By Jack Dignan
The first Independence Day is a classic. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Personally, I don't see what all the fuss is about. Sure, it's got some classic Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum moments, and the blowing up of the white house is a pretty cool piece of imagery, but it's seriously lacking in substance, serving as a dumb popcorn flick with a painfully dull first half. I watched it again recently and, while it is a bit better than I remembered it being, it's still not fantastic, and so I was never super excited for the follow-up. If you're a big fan of the original, then this new one may not be too excruciating to watch, but as someone with only a mild interest in the first, the sequel isn't the most exciting movie around.
Picking up 20 years after the original, Independence Day: Resurgence continues on this world-ending story with another fleet of aliens sent to Earth, led by the alien queen. Their mission? Use the Earth's iron core for... reasons, I guess. But it is okay, because Earth has Jeff Goldblum, and Jeff Goldblum makes everything better, especially when aided by a few talented young soldiers, played by Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie T. Usher. Is there anything else that really needs to be said about this movie? What you see is what you get. If you've seen any sci-fi movie that's been released since the first Independence Day then you've pretty much seen this film already anyway.
Roland Emmerich knows how to make big budget disaster movies, there's no denying that. He doesn't necessarily make very good ones, but he's certainly capable of making a film in which several cities are completely annihilated. Independence Day is arguably his best film, although that's not a hard thing to accomplish. It chooses explosive set pieces over a decent story, and the same thing happens with the followup. The scale is big, there's plenty of mindless explosions, characters give cheesy one liners and it can be rather fun from time to time.
When the action is going down, I was entertained by this movie. The characters are completely two dimensional and didn't manage to captivate my interests in the slightest bit, but when they're shooting down aliens or racing through the sky, that's all that mattered, each battle feeling as though it could be a final showdown, although I was always rather thankful it wasn't as the best action sequence is saved for last, and yes, that final action sequence is the best part of the entire movie. Except for maybe the fact that Jeff Goldblum is in this.
But no matter how enjoyable the action is, or how likeable Jeff Goldblum is as a human being, Independence Day: Resurgence is still a big, bloated mess of a movie. The film has so many great ideas, and despite nearly all of them being unoriginal, the filmmakers throw it in anyway, and result is extremely uneven. One aspect I really liked was that this new ship had a gravity of its own, but nope, after one cool scene, this is never touched upon again. The film can go from "world destruction" to "save America" in a matter of minutes, only to end it all abruptly and clichéd, setting up a third film I don't really want to see happen.
While all the performances are fine, the actors in this film are really just too talented to be here. They're all better than this, yet here they are. From Liam Hemsworth to Maika Monroe to Charlotte Gainsbourg, everyone in this film has proven to be tremendously talented in other films. This film tries its hardest to give everyone as much screen time as it can, but in doing so it wastes so much time failing to get us invested in any of them. Even the returning characters proved to be far less interesting than they were the first time, and even then, I was not invested in anybody's story from the first film.
Independence Day: Resurgence takes a familiar approach to the first film in the way it tells its story. It's got a very, very slow beginning, and while I found this first half to be slightly more interesting than the second, there's nothing that had me gripped. I wasn't entirely bored, but it wasn't fantastic, and the second half is just plain stupid. Fun, over the top and ridiculous, but stupid as well. It thinks it's a lot better than it actually is, when in reality it's just another been-there done-that sci-fi film that's not going to be nearly as well regarded as the first.
To sum up, Independence Day: Resurgence is big, loud, over the top and from time to time, it's also a lot of fun, mostly thanks to the charismatic and extremely talented cast who are way too good to be in a movie like this. Unfortunately, it's also a slow, stupid, poorly written film with every sci-fi cliché you can imagine.