I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Independence Day: Resurgence

tn_idra.k.a. ID4-2:RSRG1of3

In case you skipped my INDEPENDENCE DAY review last week: For me, a connoisseur of the summer blockbuster, its release twenty years ago was a dark time. It was one of the earliest cases of the widespread “It’s not supposed to be Shakespeare!” defense in the internet age, and one of the first times I felt wildly out of step with the popular opinion on a movie like that. I already thought JURASSIC PARK was no JAWS but here people were forgetting that a blockbuster movie of that quality had come out just a few summers earlier. Apparently these expensive studio sci-fi romps could only be idiotic and painfully unfunny and if I couldn’t jump up and down hooting and hollering about any dumb bullshit that they decided to put on screens then I was the asshole.

20 years later I’m softer on it. I still think it sucks, but it’s a funny sucks. And I’ve been able to laugh through other equally terrible (though never as societally elevated) Roland Emmerich pictures including 2012. As long as we’re talking about him as a back-up Rob Cohen, not what we have now instead of James Cameron or George Lucas, I can appreciate him.

But INDEPENDENCE DAY is not remembered like it’s STEALTH. People sometimes discuss it as if it’s a legitimate movie for sane adults to enjoy non-ironically. This sequel has been in the works for years, and it wasn’t the studio that had to be talked into it. Also, as much as I like JURASSIC PARK, I was kind of surprised when the kids who grew up on it helped turn JURASSIC WORLD into one of the biggest movies ever. For all we knew, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE could’ve been an event.

But no, it’s flopping, despite being what I would argue is a decent sequel, because it’s the exact same type of shit, enjoyable in the exact same way, without being a total carbon copy. But society has changed in two decades. They no longer want that type of shit. Is it fair to be proud of ourselves for that?

mp_idrWithin the movie, this has been a productive 20 years too. Our scientists have reverse-engineered alien technology and culturally appropriated it so, for example, the president’s helicopter has an alien engine thing on top instead of a propeller. We have a military base on the moon and people fly around in “tugs” equipped with robot arms. (I like the part where one of them holds up a massive falling structure like a robot Superman.) According to an expository presidential speech, all the countries get along now, thanks to President Whitmore’s famous speech that brought everyone together. Jeff Goldblum has gone from “glorified cable repairman” to head of the intelligence apparatus, but he wears a cool guy leather jacket and everybody just calls him by his first name.

The original characters aren’t brought back in particularly interesting ways. The ex-president is treated like he has dementia or some other disorder. Or at least he’s broken down in some way, symbolized by a cane and a scraggly beard… BUT THEN ALL THE SUDDEN HE SHAVES OFF THE BEARD BECAUSE HE IS READY TO SAVE THE WORLD AGAIN MY FRIENDS.

Vivica Fox has gone from being a stripper and main character to a doctor and guest star. Will Smith has gone from being one of the main characters and alive to being a painting hung proudly in the White House because he’s dead. Cause of death: different career priorities. His son (Jessie T. Usher, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL) has become a hotshot military pilot in his place. I can’t decide if it’s progressive or just lazy storytelling that nobody ever mentions he’s the stepson, not biological son, when they give him the princely treatment. He’s even the leader of something called “The International Legacy Squad,” which also includes the daughter of presidential UFO exploder Whitmore and the brother of Chris Hemsworth, whose standard issue coolness and occasional smart ass line make him the most likable character (and top billed, above Goldblum!) The children of Randy Quaid’s character, major characters in the first one, apparently did not grow up to be awesome pilots, because they’re not mentioned.

Brent Spiner, whose long-haired mad scientist died early in ID4, is now said to have been in a coma since then, and has a bigger part basically being wacky in the style of Randy Quaid. At least they gave him what seems to be a gay partner, so maybe he’s a personal character to Emmerich. Robert Loggia, who died in real life, makes a brief cameo. I assumed it was digital fakery, but they give him a credit as if he’s in it, and he only died about 8 months ago, so maybe he did film something.

Maika Monroe plays ex-first-daughter Patricia Whitmore. She was so good in THE GUEST and IT FOLLOWS, and she does what she can here. Good for her getting a paycheck, but I would barely have noticed her if I didn’t already like her from those other movies. Angelababy (TAI CHI HERO, RISE OF THE LEGEND) plays Lieutenant Pandering Tothechinesemarket, who gets a couple sassy lines insulting some comic relief guy that’s always hitting on her (Nicolas Wright maybe? Or Travis Tope? I don’t remember the character’s name.)

