Film Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

This scattershot but frequently spectacular sequel sees Roland Emmerich reclaiming his title as the DeMille of global destruction.

“We had 20 years to prepare… so did they,” states the tagline of “Independence Day: Resurgence,” a cheerfully ludicrous re-encounter of the third kind that doesn’t show any particular evidence of all that planning. Sketchily conceived in all departments but its sensational, more-is-more visual effects — which is, let’s be honest, where its efforts should be concentrated — this belated, cluttered sequel to the 1996 smash “Independence Day” breaks far less ground than its alien invaders, but confirms director Roland Emmerich as modern cinema’s most spirited conductor of popcorn chaos. Perhaps excessively concerned with burnishing the supposed legacy of its predecessor — a distant memory, if that, for much of its target audience — this cinematic Big Mac entertains abundantly on its own second-hand merits. While unlikely to become the pop-cultural behemoth “ID4” was two decades ago, “Resurgence” should cast a sizeable shadow over its box-office competition.

Nostalgia, as they say, is not what it used to be. When “Independence Day” nuked all before its path in the summer of 1996, it registered as a buffed-up sci-fi twist on the heaving, heavily populated disaster spectaculars of the 1970s, prompting a wave of similarly muscle-headed, brink-of-doom epics in its wake — including a couple more by Emmerich himself. In 2016, however, the chief point of reference for “Independence Day: Resurgence” is “Independence Day” itself, even as its narrative and aesthetic (now in postmillennial 3D) provides a handy summation of the Hollywood blockbuster’s evolution over the last 20 years: Just as the “ID4” influence has been detectable in everything from “Armageddon” to “Pacific Rim,” so are those successors reflected in Emmerich’s latest.

Whether our collective memory of “Independence Day” is quite as treasured and detailed as “Resurgence” imagines it to be is another question. Its rather scattered screenplay — written by five hands, where the 1996 film managed with two — forges a dense network of callbacks to established events and characters, in certain cases via next-generation newbies. The previous film’s hero, Will Smith’s fighter pilot Steven Hiller, has passed on in vague circumstances, succeeded by his strapping son Dylan (Jessie T. Usher); also following a noble military path is former first daughter Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe, replacing Mae Whitman), whose dad (a silver-bearded Bill Pullman) is addled by trauma from the attack of 1996 — since which time, steely new U.S. president Lanford (Sela Ward) dubiously informs us, “We have had no armed conflict.” “Resurgence” may notionally be set on planet Earth, but it plainly takes place in a parallel universe.

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Joining the new guard, and seemingly assuming the lead role for further franchise entries, is Liam Hemsworth as Jake, a renegade pilot with all the palatable roguishness and toothy luster of “Top Gun’s” Maverick Mitchell; while he’s not a blood relative of any known characters, we’re informed that he was orphaned in the first alien attack. As the skies darken and ominous extra-terrestrial signals are received ahead of the July 4 holiday, will these plucky kids kick enough alien ass to do their folks proud? Even if we had the inclination to care, we hardly have the time, as the writers race to cram in a surfeit of storylines, many of them involving returning players.

Satellite engineer David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is back on hand to spearhead the scientific investigation of the encroaching enemy, as a 3,000-mile-wide mothership looms over the planet. His calls for caution are overruled by the trigger-happy new POTUS — though if “Resurgence” has any liberal political subtext to offer, that’s cancelled out by its own gleeful firearm fetish. (“This thing is way cooler than a machete!” exclaims a federal accountant-turned-fighter upon his first handling of a super-sized alien blaster.) Meanwhile, eccentric scientist Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) awakes from a 20-year coma to face the fresh wave of invaders, and former President Whitmore is plagued by psychic interference from their many-tentacled, near-indomitable leader. Elsewhere, Levinson’s father Julius (Judd Hirsch) is entrusted with ferrying a school bus of children to safety through the wreckage of the aliens’ first strike — an early fiesta of flaming effects work that renders incidental the eradication of several non-American cities. (Between this and “London Has Fallen,” the Big Smoke is having a mighty tough time of it at the movies this year.)

Hardly any of these narrative strands are consistently sustained or resolved, making afterthoughts of such players as Charlotte Gainsbourg (vying with recent “Godzilla” star Juliette Binoche for the title of Most Incongruous Thesp in a Multiplex Explosion-Fest) as an earnest psychiatrist and equivocal love interest for Goldblum, and Chinese singer-actress Angelababy, as an apparently renowned fighter pilot who nonetheless merits but a handful of non-onomatopoeic lines. (No prizes for guessing that women draw the script’s shortest straws: As the new commander-in-chief, a glamorously glowering Ward gets a fraction of the action Pullman’s president did, before bowing out unceremoniously.) The film may clock in just shy of two hours — in this age of Marvel bloat, a feat of relative economy on editor Adam Wolfe’s part — but its amiably distracted structure makes it seem longer than the 145-minute “Independence Day.”

