It’s been 20 years since the original Independence Day attack our movie theaters. The original film was fun, intense, and a little over the top, true to a 90s action film. Bill Pullman’s presidential speech has held up as one for the ages. Over the years, we’ve heard talks of a sequel but it never seemed to happen. By the 10 year anniversary, I was fairly certain we’d never see a sequel, no returning mothership, no adventure into space, nothing. I guess I just didn’t wait long enough.
My girlfriend probably said it best: “Roland Emmerich Roland Emmerichs all over this Roland Emmerich film.” There’s no question whose film this is and whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is up to you. I’ll provide my thoughts in this spoiler-free review but keep in mind that I’ll be noting things that do appear in the trailers and perhaps a couple of things noted in interviews.
Independence Day: Resurgence takes place 20 years after the first film in an alternate future where the events of The War of 96 actually happened. We’ve had alien ships laying around we could take apart and reverse engineer to help advance our technology. This movie does not exist in our 2016 but instead in a 2016 where the world has come together as one, where new technologies have lifted our civilization to two decades of peace. In the meantime, we’ve been preparing in case our enemy ever return. Well, if you can’t tell from the poster alone, they do come back and this time with a MUCH bigger ship.
Independence Day: Resurgence – Cast
The cast is real hit and miss. We have some great returning cast members including Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Vivica A. Fox. How much these Independence Day veterans play into the story varies but I will say that I really enjoyed Judd Hirsch’s story even though it’s a little tangential to the overall plot. Bill Pullman has a solid role as well and one that lives up to what I hoped it would. His story was worth the wait, in my opinion. Jeff Goldblum can easily be considered a co-star or supporting actor. He’s in most of the film and has an integral part in the story and the future that’s come to be. Brent Spiner, for those who didn’t know from interviews, returns. His character was never confirmed dead and instead has been in a coma for 20 years.
The new cast includes Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, and Maika Monroe. Monroe plays Patricia Whitmore, the President’s little girl from the first film all grown up. Monroe does a fine job but I’m unclear as to why they recast Patricia’s character and didn’t bring back Mae Whitman who still acts. People I’ve spoken to believe it’s a physical attractiveness issue since her character plays the love interest of Hemsworth and Mae Whitman is a lot shorter than Monroe. Either way, it’s fine. Monroe does a fine job but at the end of the day, her character is more intended to push the stories of her father (Bill Pullman), her love interest (Hemsworth), and her best friend (Usher). Speaking of Usher, he plays Dylan Hiller, son of Vivica A. Fox’s character and step-son of Will Smith’s character from the first film. As most know, Will Smith did not return for the sequel. Reasons why vary but in order to handle that in the film, they had to kill off the character, something that’s addressed quickly in Independence Day: Resurgence but it needed to be done. Usher plays an ace pilot like his father who is still friends with Patricia Whitmore from the first film. Usher does a solid job and I’d like to see him in more. I hope this movie gets him some additional roles that are more high profile than When the Game Stands Tall or G.I. Joe: Renegades. Finally, we have Liam Hemsworth. I think it’s painfully clear that his character Jake Morrison was originally intended to be Will Smith’s character but it was rewritten when Smith couldn’t\didn’t return. Much of what Morrison does fits the bill for Steven Hiller (Will Smith) in not only tone and style but in consistency with characters from the first movie. With that in mind, Liam Hemsworth can’t live up to Will Smith and that hole is noticeable.
Other cast include an incredibly underused Angelababy (whose real name is Angela Yeung Wing). She plays Rain Lao, another pilot who represents China, one of the main powers to help build this new world. When she is involved, she’s great, but she is pushed to the side most of the time to give screen time to Hemsworth and Usher. It’s unfortunate as she is one of only two Asian characters in the film and only one of three females. Lastly, there’s Deobia Oparei who plays a Warlord named Dikembe Umbutu. The story of him and his people is very cool and I’d like to watch a miniseries or movie just about their experiences. Unfortunately, his character is paired with the comic relief and is used as a balance to that for much of the film. His power and presence, like Angelababy’s, is wasted in a movie trying to spotlight Hemsworth and Usher while still providing enough screen time for the returning cast members.
Independence Day: Resurgence – Story
The story is fine. It’s an easy progression from the first film and doesn’t really surprise much if at all. It’s a little formulaic but it is Independence Day and if you expected some high level psychological masterpiece, you’ll be disappointed. The pacing is very similar to the original film with a few twists and the end of the movie definitely takes a different direction from the original. It’s hard not to compare and I know I’ve done that a lot here but the movie tries the multiple story concept the first did and it just doesn’t do it as well. At the end of the day, it’s an alien invasion film. The part I really don’t care for is the over the top nature of the new ship. It’s massive. Completely massive. So massive that it broke the immersion for me. I love sci-fi and give a lot of passes to such films, trying not to question the real scientific nature of what’s going on because it’s just a movie but in this case I need Neil deGrasse Tyson to let me know if a ship that large could land on Earth without cause a lot more damage than it did.
Independence Day: Resurgence – Special Effects
Okay, these are pretty good. The movie’s budget was significantly lower than other big block busters like Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War but I think overall, the special effects were better. There’s a lot going on with immense city destruction, buildings being thrown around, futuristic fighter jets, alien space craft, etc. and they all look really great. My girlfriend noted she didn’t care for some of the blue screen work but I honestly didn’t notice much outside of the big anniversary celebration scenes. Without spoiling anything, it’s clear that some things that were practical effects in the first are definitely CGI now. Some of those things look awesome in CGI and a few look a little more obvious.
I like the movie. As I said, it feels like an appropriate progression from the first and it opens up the possibility of an exciting sequel concept that I’m looking forward to. I loved what they did with most of the veteran actors who returned and I enjoyed the new universe they built. The alternate 2016 is awesome and I really appreciate that there were major effects of The War of 96. The special effects are solid overall even if some are over the top. It is a disaster movie in the end. Independence Day: Resurgence takes itself more seriously than the original but does not leave humor out. I mean, how can you with Jeff Goldblum and Brent Spiner on the cast? And even though Bill Pullman gets another speech, it just can’t compare to the original.
What did you think of Independence Day: Resurgence? Comment below!