In news that should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever spent five minutes in a room with me, I enjoyed the hell out of this movie.
Please note here, I am not going to make any claims that it is a good movie, by whatever measure of good you want to pretend is in some way objective. To me? It was fun, it was enjoyable, I want to see it again, but it certainly was not: innovative, groundbreaking, special, excellent, unexpected, exceptional, or artful. On the other hand, you have seen the original Independence Day, right? It wasn’t any of those things either, but it was hella fun and caused the consumption of mass quantities of popcorn. Considering the size of the shared popcorn bucket my friend and I consumed in ID:R, we’re right on track.
Independence Day: Resurgence takes place 20 years after the first invasion. Humanity has recovered, the world’s basically become multinational and peaceful thanks to humans having something bigger to worry about killing than each other, and alien technology has been incorporated fully into this alternate 2016. On the anniversary celebration of humanity’s epic win, people who were psychically exposed to the aliens (like Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore, prematurely aged by the experience) are Having A Bad Feeling About This. The aliens show back up in an even more ridiculously enormous ship that has even less of a passing relationship with physics as we know it, and decide to drill to Earth’s nougatty center because reasons. It’s up to the old and new generations to fight impossible odds and save the Earth again, though this time there might be some mysterious help that I won’t describe further because it’s a bit of a spoiler.
There were a few things here that were a bit stupid even for me, which had me rolling my eyes at the movie rather than grinning along with the fun dumbness of it–namely the 3000-mile-wide alien mothership (for reference, that gives is a bigger diameter than the Moon) that has its own personal gravity field when it’s convenient for the purposes of special effects and then doesn’t every other time. If nothing else, even if it’s got a larger diameter than the Moon, it’s not spherical, so I have a hard time believing that it actually out-masses the moon; beyond that, the Earth is still a hell of a lot bigger. And while I don’t come to movies like this for the science–GOODNESS NO–that was a bit too dumb even for my popcorn-addled brain. Particularly when the disaster special effects that it’s used to explain really are a bit to the boring side. At some point, the thing you’re attempting to blow up is just too big and impersonal and it looks like you’re throwing a box of tinkertoys up in the air. The whole “drilling to the Earth’s core” thing was also derisive snort-worthy, particularly when they had to find a melodramatic way to ratchet up the ticking clock even more. Then again, basically any alien invasion movie that works under the assumption that the aliens are after some kind of resource we have (most often water) that they can suck away and leave Earth a lifeless husk really shows laziness on the part of the writers; either they don’t know that any resource of that nature on Earth can be found more easily and more abundantly by harvesting asteroids and comets, or they just don’t care.
That said? I loved pretty much everything else. Many of the beats in this film mirrored ID4; fair enough since they are both alien invasion films and big budget action tentpoles, which means there will be certain required beats that have to be met. But those story beats are accompanied by a world that has indelibly changed in 20 years, and that keeps it from feeling like an exact retread. To me, the best part of ID:R really was the alternate 2016 imagined in the film. The alien technology incorporated into human military technology makes for some fun variation on standard alien invasion fare, because it does touch on something that so often gets ignored–of course we’d try to figure out what makes the technology tick and then incorporate the helpful bits to prepare for the next invasion. And it makes the fun point that after twenty years of prep time, humanity has really stepped up its game–while the aliens are pretty much coming at us with the same bag of tricks they had before. The film tries to address the aftermath of so much worldwide destruction in the first movie, including the large number of orphans left behind, and the effect that had on the kids who have grown up and are now taking on a fight they’ve believed might be coming for their whole lives. Even the fact that the older generation told those kids that if the fight came, they’d be ready, and they’d win again is brought in–as a moment where the older characters fight off despair and try to find a way to keep that promise. (Look at the Baby Boomers and Millenials cooperating in alternate 2016; all it took was a world-wide disaster induced by alien invasion.) I loved the world of ID:R. I loved the setup it makes as a springboard for another film that promises to be significantly different.
International cooperation is placed at the forefront. The casting is more diverse in a lot of ways than in ID4. I loved Rain Lao (Angelababy) and Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) flying jet-spaceship hybrids around. Both old characters and new had great moments, the only exception being I’m still not sure what purpose Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch) really served in the narrative. Things get blown up. Aliens get punched in the face. Female fighter pilots get to be badass. American exceptionalism has been replaced by human exceptionalism, which is still cringe-worthy in context, but a vast improvement that cannot be understated. But my favorite part? The return of Dr. Okun, and I have very specific reasons for that, which I’ll explain past the spoiler wall.
At any rate, if you’re looking for dumb, explodey fun to accompany shoving popcorn into your food hole, I recommend it. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie.
Brief SPOILER discussion below
There are actually three things I’d like to mention, since we’re getting in to spoilers:
- I was very excited to see Vivica A. Fox reprise her role as Jasmine Hiller. I loved the fact that in the aftermath of ID4, she’d gone on to become a doctor, and seemed to be someone very much in charge at her hospital. Jasmine was a pretty cool character before, and this little continuation of her character arc was cool. So it goes without saying that I am pissed as all hell that they fridged her. She got to have a cool death, at least, considering she went out saving one of her patients. But considering the only narrative reason to have her die while her son was hovering nearby in a future alien tech fighter plane was so Dylan (Jessie T Usher) and Jake (Liam Hemsworth) could later get over hating each other and bond about how much it sucks for your mom to die? This is right up there with the death of Frigga in Thor: The Dark World as aggravating bullshit where female characters get killed solely so male characters can get the fuck over their emotional constipation and deal with their interpersonal problems like adults. ARGH.
- Wow, the Traveler is a lot smaller than I expected… I kid, but I was very amused by the new alien species introduced in ID:R because it did make it feel like a quasi-prequel for Destiny. However, the thing I do like here is that with the introduction of this alien and the fact that humans are being invited to join an interstellar war (glossing over here for a moment the dumbness of “come lead us”) shows that there’s a plan for the franchise to change and grow and go in a slightly new direction. It’s not just going to be humans defending Earth until we all die of old age and boredom.
- Dr. Okun and Dr. Isaacs were my favorite part of this movie, and I will fight anyone on this point. I had to keep checking with my friend that yes, I wasn’t imagining things. We were getting queer text rather than subtext in this film. I think it’s just still such a rare thing that I had a hard time believing my eyes and the fact that Dr. Okun kept calling Dr. Isaacs “baby” and that Dr. Isaacs kept bringing Dr. Okun orchids. Old married couple science husbands, okay? They are precious to me and I loved every second of them. I’m not pleased about Dr. Isaacs getting taken out at the end, though. I suppose they had to kill some of the characters, but other than President Whitmore, I wonder about some of the choices.