This review is full of SPOILERS and unpopular opinions. So there.
The newest installment of Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day film franchise hit theaters on June 24 and people be all like…..boooo hiss. One critic even said it was “joyless”. O….M….G, people. Lighten up.
Somehow, we’ve lost our way. We’ve forgotten what we go to movies for – to be entertained. This holds particularly true for franchise movies. If the movie has a previous history, people latch on to and protect that “canon” like it is the Constitution of the United States.
Such was definitely the case with the second installment of the Independence Day films. People went in with a bad taste in their mouth, whether it was because Will Smith wasn’t returning or what not, and often forgot to enjoy what was there.
Let me be clear. Independence Day: Resurgence was not a great film. In fact, it was nowhere near as good as its predecessor. It was, however, entertaining from beginning to end.
The film takes place in a world that was dramatically altered by the War of 1996, or in other words, the original film. They could have made the artistic decision that the world would be the same as it was before the original invasion. In my opinion, director Roland Emmerich, made a great decision here, imagining a world that was built with the alien technology that was left behind, and some of those imaginings were killer. In the 20 years since the last film, the people of the world lived in unprecedented peace, and they worked together to create the Earth Space Defense organization that used the alien tech to create a moon base, a satellite system and a group of top gun fighter pilots to defend the planet. There were all sorts of great innovations based on the alien technology left behind. It was cool.
So, let’s start with the assumption that Will Smith’s absence is what killed the film. This film easily could have survived the death of Colonel Steven Hiller. As a matter of fact, killing off Smith’s character and replacing him with his son, Dylan Hiller, was also an excellent decision. What didn’t work there was casting Jessie T. Usher as Will Smith’s son. I saw not an ounce of Smith’s Hiller in Usher’s Hiller. As a matter of fact, Emmerich, who wrote and directed both films, co-opted the things that made Smith’s Hiller great and gave those elements to Liam Hemsworth’s character, Jake Morrison. In that respect, the film suffered. Usher needed to be Steven Hiller’s son. Usher certainly could have added some Will Smith to his character.
I’m sure the argument could be made that there was only room for one smart ass, hot shot pilot, and that was established early on as Hemsworth’s role. Resurgence did a brief retelling of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s story. Maverick was holding the stick when his best friend died, and Jake almost killed the younger Hiller with his need to hot shot. If Top Gun is any indication, and it is, you can absolutely have a whole squadron of hot shot, smart asses. Usher needed to be a younger version of the character Will Smith created. Brash, cocky, quick with a quip. So, this film’s failures have nothing to do with Smith taking a pass. It had everything to do with the writing they provided for his legacy character.
Arguably, the writing choices could be the biggest failure of Resurgence. On the other hand, they also provided some really nice, chuckle worthy moments throughout the film. Judd Hirsch was a delight. I laughed almost every time he was on screen. “Don’t be a schmuck”…”Your father’s a putz”. Delivered in all his Judd Hirschness. He was outstanding again.
Jeff Goldblum was also fun to watch in this role that he plays so well, whether it is in Independence Day films, Jurassic Park films or The Fly. He is great as the overly cerebral, quirky, science/tech genius. Brief aside: He said hi to me once outside a Broadway performance of “Jersey Boys”. I guess we’re pals now. Clearly he knew, at the time, I was destined to be a big deal. Although he isn’t taking my calls.
I suppose one of my biggest criticisms of this film is the way they completely under utilized three great female actresses. Sela Ward, as President Lanford is killed off relatively early in the film. Seriously, why even cast her, only to have her killed off, and they then go way off the line of succession, I guess because every single member of the president’s cabinet was also killed, and swear in William Fitchner, as president. Don’t get me wrong, Fitch is a Buffalo guy and I’ll write a part for him in every blockbuster film I have yet to write. Easy fix. Not sure why they chose this path. If you were just going to kill her off, I would have went with a guy president or cast some lower level actress. Waste of great talent.