There are at least two sets of characters who would be completely cut out of a well told story: the group of people on a boat whose only purpose is to occasionally check in via radio about… some space ship thing they are measuring or something, and the group of kids who Judd Hirsch drives across the country in a bus, just so that Judd Hirsch can be in the movie again. Since it’s an INDEPENDENCE DAY movie he coincidentally drives into the same desert where his son is right before the action climax of the movie, which he and the kids watch like they’re at a drive-in.

These days it’s the stupidity that I like most about these movies. Emmerich has already destroyed the whole world in 2012, and audiences no longer enjoy simulated destruction of landmarks, so there’s not much he can do in that department past a few fanatically detailed digital depictions of shifting debris and smoke. Instead I get my thrills from the ludicrous oversights in the world-building. For example, they’ve had 20 years to learn about the invaders, adapt their technology and prepare for their return, but they haven’t bothered to come up with a name for them! They just call them “aliens.” And we are told that there have been no armed conflicts in the world since ID4, yet

1) one of the new characters is a beret wearing, machete wielding African leader (Deobia Oparei, ALIEN 3, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS 2, DEATH RACE 2) specifically referred to by Goldblum as a “warlord,” and

2) everyone is moved to action again by another speech about setting aside our differences again.

The aliens are not improved in any way, BUT THEIR SHIPS ARE LIKE A HUNDRED TIMES BIGGER. Occasionally we see how big the mothership is in comparison to Earth, and it’s amazing that its shadow alone doesn’t have catastrophic effects. I guess these are the aliens that got called in for backup after the first invasion, but the type of backup where your reinforcements are way more powerful than your invading force and also take exactly twenty years to show up. Our heroes study clues, such as ancient symbols and machinery turning on in the wreckage of the crashed spaceships from last time, and find out about this just in time to not be ready for it.

They also discover a weird alien orb. Goldblum wants to investigate further, but the president (Sela Ward, STEELE JUSTICE) decides to blow it up to be safe. Nobody mentions that this happened when they later figure out those were the good guys.

Since the aliens here are like shitty bootleg xenomorphs, of course we learn that they have a Queen. The gimmick though – and I like this one – is that she’s like fifty feet tall or something. So the finale is a battle against a giant monster running through the desert swatting at the various vehicles that attack her.

I’m sorry guys, I cannot personally consider RESURGENCE to be a good movie, but I can absolutely recommend it if you get a kick out of the ludicrousness of INDEPENDENCE DAY or other Emmerich joints. I was laughing from the opening scene (where the Queen alien angrily watches a video of President Whitmore’s speech) to the last (a set-up for a dumb sequel that I’m guessing will never happen). Don’t worry, I was able to muffle myself out of politeness, but people apparently taking it more seriously seemed pretty pissed at the movie when it was over, so I believe I had the right attitude. Also I would like to note that one guy got up maybe halfway through and made a big show of putting on his coat so everyone would know it was a certified walkout. I definitely got more out of it than him.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, July 11th, 2016 at 11:19 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Independence Day: Resurgence”

  1. SPOILERS, KINDA? LIKE, YOU COULD PROBABLY SEE THIS COMING A MILE OFF BUT MAYBE NOT SO I’M BEING CONSIDERATE JUST IN CASE?

    So..let’s say–just hypothetically, you understand–that I caught more feelings about what happened to Bill Pullman in this movie than about what happened to Harrison Ford in that other long-belated sequel that came out recently… If that happened (hypothetically, you remember), that doesn’t mean I’m, like, turning into one of those 90s Kids they make all the quizzes about, does it? I’m not suddenly going to start playing Pokemon and knowing what a Spongepants Squareman is, am I?

    Gee, I feel strange all of a sudden. I need to sit down. Maybe a nice, cold Crystal Pepsi will clear my head…

    Gah! It’ happening! I can feel myself changing, very rapidly and without attention to detail, like a shitty early-90s morphing effect! Suddenly, I can tell the members of Blink-182 apart! I think CON AIR is a classic action film! I remember HEY DUDE! GOD HELP ME, I REMEMBER HEY DUDE!!!!!!!

    Guys, if any of you know where to find Griff, tell him I might need to siphon off some of his blood to make an antidote. And make it fast. I feel the urge to eat some Lunchables and maybe buy a red fitted Yankees hat.

    (But seriously, this incredibly dumb movie is a lot of fun and also pretty fucking sexist. I mean, they brought back Robert Loggia even though he clearly died in the middle of shooting so they just propped him up on a stack of pillows WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S style, yet Vivica Fox only has like six lines, they recast First Daughter [Her?] with a younger, blonder, less interesting starlet, and they don’t even mention Goldblum’s ex. Yeah, the President is technically a woman but they don’t even let her fly a fighter jet or do anything else presidential so I don’t know how much she counts. Come on, Emmerich. Stop fucking up Dtroyt’s weekends and give the ladies a chance to shine.)

