SBox Recommends: Independence Day – Resurgence (Movie Review)

Note: SBR never spoils. You are safe. Enjoy!

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On this day 240 years ago, the 13 British colonies in the recently discovered Western World declared in one voice that we will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re gonna live on. We’re going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence Day…2!

It has been 20 years since the first Independence Day hit theaters in the summer of 1996. The film set in the mid 90’s with an all-star cast wowed audiences with its depiction of a world defending itself from an alien invasion. While debates concerning the film’s quality still persist to this day, the film is still beloved by many for its impressive effects, memorable scenes, lovable characters and overall fun vibe. It remains a staple of the dumb 90’s action movie genre and an undeniable classic, one that apparently had grounds for a sequel.

The concept of an Independence Day 2 interested me upon first hearing it. I didn’t really feel it called for a sequel, but I knew that this could be amazing if done right. Take all the fun, loud and dumb of the original and translate it in the modern day, and you’ve got yourself a modern classic. I’m hesitantly in! Hesitant, because this could also be a real bomb if handled incorrectly.

Though most people have made up their minds about the movie, declaring in one voice that this movie should go quietly into the night, is it really as bad as people are saying?

Story

Independence Day: Resurgence is the sequel to the 1996 sci-fi action film Independence Day. In the two decades since the humans claimed victory over the alien invaders, the world lives at peace with each other and has merged their technology with alien technology. Also Will Smith is dead and Brent Spiner is alive. While preparations are being made for a celebration ceremony commemorating twenty years since the attacks, alien activity is once again detected, and the world now faces a second intergalactic strike. It’s up to our remaining alumni of heroes along with a few new ones to defend Earth before “time’s up”.

Writing

At its core, Independence Day was a very well-made, very dumb film. This much can’t be denied. What separates the fans from the detractors is your individual tolerance for the ridiculous or campy. The only way to truly appreciate the movie is if you can just go with the flow and let the movie do its thing for two hours; only then can you see the film for its charisma and charm. The last thing you can call the original film was boring, because like it or not you’re sucked into the movie’s world from beginning to end. The characters are likable and endearing. The action scenes are fun and well-aged. The core story as well as the characters’ struggle are fascinating. It’s a well-paced, well-casted and overall properly implemented action flick.

That’s the criteria Resurgence has to live up to. To that end, the film does a good job in some parts and a bad job in some very important parts at replicating Independence Day’s winning formula.

Technically speaking, this film hits all the right notes with the returning cast, familiar themes, larger than life action sequences and homages to the first film. There’s always something exciting happening, and the story goes along at a good pace. In fact the core story isn’t bad at all, just like its predecessor. Had humanity survived an intergalactic terror attack, we would integrate the aliens’ technology and excel at the alarming rate presented in the film. This actually adds to one of the movie’s best features: the world (which I’ll get into during the Effects portion).

I also appreciated that this movie didn’t make the mistake of being a beat for beat retelling of the first film. My fear was that the movie would operate like a checklist. Insert your hippies greeting the aliens scene here, insert Bill Pullman speech to the army here, insert Judd Hirsch induced eureka moment here, and so on. That’s not the case here. Sure most of those scenes do occur through the film as small homages, but for every callback to the original film there’s something unique around the corner, usually involving the new cast. This film’s plot is distinguishable from the predecessor, giving the same vibe without giving the same movie.

Everything seems to be in order, but the movie is just missing one important thing: the charm. I can’t go as far as to say the movie has no charm whatsoever, but there’s definitely less of it here than in the original. The story, which is very vanilla in nature, as well as the uninspired action scenes just come off as lifeless and boring without the charm to elevate it. There’s no up-beat characters like Will Smith or Harvey Fierstein, no memorable lines and very few hard-hitting jokes to add life to the action scenes or give that meeting more energy. Even the characters you expect to be funny like Spiner really aren’t.

The film is merely charming in a nostalgic sense. Fans of the original will get a kick out of the fact that most of the original cast is back and still pull off their characters well. The mere presence of Goldblum and Pullman in the same room is enough to make you smile. Though, that isn’t enough to propel this movie passed anything particularly memorable, especially when combined with this film’s more serious tone. I found my mind wandering in and out 3/4 of the way in during an action scene. That only happens to me in a film like Transformers 3 or 4.

However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that story itself isn’t bad. I admire it for trying new things and recapturing most of what made the original movie so fun. The difference between the first and second film is that the first is well implemented. This one, not so much.

Effects

As a surprise to no one, the movie’s effects are very good. CGI is used for the greater majority of everything seen on the screen. Just about every action scene is covered in CG or green screen, and it all looks awesome. It’s nothing spectacular, but it is slightly above normal blockbuster fare, with some of the best looking aerial combat scenes in a while. Perhaps the most impressive effects aside from the first attack by the aliens are the aliens themselves. The alien designs are vastly improved from the 90’s counterpart. Same look, but more refinement.

Another great graphical fear is in the movie’s setting. The world is incredibly well-realized. It’s clearly a futuristic world, but they don’t go too far with the idea by going full Tron mode. It still looks like it’s set in 2016, just a different version of it. The fashion and lingo are pretty much the same, and so are the cars which are seen alongside spaceships. It gives this movie a bit of distinguishability among the millions of interpretations of a futuristic Earth.

Acting

Among Independence Day’s most defining features was its all-star cast. The original film was literally oozing with familiar faces no matter how big or small the role. By comparison, Resurgence doesn’t boast nearly as many big names even when counting the old cast, though it still have around the same amount of characters, if not much more. Some would argue too many.

First let’s talk about the returning cast: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica Fox, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, etc. These are by far the best performances of the movie. These aren’t particularly noteworthy performances, but they’re the characters we know and love from the first, and each have fun slipping back into character. Goldblum is far and away the most memorable part of this movie, charming in his own right and fun to see.

Then you have the new cast, which includes Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher and Maika Monroe. These performances range from serviceable to forgettable. Hemsworth and Usher have the beginnings of interesting characters and develop somewhat of a Goldblum/Smith type chemistry. Unfortunately, that arc is never fully realized and ultimately falls flat. Monroe is perhaps the most prominently featured of the bunch taking on the role of the president’s daughter from the first film. Though, once again, she’s serviceable at best.

Perhaps the worst an actor can be in this film is irrelevant. This film is filled with unnecessary characters who are either loosely related or pointless. That goes for the kids in the car, the the guys in the submarine and some of the flight crew.

Production Value

The camerawork and sound quality is pretty good. As an action film, the camera definitely captures the action very well. Nothing fancy or unnecessary either. The music is standard action movie fare as well. Probably the best musical moment of the movie is the very end when they play what I assume is the Independence Day theme.

Overall

Is Independence Day: Resurgence a flawed movie. Yes. This movie is nowhere near as charismatic as the first movie, the new characters aren’t that great, several plot points are unnecessary and the film gets dull after a while. Is it a bad movie, though? Probably not. Despite all of those problems, I still had a good time in the theater. The story is still good as are the effects and setting. Plus it’s great to see these characters again.

At the end of the day, I can’t in good conscience berate the movie like many others have. I can see why others would, but I had fun for what it was.

Verdict: 6.8/10

Recommendations

Much like the first film, your enjoyment will depend on your tolerance for the movie’s shortcomings. As long as you’re not expecting something great, this is fair game for anyone who likes dumb action movie blockbusters.

Independence Day fans will probably take to this movie as long as you aren’t expecting something better than the first. If you hate Independence Day, this won’t change your mind. If you’ve never seen the original, you’ll be at home here, but it’s better after seeing the original first.

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading, and Happy 4th of July! (Fuck yeah)

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