The second wasted opportunity at a strong female character was Vivica Fox. Reprising her role as Jasmine (now Hiller), she shows that she has evolved from stripper in 1996 to doctor in 2016, only to be killed off: A. proving she is selfless and brave and B. so that her son can see it and get pissed. For the record, he could have gotten equally as pissed because, ya know, millions of people and all of Washington D.C. are destroyed. Jasmine didn’t need to die.
The third wasted female role was Maika Monroe. She was there as a tool (not to say that she was a tool). I wanted her to be strong and awesome. It was a bit (OK, super duper) contrived when she hopped in her fighter jet and escorted her dad in. It was a nice moment, just a little too mushy for me. I didn’t buy into her as the tough fighter pilot who now worked in the White House. She should have been one or the other. My vote goes for tough fighter pilot. Another pretty easy fix.
Bill Pullman got his inspiration speech, we’ll miss that going forward, since he followed in the footsteps of Randy Quaid at the end. It wasn’t necessary to make him the same disheveled, crazy dude that Quaid played too. His character was hard to watch, not because Pullman did a bad job, he didn’t. It was because he did a good job. I didn’t mind the disturbed character. I just minded the unkempt beard and wrinkled suit with the dirty, unbuttoned suit. Not necessary or believable.
Brent Spiner reprised his role as mad scientist, Dr. Brakish Okun, and he delivered with the same fun as he did in the original movie. And, a boat full of drunken treasure hunters added some additional laughs, as well.
In addition to William Fitchner’s new character, General/President Adams, there were a handful of other new characters in the film. Dr. Catherine Marceaux is a psychologist who treats people traumatized by the War of 1996. Played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, she was designed to be the character that Goldblum’s dry, deadpan humor played to. Let’s just say, that Goldblum’s dry, deadpan humor worked better with Smith.
The second two new characters, Floyd Rosenberg, an accountant who is auditing David Levinson’s (Goldblum) travel expenses, gets thrust into the action as he is with Levinson when the alien poop hits the fan. Rosenberg, played by Nicolas Wright, is exactly what you would expect an accountant thrust onto the front lines to be – comic relief.
The third new character is the African Warlord, Dikembe Umbutu, whose group, has controlled the one space craft left behind after the War of 1996. Umbutu is a sword toting (two swords strapped to his back like Deadpool…how cool is that?) dictator, who believes his father’s actions in setting up his own nation caused the suffering and death of many of his countrymen. Umbutu is another of the people who have a direct mental connection to the aliens. Umbutu and Rosenberg are two opposite characters that end up together throughout the film and their characters absolutely provide some nice comic moments.
Visually, the movie was a big pile of CGI. Duh. Of course it was. Any one who went expecting otherwise was deluded from the get go. There were a few spots where I didn’t think it worked as well as it could have, but overall, there was no more CGIness, and it was no worse, than most films of a similar ilk.
I definitely LOLed at the end when the five young heroes stood together in a very, promo shot for the next film, kind of way. I turned to my son and said “Oh look, Earth Space Defense spinoff film”. There is no doubt in my mind that that was the plan, and may still be, depending on box office.
The film had a $165 million budget, and as of this writing had $176 million in revenues, according to Box Office Mojo. It made its money back and then some in just 8 days.
In the end, Independence Day: Resurgence was a fun summer film. If you couldn’t find humor and enjoyable moments in that film, you take shizzle too seriously. Lighten up, geeks and just have some fun.
Final Score 7/10
+ Bill Pullman’s inspirational speech always makes me want to run out of the theater and fight aliens.
+ Judd Hirsch – ’nuff said.
+ Top Gun parallels. Nothing like hot shot smart ass fighter pilots.
+ Crazy Brent Spiner.
– Contrived plot lines
– Terrible use of female characters
– Randy Quaid returns as Bill Pullman
– Jesse T. Usher just didn’t cut the mustard as the son of Col. Steven Hiller
What did you think of Independence Day: Resurgence? Leave me a comment below. I love a good dissenting opinion. I should be a Supreme Court Justice.
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Pete Herr is the author of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two. Follow Pete Herr on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram . If you don’t he gets Grumpy. You don’t want to see him Grumpy.