  2. I like that this movie has a very strong “citizen of the world” vibe, which is, of course, exactly what Emmerich is. The first one was about Americans putting aside their differences to kill aliens, this one is about the whole world putting aside their differences to kill aliens (especially, erm, the Chinese). And in fact, we even find out that #NotAllAliens. It’s a stupid message, of course, but it’s also oddly charming in a world where action movies usually slant kinda nationalist.

    I also appreciate that the movie, while obviously being a clear sequel, doesn’t do quite the same things as the previous one. It avoids trying to re-up and make you remember scenes from the original, which is exactly the opposite of what people probably wanted (looking at you, JURASSIC WORLD), but to me gives it a little more reason to exist. It keeps the same iconography but comes up with new gimmicks for it (especially the Kaiju fight at the end). It’s not good or anything, and the script is somehow is even more messy and inelegant than its predecessor (a result, no doubt, of the required 40 screenwriters on anything that costs more than 50 mil), but I dunno. It’s so belligerently old-fashioned in the way it sees movies and screen characters. I mean, so was the original, but it stood out a little less. Nowadays this kind of corny melodrama and quippy banter seem almost quaint. We’re supposed to be about gritty realism now, and Emmerich hasn’t been to reality in a long, long time.

    Plus, you gotta admit, the effects look great, and you can fucking see them, in all their glory. At least Emmerich still owns a tripod.

  3. I loved the opening part too Vern. It’s as if the aliens got a hold of a DVD of the first movie. Also, the schlocky shot of Judd Hirsch on the boat as the tidal wave and destruction comes toward him is so funny. If he had died in that moment, I may have cried. You’ve also gotta love that two of the screenwriters are also characters. That doesn’t happen that often.

  4. Majestyk- Your whole comment is cracking me up. And I appreciate the shout out to end the Emmerich Partygate.

  5. ‘You’ve also gotta love that two of the screenwriters are also characters.’

    Bet you James Vanderbilt is pissed.

  6. I agree whole heartedly with this review. Dumb fun, nothing more, nothing less.

  7. Great review as usual, captured my feelings exactly.

    Two ridiculous things I loved:

    1. That wonderful exposition line “I can’t believe you’ve been in a coma for 7300 days!”.
    2. The fact that everyone keeps calling Whitmore “president”.

  8. sPOILERS

    The film was certainly dumb, but I can’t say I even thought it was fun. When Judd Hirsch is one of the better things in an action movie, you have problems. Even the characters they brought back from the original were just a waste of time. Bill Pullman shaves of his beard to heroically sacrifice himself, only for us to realise that his sacrifice didn’t do shit, and the alien queen survived. Jeff Goldblum was being Jeff Goldblum, which at least made it bearable.

    This is probably the worst blockbuster of the year. Think Hollywood will struggle to make a big budget movie as poor as this for quite a while.

  9. Kowalski, once you become President of the US you are pretty much always refered to as the President or Mr President. That’s a real life thing.

  10. Shit guys, I was planning on maybe not bothering to even rent this due to complete lack of interest. Now you tell me there is a kaiju finale? Shit… I think I’ll go see this in theaters then…

    btw – this isn’t a sarcastic in-joke about how Emmerich directed Godzilla, you guys legit sold me on this thing.

  11. Sternshein-
    Oops! Guess i’m too european to know that:)

  12. Yes, Geoffreyjar, there IS a Satan Claus and this DOES have a Kaiju battle at the end.

    Just saw this at the Motor VU Drive-In in Dallas, Oregon this weekend on a double feature with Spielberg’s BFG – the title of which will always be “Big Fucking Giant” in my head, as Roald Dahl intended because he was hilarious. I know it’s not the cuppa tea for you guys around here, but I liked it a lot, and it had the Lady Prime Minister from DOCTOR WHO in it, and it made me laugh. So there.

    THEN ID4:R comes on, and within 10 minutes, Mrs.Shemp says “I’m out” and heads into the back of the van to go to sleep, just like she does whenever Nicholas Cage is in anything. So it was me and the Dog watching this flick, and then HE nods off within about 5 more minutes and starts farting like an infernal bean machine, so it was just me with the windows down.

    This was better than I expected. Not the greatest flick of the year, but the old cast were awesome and the new kids didn’t offend me too terribly much, and whenever Judd Hirsch was on the screen, I heard the TAXI theme song in my head, which is in the Top 5 Greatest TeeVee Theme Songs of all time, so hurray for that, even though I’m sure Emmerich would probably be pissed off that I kept thinking about TAXI during his alien party. But fuck that guy.

