Independence Day: Resurgence Review
Late last night we sat down, full of excitement and anticipation, to a back to back double feature. This was: Independence Day (1996) and Independence Day: Resurgence (2016). We’re keen fans of alien invasion films and especially ones that take the threat of invasion seriously. You might have often heard the theory that if aliens were to make contact with us, the end result would likely not be good for us as a species. Although littered with humour, these films truly explore the notion of a hostile invading alien race and they explore it well.
Before we jump into our review of Independence Day: Resurgence, we should first point out just how much we enjoyed watching the extended cut of Independence Day on the big screen. We found that, having not seen the film for years, it really gets it humour spot on and its thrill levels just right. While it might be looked back on as a bang for your buck blockbuster, we feel that it’s far more than that, and it was very helpful watching it right before the new film, as it allowed us to spot a crucial few details. Below you will find our our spoiler-heavy review of Independence Day: Resurgence.
Set 20 years after the events of Independence Day (in line with real time), Independence Day: Resurgence (again directed by Roland Emmerich) explores the idea of what happens when a previously defeated alien race has time to go away, prepare for a second invasion, then come back to try again. As you might expect, the alien race this time returns with a much larger, more formidable force, this time also with one of their Harvest Queens on board (one of many Harvest Queens that exist within the race as a whole).
The approach taken is to retain some of the old cast (Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner, Bill Pullman), whilst shedding others (Will Smith’s character Captain Steven Hiller, who appears to have died between this film and the last), and, crucially, depicting the children from the last film now as grown adults who are fully combat ready and whom hold high positions in their respective military or political fields. It’s a smart move and watching this directly after the first film we did get a sense of fulfilment out of watching the children grow and protect the Earth in the same manner in which they watched their parents protected it.
The youth of Independence Day are not the only new additions. This time, the Earth’s primary fleet of fighter pilots holds citizens from other nations too (such as Angelababy’s Rain Lao), which makes perfect sense. William Fichtner also heads up the military, and he seems like such a blockbuster actor that it now seems odd that he wasn’t cast in the original film. Maika Monroe really does a great job as Patricia Whitmore (the daughter of now Ex-President Whitmore who was nicknamed “Munchkin” in the first film), selling the emotional scenes with exceptional skill and also providing a character rebellious enough to keep her interesting.
Liam Hemsworth, who is no doubt the “let’s get a big ticket, popular youngster” choice for the film (Liam having earned his fame from The Hunger Games) also does a fine job as the smirking, rule-skirting, ladies man (which is surely a replacement for the Will Smith role). Hemsworth always comes across as likeable and is a fine actor. The fringe youngsters, such as Angelababy, all prove to make interesting part of one great team.
Humour is an important part of this franchise and Independence Day really got its humour right. Independence Day: Resurgence, then, tries its best to replicate the timed jaunts and humorous occurrences. For the the most part it manages this, only falling a little flat on occasion, which does make the film feel far short of the first film’s cunning.
It is in its narrative choices that the films falls down. We noticed that in Independence Day the humans speculate that the aliens want our planet because they have very similar biological requirements to us (such as breathing oxygen). This makes sense – an alien race building their empire and stealing planets, to provide homes for their growing hordes, until they ruin each planet. However, Independence Day: Resurgence chooses to change this lore. Here, they instead state that the aliens are not intending to live on planet Earth, but are rather only here to drill down into the Earth’s core and mine the molten core, which they use to fuel and create their technology (and which would immediately destroy our planet). This seems ludicrous to us and we much preferred the first film’s explanation.
Not only does the film change that lore, but it also goes as far as to claim that one ship did manage to land at the end of Independence Day and that they began the drilling process, before they were wiped out by the local African population. It all seems an unnecessary change of motivation for the aliens, when really, the previous explanation made far more sense.
There is one key surprise that we loved in the film. This was introducing a third alien race and taking the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach. This third race appear to the humans just before the second invasion hits, and being jumpy and paranoid about a second invasion, we attack them. This third alien race proves to be a race who long ago shed their biological bodies for a virtual existence, which we love, and they are a race who actively try to defend planets from the aggressive alien race. They manage this, effectively, by installing turret guns around the planet’s hemisphere, which sounded ridiculous to us and we even heard someone burst out in incredulous laughter in the cinema, upon this explanation.
This third race is ultimately under-utilised. We don’t learn a great deal about them, nor do we learn why the Harvest Queen will seemingly do anything to murder the peaceful visitor, even at the hands of ruining her own invasion.
The film biggest flaw is not delivering an ending that is grand enough that it feels like a suitable conclusion. What the film culminates in is a ground-based battle between the Harvest Queen and the humans, in a desert setting. The Queen is killed, causing the rest of the fleet to flee because “when a Harvest Queen dies, the other Harvest Queens call the fleet back”, which it itself is another strange notion to us, because even though this is a species with a hive mind, they still out number us immensely even after the Queen dies, and the individual aliens often show a lot of will and spirit of their own. So a simply continuation of their invasion could have seen them win outright and easily.
The end segment leaves you feeling a little cheated. If what played out in the end had rather been perhaps a mid-point battle for the film, and then a grander one had arrived at the film’s true close, then the entire film would have proven more satisfying. This brings with it the issue of extending the run time, but the film only clocks in at 120 minutes (2 hours), which means that there was ample room to fill out another 30 minutes or even a further hour.
Independence Day: Resurgence is a good sequel and its merits should not be ignored. We rarely see sequels that are planned out so well and which treat what came before with such a reverence and respect. And the final line in the film about taking the fight to the alien’s themselves is a truly salivating one. But ultimately, it’s a film that left us feeling underwhelmed. A second, grander and more complex finale was needed in order to round the film out into something suitably substantial. And the little plot changes and hiccups scattered within don’t help the franchise at all. We recommend that you see this impressive yet flawed sequel, but we encourage you to lower your expectations upon entry.
Image credits: 20th Century Fox