Verdict: More spectacle than movie
The original INDEPENDENCE DAY is revered as something of a cult movie. It strikes just the right balance of levity and solemnity; WAR OF THE WORLDS with MARS ATTACKS sensibilities. The acting is ham-fisted and over the top, whilst the plot is cheesy and overly patriotic. But for all its failings, the original ID also works on a very enjoyable level: the perfect popcorn blockbuster flick. Not long after the film’s release there was chatter of a sequel. Many years later we have INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE.
When the aliens invaded in 1996, they left behind pieces of technology. There’s been a general squabble over some of these, but in 2016 some alien tech begins to inexplicably operate again. Since the original invasion, things have changed on Earth: there is now a space defence force, and a moonbase equipped with an anti-alien weapon tasked with defending our planet. When Dr Okun – survivor of the 1996 invasion – suddenly awakens from a twenty-year-long coma, it becomes clear that the aliens are coming back. And whilst we’ve been busy preparing for their return, the aliens have been just as diligent…
What the original ID got right, RESURGENCE also tends to get right. The visuals have obviously been updated, and the film presents a pretty stunning series of effects. As you’d expect, there are space battles, explosions and lots of general chaos. The new moonbase is an interesting concept (albeit one that we’ve seen plenty of before), and the moon and space scenes are interesting.
The addition of the third alien race was also intriguing. This species is a forerunner of the alien invasion; a race of machines that is fleeing the ID aliens. Their ship is accidentally shot down by the moonbase, and a sub-plot threading through the movie examines this species’ fate. The expansion of the ID mythos in this direction was interesting enough in its own right; I couldn’t help but feel that a movie specifically focused on this aspect of the plot would’ve been more interesting than the one we actually got.
Because what ID got wrong, RESURGENCE completely blunders. Despite a fairly interesting set up, the plot rapidly spirals into a lineal action sequence. As a result the movie feels very narrow in its ambit. The action basically follows round a half-dozen characters, who experience no real character development, and are then killed off. Mostly that comment applies to members of the original cast: most of them are killed as the aliens invade, undermining their struggle for survival in the first film. Meanwhile, the new characters are given very little opportunity to develop. The film’s plot and characters really feel like they lack heart as a result.
RESURGENCE also relentlessly plagiarises INDEPENDENCE DAY. Many of the action set-pieces are direct riffs (if not copies) of the original film. This was disappointing. Whilst RESURGENCE does a good job of reintroducing the necessary elements of the plot (it’s not a film that requires an indepth knowledge of ID to view), for those with a passing knowledge of ID it’ll be obvious that so many sequences have just been updated. We get the aliens hitting landmarks (“They let to get the landmarks,” says Jeff Golblum), an alien being punched, a daring flight into the alien mothership…. There were so many possibilities for a new ID film, so many situations in which the alien race could’ve been put, the retreading of old concepts felt like a serious misstep.
Overall, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is a fun action SF film, but don’t go into it expecting much more than that.