against the hostile alien fleet, Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is back, as are Judd Hirsch as Levinson’s Jewish father Julius, the former First Daughter (now played by Maika Monroe), a cameo from the late Robert Loggia in what is now his final film role, and several more. We also reunite with an older version of Dylan (Jessie Usher), the stepson of Will Smith‘s character Steven Hiller from the first film, now a respected pilot, as well as the girlfriend played by Vivica A. Fox. Smith himself doesn’t appear, presumably due to being busy with a certain suicide squad.
As of Independence Day 2, the Earth has rebuilt itself rather nicely since the alien attack of 1996. We have made use of the advanced tech left behind by the extraterrestrials and created defense bases on the Moon in case more aliens would return. And speak of the devil, just as humanity is about to celebrate 20 years of victory, a mysterious craft appears through a wormhole and humans all across the globe start getting peculiar visions of odd but meaningful symbols, including Whitmore, a Congolese warlord who wields machetes, and Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner), who awakens from the coma he was put in after linking with the aliens’ hive-mind during the first movie. He gets a much larger role this time and is still undoubtedly one of the best characters.
Shortly thereafter, a flying saucer much bigger than any of the ones from ’96 appears, to finish what was started. This includes a mission to drill into the Earth’s core, which I don’t recall being a part of the invasion in the original Independence Day. Either way, a ton of worldwide destruction and old-school campy “alien invasion” tropes ensue, all while we meet a vide variety of new characters as well.
These include space pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), who was an unhappy history with Dylan and is in a relationship with the former First Daughter, the current president played by Sela Ward, a U.S. General played by William Fichtner, French scientist Dr. Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who works with Levinson in researching the weird dream symbols, Jake’s Moon Base bestie Charlie, a Chinese pilot whom Charlie crushes on (Angelababy), Okun’s “life partner” at Area 51 (plausibly making them the gay couple that was allegedly in this movie), a group of lost kids who travel with Julius to Area 51 in what must be the E plot, and a wormy accountant named Floyd. It’s quite a lot to keep track of and yes, it can get dizzying if one isn’t paying attention.
The film introduces many of these characters early on, cutting too briskly between too many subplots, leaving few of them with anything to do later on. The character of Floyd is mostly used for comic relief, even though he still has an arc of sorts wherein he becomes more badass, and Vivica A. Fox could easily have been erased. The earlier parts also deliver tedious exposition in the form of characters telling each other things they should know already, plus a predictable “first-act action scene” taken straight out of the checklist.
However, the characters that do leave an impact are sufficient, and it’s still sweet to see so many old favorites return and do what they’re best at. Julius is still lovably oblivious, Okun is still an eccentric riot, and Whitmore’s psychological struggle was surprisingly intriguing. And I swear, Roland Emmerich must have known exactly what he was doing when he directed Jeff Goldblum what with all the Goldblum noises he was making in any given scene. My brother and I were having a gay old time whenever he was onscreen, that’s for sure. (As for the actors that do not reappear, their exclusion mostly makes sense; Randy Quaid‘s character is dead, James Rebhorn is dead in real life, and Adam Baldwin is fucking insane)
In fact, I would have loved the film a great deal more if the camp factor was even higher. The destruction is so extreme that it gets ridiculous, often making it next to impossible to feel as if the characters are in real peril (the most important ones always manage to slip away from death at the last microsecond anyway), thus there’s little reason to truly give a shit about them. It’s not entirely void of excitement; it would have just worked even better if the film was a pinch more self-aware in its silliness. Had it gone the other way and instead been more serious and grounded in reality, then there’d be no escaping the fact that an invading spacecraft as gargantuan as this would bring irreversible damage to the planet and there would be no sense in even trying. The story would end much sooner.
There’s a lot more that doesn’t make sense in this movie, of course. You’ll probably question what good a lunar military base would do if the aliens decided to attack from the wrong direction, or why an African warlord, an inexperienced accountant, and an insane ex-president are all allowed to go on spaceships with no objection. But if you can accept it as the “dumb but fun” sci-fi adventure that Independence Day always was, you’ll find yourself forgiving it.
And make no mistake, there are things in this movie that are genuinely breathtaking. I admired the interior design of the new alien mothership, which is large enough to contain small rivers and trees, and the aliens blend in with their surroundings flawlessly; real or digital. The special effects and CGI are well-done (a huge chunk of it looked refreshingly practical), astounding in scope, as well as effectively lit – the shots inside the mothership are wisely kept dark and the shadows appear un-tweaked. The imagery is also free from the type of irritating color correction many movies are subjected to nowadays, mainly just using the blue-ish green we all would expect in an ID4 sequel.
Last of all, it culminates in a climax that has everything; a ticking clock, an alien dogfight (which technically makes more sense now that man kind sports proper spaceships as opposed to fighter jets), a masterful trap, multiple subplots intersecting in zany ways, and a Lovecraftian monster. It also has one legitimately hard-hitting death scene that succeeds in being sad precisely because it doesn’t try to be overly dramatic or sad; it feels real, especially considering the characters involved. You will know it when you see it.
I wasn’t certain how to rate this movie at first, but I’ve concluded that it was impressive enough for me to give it a thumbs-up and a 3/5. It is very much the first film, except bigger and badder (an evidently common theme with sequels these days, considering Star Wars: Episode VII), but if you’ve always longed to see the first Independence Day on a much grander scale, I don’t think Resurgence will disappoint you in the slightest. Give it a watch, sez I!
I’m done here, friends. I leave you with the trailer…
…and also the Jeff GoldBluman Group: