Independence Day: Resurgence Review

***Spoiler warning

Independence Day: Resurgence brings fun and sci-fi action, but lacks the heart and clever writing that makes Independence Day still a favorite film of mine.

Before jumping into what I disliked about the movie, I will start off positive with what I liked.

I enjoyed the return of Julius Levinson and seeing how his life has progressed in the last 20 years. It just makes so much sense he would write a book called How I Saved The World and that he’d go around marketing it to an elderly population. The seed is planted in his first scene for the emptiness and disappointment he feels for not having grandchildren and that storyline is played with well as he helps the kids he meets on the journey to David and they help him. It’s one of the only storylines in this movie that had real heart to it. Julius still delivers some of the best lines in the movie and his shtick still makes me laugh.

Dr. Okun and Dr. Isaacs also have heart with what is definitely the cutest and most believable romantic relationship in this movie.

Incorporating a third species that the aliens fear and that can be a crucial ally to the humans is a fascinating twist and a great addition to the story’s world-building (universe-building in this case). It makes a lot of sense as in the original movie President Whitmore saw what the aliens planned and what they’d done, exterminating life on each planet and consuming all resources before moving on. This indicated that there are many more species out there beyond just the humans and aliens. The introduction of this third species is one of the most interesting features of the movie and one that should’ve been explored with more depth. This is one reason why a third movie (if we actually get one) may actually be more interesting than this sequel.

The actions scenes are pretty solid, except for when the Queen alien chases the school bus (too absurd). The pilots getting lured into the alien ship, their bombs rendered useless and having to survive briefly in the aliens’ ecosystem within the ship was also neat to watch. Getting to see more of the actual aliens was also cool and a nice benefit of CGI and advancements in technology since 1996.

The concept of Independence Day: Resurgence was promising. Imagine a world that has been peaceful and unified since the alien attacks in 1996 and experienced incredible technological advancements thanks to recovered alien technology. See how the characters we came to love in the original film have been affected by the 1996 attacks and how they have developed since then. And now the aliens have returned for revenge.

Now for the criticism: Unfortunately the actual film doesn’t take advantage of the promising concept. All the interesting information about how this world has evolved from 1996 to 2016 was conveyed in far greater detail through digital marketing than the actual movie itself. Seriously, the marketing was better than the movie. Check out these clever videos and websites that actually flesh out the universe within the film.

The characters we came to love in the original film are largely misused and underdeveloped this time around or completely absent. I was disappointed but not too worried about Will Smith’s absence before seeing the movie. With his absence explained in the film’s marketing and so many characters from the original returning, I thought it would be fine. I was wrong.

President Whitmore was my favorite character from the original film. I loved his bold and courageous and inspiring attitude, made only better by his sharp mind and wit, topped off with endless compassion and being a husband and father before anything else. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty for the right reasons. I have so much respect for a man who rallied and inspired the world after catastrophic attacks that nearly destroyed humanity, a man who despite being a politician, went into the air as a pilot and did what he had to do help defeat the aliens.

In the sequel, this incredible character is mostly reduced to a raving old guy, the one that no one believes but who knows the truth. He knows what’s coming but no one believes him until it’s too late. He’s mostly limited to this role until he makes a decent speech that pales in comparison to his brilliant speech in the original film, and then he shaves and to save his daughter Patricia Whitmore and the planet, he makes a crucial sacrifice that barely anyone except his daughter seems to care about or acknowledge.

I was excited that Jasmine, one of the bravest and most compassionate characters from the original movie would also be back, but I couldn’t believe they killed her so soon. With a completely evil and destructive enemy like the aliens, it’s not like they needed to give her son Dylan Hiller more motive to fight back against them with everything he’s got. I suppose her death helped to create peace between Dylan and Jake Morrison as Jake tries to comfort Dylan in the aftermath of her death, but I really didn’t care about their feud and would definitely have preferred to see more of Jasmine instead. At least she and Whitmore die as heroes, even if their deaths go largely unacknowledged and their heroics unappreciated. Unacknowledged deaths seems to be the trend for most deaths in the movie, from President Lanford and her Cabinet (they didn’t take enough advantage of her character as the president and first female President of the United States), to the nameless pilots who infiltrate the alien ship and are trapped inside with Jake and Dylan and Charlie and Rain Lao, and Jiang Lao and others on the moon station. It also doesn’t help that most of the new characters are pretty one-dimensional, worst of all being the beyond irritating Floyd. Even the death of Will Smith’s character Stephen Hiller that happened in between movies receives the same treatment. The absence of his character definitely contributes to the lack of heart in this new film.

I love the original Independence Day because you got to really know and care about the characters before the sci-fi action commences, before destruction reigns. It’s about 45 minutes into the movie when the aliens unleash their primary weapons on major cities, 45 minutes spent on character development before action. And many of the film’s heroes are everyday people, people like David Levinson and Jasmine and Russell Case. Furthermore, the writing is really smart. Defeating the aliens through “giving them a cold” is brilliant. Also, part of what I love about that movie is it plays with the question “Seriously, what would you do if aliens came to Earth?” No one knows what to expect and it helps build terrific suspense. But in this movie everyone knows what the aliens are and generally know what to expect.

Independence Day: Resurgence is still a fun sci-fi movie, but unfortunately just falls short in so many ways, particularly compared to Independence Day.


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