Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

"Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. "Mankind." That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom...not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution...but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!"

Some may roll their eyes and laugh when they think about the speech given by President Thomas Whitmore in Independence Day, but let's be honest for a second: it's a fantastic moment, one way or another. Whether you are emotionally moved by the sequence or find it manipulative and ridiculous, you likely at least remember it. When you hear or read those words, you are brought back to a time when you first watched the film and various scenes and images that are now iconic will likely come rushing back. Whether you love or hate the movie, the fact that it has withstood the test of time and has become a piece of well known pop culture is undeniable.

Fast forward to now, 20 years later, and the sequel has finally arrived. I'm not going to nitpick every silly moment or blockbuster cliche that pops up (although lord knows we could do without the scene in which something inspiring is being said on a radio and we are shown countries from around the world gathered around theirs, you know, being inspired). To go through all the cringe worthy dialogue and recycled tropes in a Roland Emmerich picture is like counting blades of grass to determine if it needs to be cut. The flaws of an Emmerich blockbuster are as expected and certain as the fact that shit grows when it rains.

So I'm not here to bus toss the new film for its performances, dialogue, or the tired feeling of familiarity that comes with a lot of these big summer event pictures. My biggest issues with Independence Day: Resurgence are the pacing and the fact that nothing really felt all the big and eventful about it despite the unwritten promise of such given its predecessor. 20 years in between films provided plenty of time to build chemistry and establish meaningful context to what has gone on over those two decades beyond some quick and clunky exposition dialogue to fill in those gaps. Let some of the moments that are clearly meant to be big and exciting breath a bit, give them a chance to resonate. 20 damn years they had to work with, to give an audience a big and bold sequel to a film that is loved by many, so when I saw the running time was at exactly two hours I knew we were in for some trouble.

Before I felt like I had even settled into my seat, aliens have attacked and the big save the world plan is being fleshed out and I was in shock, and there is my biggest issue with this film, the one thing I keep coming back to when deciding exactly how I feel about it now: nothing felt important enough to remember. Not long term at least. 20 years since Bill Pullman gave that speech and I still feel like I can quote it word for word, and there are quite a few more like it from that film that have stuck with me all this time and make me want to revisit it every damn year around the fourth of July. Silly or not, I keep coming back.

I know for many Independence Day: Resurgence will make a worst of the year list when it comes time to publish those. I just can't go there despite all the glaring and frustrating flaws and missed opportunities present throughout. In the end I had some fun with it, and I am more than willing to watch Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch share a screen together, or hell, even on their own as they spend most of the film, their characters managed to entertain. Had some laughs, enjoyed some action even if it wasn't anything spectacular. Liam Hemsworth is surprisingly charismatic in what is essentially the lead role here, although any chemistry he attempts to share with his fellow newcomers Jessie T. Usher and Maika Monroe is nonexistent. As a huge fan of both The Guest and It Follows, I was excited to see someone like Monroe get a crack at the big budget material but it pains me to say that she was completely under-utilized and much like the entire film, forgettable here. As a connective tissue between the original and now, playing the daughter of President Whitmore, I expected something more relevant than former fighter pilot, current White House employee and girlfriend to the lead. In essence Monroe is that piece of the narrative that is supposed to tug at the heartstrings, cutting to her tear filled eyes when either the former President or Jake Morrison (Hemsworth) are in danger. The movie wasn't patient enough to build up any reason for us to care, and the success and nostalgia from the first, far better film isn't enough.

I'm probably being too kind with my score, but I had a good time at the movies in the moment. Unfortunately down the road, none of it will matter and the resurgence will be forgotten.



  1. I'm still on the fence about watching this. On one hand I kind of liked the trailer, on the other hand people are brutally giving this film a negative review and I'm not sure if I can handle another Transformers-esque movie in the theater. Maybe on Netflix (where all the bad films go) I'll check it out.

    1. Yeah, this is one you can definitely hold off on Cody, and you may end up liking it but it's far from a guarantee.