INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
VOD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Liam Hemsworth as JAKE MORRISON
Jeff Goldblum as DAVID LEVINSON
Jessie T. Usher as DYLAN HILLER
Bill Pullman as PRESIDENT WHITMORE
Maika Monroe as PATRICIA WHITMORE
Sela Ward as PRESIDENT LANFORD
William Fichtner as GENERAL ADAMS
Judd Hirsch as JULIUS LEVINSON
Brent Spiner as DR. BRAKISH OKUN
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
BY KEVIN CARR
I remember the excitement that surrounded the release of “Independence Day” back in 1996. With the exception of “Jurassic Park” three years prior, I cannot remember a summer movie that had that much anticipation behind it. Now, that seems like a weekly event today, with online press hyping films as much – if not possibly more – than the studios themselves. However, back in 1996, it really was unprecedented.
Fast-forward twenty years, and there seemed to be the polar opposite surrounding the release of “Independence Day: Resurgence.” Its release was buried at the end of June, which could be a perilous time for a would-be blockbuster. Just ask “The Lone Ranger” and “White House Down” about this release slot. While the news of the long-awaited “Independence Day” sequel made the rounds in the press months beforehand, it seemed to lose a great deal of steam before its actual release.
Then the movie came out. It was screened in limited markets. It was met with brutal reviews. It made a fraction of what its predecessor made twenty years prior. And then it seemed to be forgotten.
However, like any movie that makes its rounds through the modern release system, “Independence Day: Resurgence” has a chance to catch the audience’s eyes again, with the one-two punch of VOD and then Blu-ray a couple weeks later.
After all the buzz (both good and bad) died down, it was time to revisit the big-budget sci-fi adventure that sat in the valley between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Suicide Squad.” And with a little perspective – and honestly, some lowered expectations – “Independence Day: Resurgence” faired quite a bit better.
The story takes place twenty years later, with the human race having integrated the reverse-engineered alien technology into their own advances. We knew the aliens would be coming back, and we tried to prepare. However, through a series of bad choices and human hubris, we are taken by surprise again and inadvertently almost destroy the only thing that has a chance of helping to save the planet. Once again, the people of Earth have to think outside of the box to try to take down the alien threat that devastates us so completely with its first strike.
Much of my initial thoughts of this film stand, both what I liked and what I criticized. On the plus side, the special effects still look great. Some of the scope and grandeur of director Roland Emmerich’s penchant for the modern disaster film are lost on the home cinema screen. His money shots really need to be seen on the big cinema screen to get their full effect.
The cast was both good and bad, most of the good falling into the nostalgia category. Jeff Goldblum may have phoned in his performance, but it was still fun to watch him when he was on screen. Judd Hirsch (who seems to be the only actor who didn’t appear to age at all between the two films) was just as ludicrously stereotypical and strangely entertaining as ever. Bill Pullman as the hobo President was a bit much but he still stood as the original star of the series.
On the flip side, the younger cast had a lot to be desired. Hollywood needs to stop trying to make Liam Hemsworth happen. “Hunger Games” or not, that guy just doesn’t have the “it factor” to be a headlining movie star. Maika Monroe was fine as Patricia Whitmore, but she also served as a constant reminder of Hollywood’s systemic sexism of the female form when you realize that Mae Whitman (who played the young girl in the first film) would have been perfectly fine in the role. Finally, the rest of the younger players – from Jessie T. Usher’s complete lack of Will Smith charisma to the Angelababy’s embarrassingly obvious grab at China’s box office – simply didn’t work.
Sure, the story is goofy and at times unbelievable even for a film about a second alien invasion. The build-up to this one stumbles a lot as it tries to stand. Everything from a woefully trigger-happy President who botches the seemingly one and only chance to defend the planet to the rehashing of the ship’s arrival (and how the hell it managed to sneak up on us… in space… again), the film’s first half is a pale imitation of itself.
However, once the initial attack takes place and the Earthlings are on the defensive, the film does manage to take off and become that kind of entertaining popcorn flick I loved in the 90s. It’s silly and at times downright stupid. It also doesn’t show us anything new and groundbreaking like the original did back in 1996 (instead featuring destruction spectacle that we have already seen but that we have already seen a couple times this year). However, Emmerich does know how to do action spectacle, and it’s a lot of fun in that sense.
At the end of the film, which I watched with my family on a Friday night, I turned to my son and said, “Well, that really wasn’t bad at all.” He agreed with me, which was a bit of a surprise because he had shown no interest in the film this past summer, and he wasn’t thrilled that had been the pick of the night.
In the end, “Independence Day: Resurgence” was a surprisingly entertaining ride, even with all of its foibles. Removed from the competition and hype this summer in a very crowded marketplace, the movie certainly has a rewatchability that the original film also has. I can’t say I didn’t have fun giving this movie a second look.
Like a Blu-ray or DVD, there are some bonus features included on the VOD release of “Independence Day: Resurgence” Two of the featurettes are in-character examinations of the story. “The War of 1996” looks back at the first attack twenty years ago and what is being done to prepare for their return. “It’s Early, ABQ!” is a whimsical morning show hosted by Fred Armisen featuring interviews with David and Julius Levinson.
Standard behind-the-scenes featurettes include “A New Squadron” about the new updates to the film, “Earth As We Know It” about the state of Earth’s readiness, “The Tools of the Future” looks at the movie’s technology, and “The Invaders” look at what’s new with the aliens this time around. There’s also seven minutes of deleted scenes and a gag reel.