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Even if its storytelling occasionally tests patience, however, “Independence Day: Resurgence” delivers swiftly and generously when it comes to the goods most viewers will have come for — the time-honored joys of blowing stuff up, in set pieces that escalate dizzyingly in size and context. Whether visualizing a swarm of fly-like fighter jets peppering a gurning alien queen with fluorescent artillery, or a blazing East Asian freeway giving up its grip on gravity, Emmerich has a natural showman’s command of his script’s most dumbly fantastical demands; he may know no restraint, but he also knows where no restraint is required of him. Landing less than a year after the well-intentioned dramatic flub of “Stonewall,” the aptly named “Resurgence” is nothing if not a reminder of where his gaudy sensibility is best accommodated.

Most crucially of all, Emmerich has a classicist’s appreciation of tactility and scale: He’s the DeMille of global destruction. Where many of today’s superhero epics bear a plasticky digital finish that diminishes their on-screen heroism, there’s something genuinely, boomingly imposing about “Resurgence’s” largest visual coups, dreamed up by as many as nine of the industry’s top effects houses, typical of the film’s no-expense-spared immoderation.

The work may be state-of-the-art, but there’s something in its near-tangible surfaces — the mottled, blackened underbelly of the hovering alien craft, like a tar-varnished omelette, or the saliva-slick scales of the visitors’ own skin — that seems reassuringly non-virtual, devised as easily in 1996 as in 2016. One could criticize “Independence Day: Resurgence” for being so of a piece with its predecessor, for following its template as efficiently and dutifully as it sets up a third installment  — one that will be far less long in the making. But whether or not you’re invested in the film’s nostalgia for itself, there’s something comfortingly old-school about its excesses: It’s the end of the world, still very much as we know it.

Film Review: 'Independence Day: Resurgence'

Reviewed at 20th Century Fox screening room, London, June 21, 2016. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 119 MIN.

Production

A 20th Century Fox production. Produced by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser. Executive producers, Ute Emmerich, Larry Franco, Carsten Lorenz. Co-producers, Volker Engel, Marco Shepherd, K.C. Hodenfield.

Crew

Directed by Roland Emmerich. Screenplay, Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, James Vanderbilt; story, Emmerich, Devlin, Woods, Emmerich; based on characters created by Emmerich, Devlin. Camera (color, widescreen, 3D), Markus Förderer; editor, Adam Wolfe; music, Harald Kloser, Thomas Wanker; production designer, Barry Chusid; art director, Patrick M. Sullivan, Jr.; set decorator, Jay Hart; costume designer, Lisy Christl; sound (Dolby Atmos), David Brownlow; supervising sound editor, Paul N.J. Ottosson; re-recording mixers, Ottosson, Michael Minkler; visual effects supervisor, Volker Engel; visual effects, Uncharted Territory, Scanline VFX, Weta Digital Limited, MPC, Image Engine, Cinesite, Digital Domain, Trixter Film, Luxx Studios; stunt coordinator, John Stoneham, Jr.; line producer, Amy Greene Vines; associate producer, Jeffrey Harlacker; assistant director, K.C. Hodenfield; casting, John Papsidera.

With

Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, Travis Tope, Judd Hirsch, Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Fichtner, Angelababy, Nicolas Wright, Deobia Oparei, Joey King, John Storey, Brent Spiner, Sela Ward, Vivica A. Fox, Chin Han, Robert Loggia.

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  1. isv says:

    Well, I think Independence Day Resurgence was a good movie. Despite that stupid continuity mistake with a gun at the end of the movie, easy to remove cuttig out the first 40 frames of the shot, well, despite that, the movie was good.

    I would like to see a third sequel in the cinemas.

    Well, yesterday I saw the Blu-ray edition. And I wasn’t happy with it: The white zones were overexposed. And the colour wasn’t right. Then I saw the DVD and it was worse. It’s funny to see how the blu-ray/dvd is ruining cinema now. I saw the movie in the cinema and it was dark. But the colour was credible and the whites zones were good. So, the movie that I saw in the cinemas wasn’t the same movie that I saw in the Blu-ray/Dvd edition. So, if those days cinema is digital, why Blu-ray/Dvd’s editions are so horrible?

  2. Ms Rich says:

    how can so many people write a film so badly? Amazing. Thishad no heart, and was just plain awful.

  3. Steve says:

    I continually strove to dislodge myself from this overworked review.

  4. Stephen Hauf says:

    Compared to the original Independence Day Film – I am very disappointed.

