Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, Jeff Goldblum, Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language
1996’s “Independence Day” didn’t set itself up for a sequel. It’s getting one anyway – but the returning cast and crew make a lot of smart decisions. While it’s obviously an attempt at starting a franchise to squeeze more money out of an existing property, it’s also pretty successfully a fun summer blockbuster. This is the kind of movie that’s perfect for times when you just want to spend three hours in air conditioning, sipping a cold drink and watching things blow up.
Surprisingly, “Independence Day: Resurgence” not only works the 20-year gap between films into the story well, it gives us a pretty well-thought-out portrayal of a post-alien-invasion Earth. The planet has kept the unity developed in the first film, with nations working together to develop defenses against future invasions. All kinds of tech are available that aren’t in our world, from anti-grav low-flying aircraft to a massive space station on the moon. Developing parts of the world where surviving aliens were present in sufficient numbers have learned to hunt and destroy them and to read some of their writing.
Of course, all of humanity’s carefully-planned attempts are futile – the aliens bring a ship vastly more enormous than the first one, and not only swat the planetary defense satellites away like flies but start drilling to extract Earth’s core with astonishing speed. Our heroes have only hours to save humanity!
Like its predecessor, this is not a scientifically-accurate film. If you were one of the people enraged by the ridiculous method used to defeat the aliens in the first film, all kinds of things are going to drive you nuts here. If you’re incapable of turning off the part of your brain that insists on how gravity works, for example, do not see this film. Likewise, if you can’t stand obvious sequel setups that have almost nothing to do with the movie they’re actually in, stay away.
Most of the original cast is back, plus a handful of new characters, young men and women who grew up in this post-invasion world. There’s humor, action, and a handful of ham-fisted tearjerking scenes just like the first movie had. There’s also a good bit of self-awareness (Jeff Goldblum’s character observes at one point that aliens always go after landmarks when destroying things), and the film wisely doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s more exposition than necessary, but this has the advantage of giving you time to go to the bathroom.
The special effects are pretty awesome – we get to see more of the aliens, including more time on one of their ships, and the various battles are shot in ways that let us enjoy the effects without getting confused about what’s happening. The first film was highly acclaimed for its (mostly practical rather than CGI) special effects, and this new film keeps up the tradition. The effects here are mostly CGI, but Weta Digital has computing resources that rival those of a few nations, so everything looks pretty amazing.
This is a movie of spectacle. The guiding question for all film decisions appears to have been “will it look awesome?” While this results in some lousy science and other issues, “Independence Day: Resurgence” definitely looks awesome. It’s not for hard sci-fi fans, folks who want character development, or anyone who dislikes disaster flicks. This is a film for people who aren’t picky and want to watch things blow up.