Let me take you back to the year 1996, where America was glued to a Super Bowl XXX matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in Tempe, Arizona. As is typically the case, the focus on commercials was high for many, but there was one commercial that I know for sure had me talking the next morning with my friends at school. That ad was the teaser commercial for a movie titled Independence Day, with the money shot being a giant alien ship blowing up the White House.
I saw this commercial and was hooked. The next day in school, my old friend Joe Toto made it be known we would be seeing that movie the first day it hit theaters later that summer. I was in, as were a few other friends. The movie was scheduled to open in my area on July 3 of that year, but the release was bumped up a day as anticipation and demand were incredibly high. We managed to get tickets for one of the July 2 showings. I saw it the next day, and saw it at least one more time in the theaters. It was that fun to watch in the theaters at the time and would quickly set the bar for the summer blockbuster film. It was not a cinematic masterpiece from start to finish, but it was a darn fun movie to watch with characters you got to know and understand performed by a solid cast.
Many of us waited for an eventual sequel to Independence Day, and over time there were teases of such a production to various extents here and there. Now, 20 years later, we have our long-awaited sequel in Independence Day: Resurgence and all I want to do is send it back into space and never see it again.
I will say I was reluctant to jump all in on the new Independence Day film. There was no way in my mind this film was going to live up to the hype the original had for me, but I attempted to keep my nostalgia fanfare out of it when going to see Independence Day: Resurgence. It did not matter. This movie stunk.
I mean it. It was bad, with the key exception to the performance of Jeff Goldblum. Goldblum was his usual stellar self in reprising the role of David Levinson from the original film. He was great, but even that was not enough to save the movie. It was nice to see some other old faces back in the fray, like Judd Hirsch, but it was sad to see how others coming back were treated, most notably Bill Pullman. Pullman was the inspirational presidential voice of the nation and the world delivering one of the most powerful and recognizable speeches in cinematic history before hopping in a fighter jet to help save the day in the air in the original Independence Day. In Independence Day: Resurgence we see the experiences with the alien invasion and alien mind-control have taken a great toll on President Whitmore, who has been reduced to nothing more than a feeble old man who seems to have lost his marbles and must be under constant supervision to make sure he takes his medication. President Whitmore should have been treated much better in this script. He also should have had his original daughter (Mae Whitman) cast by his side, instead of Maika Monroe. And yes, Will Smith was not in the cast, which was a major bummer. Instead we get Jessie Usher playing the role of Smith’s step-son from the original and are asked to buy into a backstory with Liam Hemsworth that felt thrown in for the sake of tension that never really gets a chance to give us any reason for accepting it before they ultimately come together (and that’s not really a spoiler, because you know from the moment the two are on the screen at the same time that this is how it is going to go down).
Brent Spiner also returned for the sequel, and he was quick to become the butt of some jokes (literally) tossed into the script. Spiner was in a coma since being mind-controlled by a captive alien in the original movie, and he just so happens to wake up from his 20-year coma as the aliens are returning to Earth (or Earf, if you prefer), and we get a little more story on him even if we didn’t really need it. And guess what, we didn’t really need it. Spiner was good to see again working in Area-51, which has been enhanced with alien technology since the original film, but he gets a little overexposed (again, literally) this time around. Another character who is completely overused for the sake of a quick (non-existent) laugh is Nicolas Wright, who plays a new character designed for supposed comedic relief and at times to ask the silly obvious question to clue in anyone in the theater that for some reason or another managed to lose track of what was going on. You could have removed this character form the script entirely and not skipped a beat. This is not a criticism of Wright, but the script.
It all comes back to the script. It feels as though there were too many characters that we are asked to care about. I don’t have time to get emotionally invested to all of the characters coming into the film though, including a Chinese fighter pilot and a car full of random kids. The viewer is not given any reason to really care about the emotions of these characters, just as we are given a crash course on why we should feel any animosity between two of the main characters. The script tries too hard to do too much and later tries to tap into the nostalgia of the original while coming up empty in the process across the board.
And guess what. There is a third movie coming in the future, if this script had anything to say about it. The closing to the movie rushes that into the picture too before the credits roll. That sound you hear is my eyeballs rolling backwards in disgust. Just let me enjoy this movie and give me a reason to want more of this so there will be demand for a third film. Instead, Independence Day: Resurgence throws a bunch of ingredients together and flat out tells you there’s going to be more of this space junk to consume in the years to come. My only hope is that it will take 20 years to make that third movie, and by then perhaps they will have put together a better overall effort.
I am coming off pretty harsh on Independence Day: Resurgence, but there are some good moments in the movie. You will laugh at times. You will applaud Goldblum. And you will probably see a preview for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Other than that, save yourself a few bucks and pop in that old copy of the original Independence Day in your DVD or BluRay player (or if you really want to tap into the nostalgia, hook up your VCR that’s sitting on a shelf somewhere). You will have a much better time.
My wife and I walked out of the theater and immediately started ripping this movie to shreds before even getting to the car. A few hours later, we reserved tickets for the other movie we contemplated seeing for the next day. Finding Dory proved to be the more enjoyable film.