There was an early scene in Independence Day: Resurgence where I realized that this was not really a sequel to the 90’s classic. Of course, when I say classic, I’m fully aware that it is loved for its camp. But that camp was met with charisma, heart, and an understanding of how to create real tension. Resurgence has very little if any of those things. I realized this (or, more precisely, accepted this) when the Female President-that-is-not-President Whitmore, played by Sela Ward, finds herself staring death in the face. She has uttered all of about three or four substantial lines in the movie to that point, comes off as wooden and dopey, and gives me no reason to care. Yet, the movie feels it necessary to devote screen time to a shot of her saying “there will be no peace” in an attempt to appear stoic as everyone is slaughtered around her.
Of course, this is a play on a line from a much better scene from a much better original, where an imprisoned alien speaks through Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner) to President Whitmore (Bill Pullman). It’s a play on nostalgia with a more than healthy topping of cheese. It forgoes all basic tenets of storytelling and tries to win audiences by turning the action movie dial to eleven. I choose to point out this scene because it is very representative of the movie as a whole: if you were looking for a movie with some semblance of a tangible story or semi-decent acting, this isn’t it. That being said, the film wears the cheese on its arm like a badge of honor, and the pure spectacle can keep you engaged if you totally turn your brain off; despite knowing how bad it was, I still smiled when Ward delivered that line like a mannequin.
We Always Knew They’d Come Back…But This Time the Performances Won’t Beat Them
The plot of Resurgence can essentially be summarized as the events of the original on an exponentially bigger scale. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Actually, the aliens are one of the more enjoyable parts of the film, despite not having the mystique they had in the original. Everything unfolds in a corny-as-hell fashion, as expected. They even came up with a really dumb reason for Captain Hiller (Will Smith) to be dead. Fair enough, considering the original featured mankind beating the aliens with a computer virus. Independence Day has always been campy, but what made it so much fun was Pullman, Goldblum, and a remarkable performance from Smith.
This film’s real problem is that there is nobody to care about. Even the returning fan favorites range from “why am I here” to “trying to polish a turd” performances. Goldblum definitely falls into the latter, his reprisal of the role of David Levinson seems like a completely different person. Pullman falls into the latter category. It appears that he cares about developing Whitmore’s character, he’s just working against a mess of a script. Levinson’s father also returns, as does the wife of the late Hiller, but they either disappear ten minutes in or keep popping up during the movie for the sole purpose of extending the running time. It becomes very apparent very quickly why Smith declined to reprise his breakthrough role.
At the end of the day, these throwbacks are really only meant to introduce us to a new set of heroes. Unfortunately, they are even worse, to the point that it can become painful to watch during more dramatic moments. Liam Hemsworth, who I usually abhor, was actually my favorite member of the cast. While he often falls flat on his face, he at least attempts to emulate the same charisma and heart that Smith brought to the table. Jessie Usher and Maika Monroe, playing Hiller and Whitmore’s children respectively, are flat-out atrocious. I would have rather watched a movie focused on Spiner’s Dr. Okun, who at least succeeds at bringing some authentic humor. The problem isn’t the cheesy dialog or the ridiculous premise. Independence Day: Resurgence suffers because of the terrible performances from the leads, a lack of any kind of character development, and a deluge of side characters who lack purpose.
The movie barrels along at such a fast pace that it never gives us its cast a moment to reflect on the events unfolding. The original Independence Day had scenes where characters stared in awe at the destruction or felt fear for the fate of their loved ones. Resurgence just moves from set piece to set piece, having no respect for basic notions of pacing. The upside, I suppose, is that you can’t say the film lingers. If you sit back and stop caring, you might find a barely acceptable popcorn flick. As a fan of the original, I couldn’t help but smile at some of the call backs, and the big special effects-heavy scenes can do a serviceable job of keeping your eyes occupied. Then, Jessie Usher’s Hiller stands up to make a speech to his men with all of the charisma of Tommy Wiseau, and I cringe.
Independece Day: Resurgence is a film trying to ride on the name of a fondly remembered classic. But by it’s closing minutes, it’s apparent that there are (or were) plans for a franchise more reminiscent of Flash Gordon , and that’s being generous. Quite frankly, I don’t understand how this film was approved for a multi-million dollar budget, unless it was something drastically different on paper. That being said, this will be a nice diversion to run on a treadmill to, as long as you are listening to headphones as opposed to delivery that makes The Room sound like a Coppola film.
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