    I’m also going to give a quick shout out to Data being gay, which was cool and his relationship with that bear dude was probably my favorite part of the movie. I would love to see a TV show about those 2 guys, but it would have to be set before the events of ID4 because SPOILERS! they kill off the bear guy at the end of this movie just like they killed off SPOILERS AGAIN! that awesome head chick on The 100 Teevee show last year. But DRAMATICALLY I guess killing off Data’s man makes him go total badass like Rambo in the last act and provides his motivation for the next flick. Eh, okay.

    But a quick word about the special effects sequences: maybe it was just me, but in some parts, I was having a hard time figuring out what was happening and where they were supposed to be. It wasn’t as disorienting and quizzical and WTF as the TRANSFORMERS movies, goodness knows… but still, I was confused mainly about the logistics of the aliens landing on Earf and what the hell was happening inside the giant spaceship when the kids where dicking around in there.

    Oh, and Jeff Goldblum’s performance felt to me like he was barely restraining himself from punching Emmerich in the nads every time he was on screen. Why? Because he knew from past experience that (a) Spielburg could’ve directed the action and performances better and (b) Cronenburger would’ve made the aliens much more disgusting and rad. But Goldblum gotta eat, we don’t hold it against you, Jeff. You were amazing in MISTER FROST.

  13. Yeah, count me in on kinda enjoying this despite it being quite bad. When Jeff Goldblum was driving a school bus filled with children and was being pursued by a 100 foot tall xenomorph queen ripoff – well, I just had a big goofy grin on my face. It was wonderful schlock. I just can’t hate something that made me giggle with delight like that.

    The accountant though – that guy was the BAD schlock.

  14. *SPOILERS* Saw this as a joke double-feature with Arrival and was surprised that they both revolved around people trying to de-code drawings of mysterious circles with scribbles in them (and both feature aliens communicating in a fogged up room behind a glass window even though that was also in ID4). But yeah, I guess everyone’s “it’s not that bad” reaction to this somehow set my expectations too high, because the whole time I kept thinking “man, this is really that bad”. As much as people love to shit on the original, it at least had a few interesting characters, a sense of scale, a surprising amount of heart, and a decent amount of tension. This one just seemed…off, like I was watching a workprint or a filmed first draft. The big showpieces have already been seen before (and better) in San Andreas and Transformers 4 – what’s the point of a big disaster-porn blockbuster where the spectacle doesn’t work, the money shots don’t work, there’s zero weight to anything, and everything looks like a green-screen shot straight from the Prequels? The whole thing is incredibly underwritten – the new characters don’t connect at all (Why was Liam Hemsworth immediately more likable in Expendables 2 with half the screen time? Who are these teenagers we’re suddenly following? Who are these guys in the boat and why do we care about them? Does anyone think this fake John Oliver-looking dude is actually funny, and isn’t this literally the same unfunny character from White House Down?) The old characters don’t have any of the charm they showed in the original – Goldblum and Hirsch have zero funny lines this time and *SUPER SPOILER* why bring back Fox and Pullman (and Smith’s character) just to unceremoniously kill them? I’m not THAT invested in their characters or anything but it just seems unnecessary and uncalled for. And don’t get me started on the Mae Whitman thing. I don’t like to pull the outrage card but this cast needs all the quirk and interestingness it can get, because none of it is on the screen.

    The threat is supposedly “bigger” than the last one but weirdly seems smaller and more manageable – I mean the first movie ended with a ROTJ-style multiple climax that spanned worldwide (and in space) against multiple motherships. This one revolves around everyone shooting one kaiju out in the desert without even any buildings or anything to smash, and they just beat it by shooting it a bunch of times. Awesome. At least Emmerich’s Godzilla ’98 had the decency to do it in the city and had the heroes using “smarts” and knowledge of the environment to set a trap for her, but here, yeah, let’s just shoot her a bunch of times. Plus, it takes a special kind of movie to make ID4 look like a masterpiece in comparison, but it takes an extra special one to make me appreciate Battle: Los Angeles. I mean, ID4 probably didn’t have it in the budget to show too much of the aliens – now with 20 years advancement in FX, we still barely see them and the Aliens-style ground action is rote and uninteresting; it’s like the ground fighting stuff was thrown in just so people wouldn’t complain about its absence. Btw – I like how the movie teases us with the good guys having alien technology we can use against the aliens, but the laser guns seem to basically do the same thing regular guns did in the first one. It’s like the “alien technology” angle was just a cheap way to have the main characters be wherever the plot requires them to be real quick with spaceships. Anyway, this is a bad one and possibly the final nail in the Emmerich coffin, I can’t believe I’m wishing for a “return to his roots” but he should look back and see what made his early movies work since I don’t think he’s made a good movie in 15 years.

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