Independence Day: Resurgence Plot Summary:
Just as the world is about to celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of defeating the extraterrestrial threat of ’96, humanity gets an unexpected surprise when the aliens return with a different strategy to eradicate Earth. It’s up to the new Earth Science Defense Division, led by David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), to take them down once more.
If you love the first Independence Day like I do, and walk out of this movie declaring it sucked, you probably failed Logic in college. That makes no sense to me. Did we need a sequel to this movie? No. Was it fun returning to Roland Emmerich’s crazy world one more time? Yes. Yes it was. I probably never have to see this again, but for two hours sitting in that theater, I felt like the nineties were alive once more. This film is a relic from that decade. The decade of Armageddon and Face/Off. Stupid action, but pure entertainment bliss with charismatic characters we actually care about. That’s what separates Independence Day: Resurgence from garbage like the Fast & Furious franchise. Give me Jeff Goldblum over flat as hell Vin Diesel any day. Let’s start with the characters, because the amount of people in this movie could fill Cowboy Stadium.
Ever since this sequel got announced, I was really excited to see Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum in these roles once more. We’ll get to them later. What terrified me were the new additions. I thought Liam Hemsworth was going to single handedly ruin this movie. Whenever I see a Hemsworth in the credits, my body shudders. I’m happy to report that Liam Hemsworth is actually a solid lead. He isn’t Han Solo or anything, but carried himself well as the clichéd rebellious space pilot. Maybe it’s because there were 500 characters to keep track of, each with 95 character arcs, but I barely noticed the times when Hemsworth was monotone.
Speaking of all those characters, we got Dylan Hiller, played by Jessie T. Usher, the son of Will Smith’s character. You could see some Will Smith in there, and he was generally fine, except for one emotional moment when he lets out the obligatory, “Noooooooooooo!” William Fichtner is a godsend as the General. I don’t know what it is about Fichtner electing to be in both an Independence Day and Ninja Turtles film, but I guess he likes money. There’s another solid, fiery pilot in Rain Lao (Angelababy), and the new President, played by Sela Ward, also commanded the screen very well. We can’t forget about the random war lord who pops up, played by Deobia Oparei, and someone who holds a personal grudge against the aliens. That’s one of the elements that really works for the new characters, in that most of them have emotional ties to the previous events.
I mentioned this movie felt 90’s, and that’s no more apparent than the two comic reliefs – a snooty, scared accountant type, played by Nicolas Wright, and a nerdy pilot, played by Travis Tope, otherwise known as Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec at the age when he got impeached as mayor. Seriously, go look at the dude. They were annoying, but not too annoying. Classic ’90s. The best new character (technically not new) was Whitmore’s daughter, Patricia, played by Maika Monroe. Among all these young, passable talented heartthrobs, Monroe legitimately gave a good performance. I could see her being in real movies. Bottom-line: You didn’t have to solely rely on the old guard. You were endeared to the newbies as well.
Enough with the tomfoolery though, let’s get to the people who made that first Independence Day so iconic. Jeff Goldblum is pure pleasure, picking up right where he left off as David Levinson, the sarcastic genius who’s in control, yet always nervous at the same time. Judd Hirsch returns as his dad, who honestly serves no purpose whatsoever, but it was nice to have him. The Jewish sayings were a little much though. Seriously, let’s tone it down. Brent Spiner was a delight once again as nutty Dr. Okin, and they give him a lot of cool crap to do. The man of the hour though was Bill Pullman as former President Whitmore — the man who gave Independence Day its legacy with that stirring speech. Pullman really digs his teeth into this, as if he’s going for an Oscar. I really appreciate Pullman’s effort, and his character is by far the most interesting. He’s totally rattled at the beginning, but as always becomes the ultimate bad ass, as he dives head first into danger with no regard for himself.
As this is an Independence Day movie directed by Roland Emmerich, stuff blows up. What made that first film such a box office smash is the level of destruction was on a scale we had never seen before. Now it’s commonplace. While the destruction here is certainly stunning, I was completely desensitized to it. What also made the first film better is there was a real build up to when that first laser goes off. In this one, it pretty much just happens. Emmerich wisely moves away from the destruction aspect and focuses on a more war-centric film. We learn more about the aliens, their history and overall purpose. It’s what good sequels do, which is expand the mythology.
Don’t go into this film expecting to discover the meaning of life. It’s pure, unapologetic popcorn entertainment. It’s not relentless like a Fast & Furious film where you reach a point of wanting to run home. It’s also not obnoxious like a Transformers movie, although there were definitely a few corny lines I could have done without. The last thirty minutes gets completely absurd, but I appreciate not rehashing the same dilemmas. They open the door for a sequel, that judging from early box office prognostications, probably won’t happen. It’s not perfect, but I thoroughly enjoyed returning to this universe for a couple of hours. For crying out loud, go celebrate your Independence Day!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.