Independence Day Resurgence: Fast, Furious and Silly

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By Patrick Tedder, with guest commentary by Jennifer Tedder

Patrick: The sequel people weren’t exactly clamoring for has forced its way into the summer cannon to remind us exactly what a summer blockbuster is—for better and worse.

Jennifer: I was clamoring for it.

Patrick: A major difference between Resurgence and the ’96 film is its brisk running time. Whereas the original film clocked in at a beefy 145 minutes, Resurgence scoots in under the two-hour mark. This was something that excited me as I walked into the theater. As I walked out, I wondered if perhaps my excitement was misguided.

Jennifer: It felt like three hours.

Patrick: Roland Emmerich—disaster movie director extraordinaire—typically builds to the orgasm of destruction.

Jennifer: Which I think is partly what made the ’96 movie so great. I got invested in the characters because I watched their lives change with this invasion. And maybe because I was 11, but I still maintain the first one is amazing.

Patrick: In Resurgence, the characters are in the thick of action in no time. I love action, but this was superfluous and unrelated to the actual alien invasion. It was like Roland had too big of a budget and had to burn money somehow. I’d go so far as to say it undermined the alien-related action once it did begin.

Jennifer: And unlike the gradual build of ‘96, Resurgence, we are barely on a first name basis with these characters before we’re asked to care about their survival. (And I, personally, did not, except for the one character they killed off in the periphery of a WIDE SHOT WITH HARDLY ANY FANFARE. I think the film may have even cut to a comedic mad scientist scene right after, but I’d have to watch it again to verify.)

Patrick: When there’s no action, Emmerich and writers scramble to tell a story, or at least paste together a bunch of clichés and MacGuffins that are best taken with a grain of salt, lest we think too much and somehow miss the next big explosion.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Without being a joke, Resurgence does walk a fine balance of levity and silliness when it comes to the universe it has built. This makes some one-liners and action pieces slightly more palatable, much in the same way a good Michael Bay popcorn piece does when firing on all cylinders.

Resurgence justifies the reason for the aliens returning well enough. The film also deserves credit for trying to make itself very different from the first film. We’ve already seen the aliens and defeated them, so now what? I was also surprised by the explanation of how Earth equipped itself for the intergalactic rematch. It’s decent, not great, but decent sci-fi that is bolder than I expected, especially when it could have rested on its laurels.

So how’s all that action I was referring to before? Good. It’s more or less always pretty spot on, neither the best I’ve seen, nor the worst. There were times when moments of devastation looked believable in an era where it feels like every other film hits the “CGI Max” button. Still, with any thought, it’s pretty easy to remember that there aren’t any stakes, because, well, all of the action is CGI and the equivalent of a video game.

Jennifer: And because you will never care about whether the characters live or die, be they the random people running down the streets or those billed as main characters.

Patrick: In fact, in all of its CGI glory, the film features a “boss fight” near its conclusion that I found worth the price of admission. Aside from quick shots in both the original film and the sequel, it’s a well-developed action sequence that actually shows what the aliens look like.

What else is there to enjoy? Well, Jeff Goldblum, a national treasure akin to Bill Murray, makes his presence felt in a film that is beneath him. He brings decent acting to a project sorely lacking in this area. Everyone’s favorite president, Bill Pullman, also comes back with some previous actors for a nice novelty effect.

Jennifer: I have to point out that even though everyone’s favorite first daughter is back as a character in the movie, Mae Whitman did not play her. Patrick disagrees, but I think that Mae’s presence would have added more texture to the cast list. I like Maika Monroe, but they already had Liam Hemsworth. How much more bland prettiness does one movie need?

Patrick: Still, mixing the good with the bad, Will Smith decided to skip this sci-fi flick. As such, audiences are given another black actor who is supposed to be Smith’s character’s stepson. He’s wooden—

Jennifer: Some might say blandly pretty.

Patrick: —and a poor replacement, leaving Goldblum to provide all of the charisma, when it’s apparent someone else is needed. Liam Hemsworth shows up, but simply isn’t as fun as Smith was in the ’96 extravaganza.

Verdict:

Patrick: Independence Day Resurgence doesn’t completely sell out when it easily could have. In fact, should this film do well, it more than justifies a more interesting sequel. And should you see it? Being pretty family friendly, PG-13, and slightly around two hours; it’s entertaining without ever wearing out its welcome. Any fan of action should have some fun and be able to keep cool with this sci-fi summer distraction.

Jennifer: It was terrible; do not see it.