There are two types of sequel. The good kind that build on the events of the first to tell a new and unique story. The bad kind wallows in the past glories without adding anything. Independence Day: Resurgence may have started out as the good kind in some mythical planning phase but we’ll never know. It is everything a bad sequel is and more because it wallows in those past glories without understanding what made them glorious in the first place. Now normally I wouldn’t compare a sequel to the original but this movie invites that comparison so I’ll make an exception. Game on, fuckers.
There are a lot of different storylines to cover but what’s the point? You know the gist. Aliens come back bigger and badder than ever and obliterate our defences. We’re on the brink of defeat until a ‘Hail Mary’ effort saves the day. Those are the beats so whats the problem? The problem is that aside from isolated incidents, every character is a soulless vessel for expository dialogue with absolutely no depth to them whatsoever. Roland Emmerich proved he knew what it took to create an effective cast of thousands in the original Independence Day but he seems to have forgotten. Let us remind him.
1. Archetypes – In a cast of thousands you don’t have time to get really in-depth with any character so you have to deal in easily identifiable archetypes with distinctive speech patterns and tendencies. Example off the top of my head, Will Smith’s Captain Hillard as the charming hero.
2. Real-Life Problems – What your characters lack in complexity you make up for in their relationships and problems which you base their character journeys on. Example of this is President Whitmore who is being called a wimp on the news. By the end of the movie, he personally leads the assault on the aliens.
3. Story Connections – Coincidental links between the different story threads require suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience but they are crucial for bringing the wildly different elements together for the climax.The individual threads have to link up well before the end of the second act so that all the POV characters are involved in the climax.
4. Climax – The layers of action in the climax are crucial to the success of the film. Each story thread has to conclude here so that means that the character journeys need to all be completed in or around the climax.
So given these parameters, how does Independence Day: Resurgence fair? It fails on all counts. I’d make a joke but I’m really not up to it right now. I’m just sad.
The characters in Independence Day: Resurgence have no flavour to them. Yes they are archetypes but they don’t speak in any distinct manner and don’t have any real-life problems that inform their character journeys. The film is 90% expository dialogue and no attempt is made to try to hide that or blend it into the narrative. The worst example of this is Liam Hemsworth’s Jake Morrison who starts off as a moody pilot and ends the movie as a smiley pilot (yay!). There is also the problem of untapped potential. I am referring to Deobia Operai as General Dikembe Umbutu. He’s an African warlord who’s chosen weapons for fighting aliens are dual machetes. I repeat: HIS CHOSEN WEAPONS FOR FIGHTING ALIENS ARE DUAL MACHETES. And they somehow fuck that up. I can’t wrap my head around it. Admittedly there are few occasions where one would be happy to see an African warlord dual-wielding machetes but an over the top blockbuster like this is one of them. He has one cool 15 second scene where he takes down an alien but besides that he gets nothing. He doesn’t do anything of worth in the climax either. He’s just a waste.
The characters from the original bring their own problems. They are there not because there is an interesting story to tell with them, but because they’re popular. I love Judd Hirsch. I really do but he is only here because he was the funny Jewish guy from the first movie. They give him a whole story thread and don’t have anything for him to do. Brent Spiner was a minor character in the original but they bring him back and give him an entire story thread despite the fact his character DIED in the first movie. Why? Because you remember him. It gets worse. Characters that actually mattered in the original come back in a fruitless attempt to recreate some of the iconic scenes. Bill Pullman as former President Whitmore pulls double duty, delivering an inspirational speech to a half empty hangar and then goes and Randy Quaids himself in the climax. This film wasn’t made out of some legitimate attempt to do something interesting with the world of Independence Day. It was made to lin e pockets.
So the characters are hollow shells delivering expository dialogue without arcs, trying desperately to recreate the iconic moments of the original. That sucks. What about the action? Could I forgive it if its action was good? No. I think Christ would need to have another go on the cross for this movie to earn forgiveness. Is its action good? It had one or two good ideas but suffered from missing potential (DUAL-WIELDING MACHETES FOR FUCK SAKE) and worse effects than 1996. I swear I don’t hate CGI. I understand it is necessary but we cracked this in 1993 in Jurassic Park. A mixture of CGI and practical effects is the best way to maintain the illusion. Practical effects eat up a lot of time in the shooting schedule but they are worth it. Please remember this, Hollywood.
Independence Day: Resurgence… no. Just no.