Isn’t it strange that we’re in 2016 yet our upcoming blockbusters are still Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Harry Potter? Back in their heyday, these films were big successes in the box office. Today, we find ourselves asking an important scientific question: “can lightning strike twice?” Independence Day: Resurgence hopes that improving its predecessor’s formula with some quick fixes here and there makes for a nail-biting blockbuster. What resulted is a good popcorn movie, but still falls short of solving the 1996 classic’s problems.
Twenty years after the “war of 1996,” humanity has advanced civilization scientifically and militarily by adopting the aliens’ technology into its own. Unbeknownst to them, a crashed space ship has been emitting a distress call since 1996. In 2016, a mother ship responds to the mayday signal. Independence Day: Resurgence sets the stage for a grander clash between the preparations of the human race and an even bigger alien fleet.
Hence, what you see in Resurgence is exactly what you would expect: absolute carnage on Earth in our era’s glorious CG technology. Known for his apocalyptic movies, director Ronald Emmerich once again takes up the mantle as world destroyer. The Burj Khalifa, the London Bridge, and (once again) the White House are casualties of Emmerich’s rampage. Resurgence is, visually, destruction porn. Apart from the apocalypse, Emmerich’s aliens are much more intricate, while still retaining their classic look. Thanks to Hollywood’s special effects, we’re treated to a superb spectacle that overpowers the cheesiness of the original.
Resurgence’s story, however, falls into way too familiar territory. The movie opens as the alien mothership picks up a distress call from Earth’s failed mission, laid over with former US President Thomas Whitmore’s rousing speech from 1996. Take it as a sign of things to come. Resurgence’s plot follows the same elements of the original. The new batch of aliens quickly take out humanity’s armament of alien weapons. Resurgence immediately returns to the story of hopeless humanity against the technologically superior aliens. Throughout the movie, alien technology in human hands litter the story, but they might as well haven’t done.
In a genre that will continue to evolve as visual technology improves, Independence Day: Resurgence finds it hard to keep it fresh from the rest. In the end, it adds a rampaging curve ball that catapults the Independence Day franchise into hard sci-fi territory, that is, if it can graduate from the disaster movie genre. Halfway through the film, we learn of an intergalactic war between the franchise’s classic alien and other lifeforms. It opens up the galaxy to future appearances of other aliens. In fact, these other aliens turn into an awkwardly-placed McGuffin that serves only to set up a possible sequel.
Resurgence brings back some old faces including David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman), Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch), Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner), and Jasmine Dubrow-Hiller (Vivica Fox). Sadly, Will Smith does not make a comeback, and his absence is explained only in passing. Resurgence also debuts some new actors, taking on the role of either new characters or old ones that have grown up from childhood, including Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), and Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher).
Even without Smith’s wit, the reprised performances of Goldblum, Pullman, Hirsch, and Spiner sets a familiar backdrop that made the original what it is. Not much can be said about the new cast members, however, who suffered from a lack of adequate screen time and too many subplots.
Contrary to what the trailers may want you to think, Resurgence doesn’t do a good job in “passing on the torch” to the new cast members. Much of the movie’s first half owes its plot to the wisdom and courage of the old guard. The younger characters make it out alive essentially because of luck, despite their brash stupidity. Make no mistake; Resurgence is a sequel that continues the legacy of the past. Rightfully so, but would that hamper the franchise’s ability for a third entry?
Also, the sequel to Independence Day is once again too American for global tastes. Despite setting some scenes in Africa, emphasizing global unity, and including non-American characters such as Charlotte Gainsbourg, Angelababy, and Chin Han, Resurgence is still an American film set in America by Americans.
All in all, Independence Day: Resurgence is a good popcorn movie that does what it set out to do: bring the destruction and story of the old Independence Day to the new generation. Despite the existence of its old problems and its contrived attempt at a part three, Resurgence was pleasant enough to go through. It won’t stand with the likes of Star Wars, but it’s good enough to put butts in seat.