Directed By: Roland Emmerich
Written By: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicholas Wright, James A Woods, James Vanderbilt
Liam Hemsworth: Jake Morrison
Jeff Goldblum: David Levinson
Bill Pullman: President Whitmore
Brent Spiner: Dr. Brackish Okun
Jessie T. Usher: Capt. Dylan Hiller
Maika Monroe: Patricia Whitmore
Sela Ward: President Lanford
William Fichtner: General Adams
Vivica A. Fox: Jasmine Hiller
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Catherine Marceaux
Deobia Oparei: Dikembe UMbutu
Judd Hirsch: Julius Levinson
I thoroughly enjoyed Independence Day (1996). It’s fascinating, and a little daunting, to realize I saw that movie two decades ago. Time indeed flies. It’s a movie one can see again and again. Its slightly corny emotion and appeal to patriotism and the nobility of humanity doesn’t go out of style. God grant it never will, something that doesn’t seem a sure thing these days.
Therefore, I’ve been looking forward to Independence Day: Resurgence, and saw it at the very first showing at my local theater. The room was only about half full, but the showing was at 1100 on a Friday morning, so that’s probably not a very accurate predictor of the ultimate success of the movie.
I won’t spoil the film for those that want to see it, however, one may safely stop reading at the end of this paragraph if they are not inclined to see it in the theater. It is not a movie that must be seen in the theater, but it is probably best seen there due to the overall scope of the landscapes, such as a 3000-mile wide alien mothership. I’ve no doubt we’ve all wasted money on far, far worse forms of entertainment. This is a movie worth seeing on DVD, and seeing more than once.
Many of the elements that made the original so enjoyable are present: such as loveable, quirky characters, wry, situational humor, noble self-sacrifice, lots of dogfights, everything in sight exploding, great courage, and save-the-world-at-the-very-last-second suspense. Less enjoyable is the sort of dopey “we’re all one people” sentimentality of the kind that did not impress the British as they voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 1016, just a day before the release of the movie.
Would a world-threatening alien menace cause all of the nations of the Earth to band together with noble purpose? Unlikely, but for the purposes of the movie, it’s not excessively jarring.
In terms of plot, it’s virtually identical to the original. Aliens come to Earth and try to destroy it. They’re enormously powerful, and almost wipe us out, but with great bravery and self-sacrifice, a handful of plucky Earthlings get the better of them at the last second. That’s pretty much it.
Character development is more or less non-existent, but this isn’t that kind of movie, nor does anyone expect it to be. Liam Hemsworth, whose brother Chris is best known for his role as Thor, plays Jake Morrison, a sort of ace fighter pilot in the dog house, and the love interest, with virtually no time for love, of the ex-president’s daughter, Maika Monroe, who is a primary aid to Sela Ward, who plays the current president, who soon ends up dead. Ward, not Monroe. Monroe is also a crack fighter pilot who used to fly with Jake. Jake flies about doing heroics and does have a nice alien-insulting scene, and of course, saves the day.
Jessie T. Usher is Dylan, the son of Capt. Steven Hiller, played by Will Smith in the original. Smith isn’t in this movie, his earlier character apparently having been killed in some past act of heroism. Dylan, at the tender rank of Captain, is the commander of the world’s most elite squadron of space fighters, an entirely international squadron of course–including one slinky Chinese babe who in one scene poses as though for a hair product commercial–most of whom are obliterated early as well. There are only about 12 of them, which considering everyone knows the aliens attack in massive swarms of fighters, is a bit odd, but it’s in the script, and they’re elite, so why not?
Oh yes, since the original movie, we have figured out the alien’s technology, so we have aircraft with fusion drives and directed energy weapons, helicopters without rotors, directed energy rifles, and directed energy cannon, a defense satellite constellation around Earth, and a defense base on the moon and at Saturn, etc. Surprising, most people still drive common internal combustion vehicles. Also surprising is retaining the size and shape limitations of helicopters when their power sources no longer require those limitations. Go figure.
Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as the ubergeek who figures everything out, but he really doesn’t in this movie. His annoying, slightly endearing dad, played by Judd Hirsch, is equally annoying, but not endearing, in this movie. Bill Pullman plays the former president who engages in heroics in this movie as well, and William Fichtner–you’ll recognize him–is the stereotypical square-jawed general played by Robert Loggia in the original. Loggia has a brief cameo, and from his depleted appearance–he doesn’t utter a single word–may have actually died (he died 12-04-15) before his makeup could be removed.
Vivica A. Fox, who played Will Smith’s stripper girlfriend/wife in the original is now a medical doctor(?!) whose entire role is to die heroically saving a patient and her baby. She speaks, perhaps, ten words. Her death is witnessed by her son, Dylan, who watches helplessly from his fighter, but oddly, the potential motivation and action a screenwriter might derive from that moment is almost nonexistent.
Charlotte Gainsbourg plays a sort of psychologist/love interest of Goldblum’s character who is instrumental in sort of figuring out some linguistic issues in a subplot that really goes nowhere, and Deobia Oparei well plays a large, scowling, but plucky African warlord. What’s a large, scowling but plucky African warlord doing in a space movie? Being plucky and African.
Brent Spiner, most beloved as Lt. Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, plays Dr. Okun, who didn’t die in the last movie, and awakens after 20 years in a coma when the aliens are approaching, due to the psychic link he got last time. He has some of the best scenes in the movie and has the opportunity to geek out.
Given their sparse and predictable lines, and roles that are little more than stereotypes, all the actors do competent work
Five people have screenwriting credits. They must have contributed about two lines apiece. Shakespeare it’s not, but again, that’s not the point of the movie.
The CGI is up to contemporary professional standards, and on first viewing, there were no visible continuity errors. Those of a scientific or tactical bent will surely find a great deal about which to quibble. For example, none of the pilots wear oxygen masks, which is probably so Hemsworth can wear a fashionably scraggly-ish beard for the entire movie–one can’t get a good mask seal–but is pretty much death for fighter pilots, to say nothing of pilots that fly in space, as Hemsworth and the others do.
In the end, after a wild, last-second salvation of Earth, our artificial intelligence alien allies–where did they come from? Just roll with it–want Earthlings, who they think a remarkable species, of course, to lead their alliance of many worlds against the evil aliens. Forget that they called us primitive, but within a span of minutes decided we should be their leaders. We humans are so unique. They will, of course, bring us millennia into the technological future so we can lead a galactic coalition, including faster than light interstellar travel, which sets up plenty of opportunities for sequels–if this movie makes enough money.
Is Independence Day: Resurgence good art? Will it, a century into the future, be lauded as a landmark of the cinematic art? Certainly not. It is, however, pleasant, occasionally funny, and exciting summer entertainment. Though mostly predictable, it moves at a quick pace. As I earlier noted, it’s a good-to-have on DVD, and while it is best seen on the big screen, no one’s life will be diminished if they wait for the DVD. However, if there is to be a sequel, which holds great promise, it might not be a bad idea to see it in the theater, thus encouraging all those writers.