    There is total absence of plot . How the Rabbi ended up at White Sands , New Mexico driving a school bus full of abandoned pre-teen day campers while being chased by a dog like headed bi-ped/quad-ped alien boggles my mind.

    The comment that the “yoda” robot ball that was sent to advise us on how to rid our planet of nasty locust aliens is now asking us to be galactic saviors means that there may be future absurd Independence Day sequels.

  5. roland dewey booker III says:

    Independence day 1776 was the birth of modern democracy for everyone on our planet. This installment ignored that and made it a USA-only matter. The incompetent writers, producers, and directors could not see past their nationalistic prejudices. The actors pronounced the word, but the script was insufficient.If any money was made, it was only because the first installment established its American basis. But liberty and justice are not only for americans; lowercase because it is for everyone.

  6. VIPIN says:

    Movie is not that good. humans have advanced weapons as aliens do. only usa, uk, china exist according to movie. only USA has advanced warfare and others are fools according to them. they brought Chinese actress in movie, completely despising other nations. movie is actually horrible. war with queen is the main action thriller part of the movie. variety wrote extreme negative for warcraft but this movie really deserve such negative reviews. a horrible , stupid movie.

  7. I paid the full price, unfortunately. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind watching it again on cable or rent it through Netflix; but I would rather cut off my right hand than shell out more money to watch this film in the theaters again.

    By the way, do Emmerich and Devlin have a thing against middle-aged women?

  8. Paul says:

    The picture of Will Smith in the White House and having Jeff Goldblum reprise his role was already good enough for nostalgia’s sake, but did they have to prop up Robert Loggia (Gen. William Grey) to prove their point?! This movie was horrible. Thank god for $5 Tuesdays, cause there is no way I coulda live with myself if I paid full price.

    • millerfilm says:

      Guess that Tuesday discounts must be more of a thing now! I got $2.50 off my 3D screening today. It isn’t great, but I was glad that the film at least goes off in a direction different than the destruct-o-fest that it could have been. I think Loggia was in it because it was his final film appearance, and the film is dedicated to him.

  9. Will says:

    I really wanted to love this film. Unfortunately, it fell extremely short of that goal. The scenes were scattered without logical or cinematographical cohesion; It was put together in a sort of quickly-built Frankenstein of a movie that everyone hoped would somehow miraculously spring into some kind of life. But it never did. The acting was far less impressive. I place more blame on the casting crew than on the actors themselves – they did try. Where was the mystery? The anticipation? the call to arms across the screen into the hearts of the audience?!? **sigh** 2 out of 10? 2.5?

  10. Roland Emmerich you did a great work in “Independence day- resurgence” everyone praising about the squeal of “Independence day”.

  11. nasher says:

    Roland Emmerich is a classicist? He’s George Pal’s lovechild (not that that is a bad thing). He’s stolen so many plot ideas and little bits from Pal he should be paying royalties. I’m sure I will enjoy this goofy popcorn nonsense as well.

  12. Shandy says:

    Meh. I’ll probably rent it just so I can laugh about “Gale Hawthorne in space.”
    And also, I like Jeff Goldblum.

  13. Michael says:

    Frack all the haters. This movie was fun, exciting and funny. It harkens back to the days when a summer blockbuster was uplifting and unabashedly fun instead of all the cynical, dark and just plain moppy ones we get today.

  14. I am going to enjoy the shit out of this movie because no one can stop me.

  15. joyce natbony says:

    when is the sequel to fifty shades of grey coming out?

  16. Jack Monte says:

    Why is Guy Lodge not the Chief critic for Variety?

  17. Aleric says:

    Variety blasted Warcraft for being scattered and now hails ID for the same thing. It seems that the more ad space you buy the better review you get, just like Rotten Tomatoes.

  18. I imagine the Rainbow colored alien ship with gay multi ethnic creatures is in the works for the monsters in hollywood…Movies are terrible now…Although there are some decent ones…

  19. Looking forward to this movie but, I thought Dr Okun died in ID1 and yet there he was at the 1 minute mark.

  20. Password1 says:

    BREXIT;

    I like my country. I like you country. I like my boarders, I like your boarders. I like how we do things. I like how you do things.

    What “genius” came up with the idea that we all have to be the same AND give up our uniqueness?

    Answer: Global corporate megalomaniac greedy control freaks!

    Who “know better than you”!

    Just ask them whil they sail on their mega yachts or newly bought islands!

    This would include. US Federal Government, Apple, Google, AMEX, Oracle, Wells Fargo, Autodesk, Cisco, Disney, BOA, Hollywood, and on and on and on.

    This cancer on our civilization must be purged with extreme predijuice NOW…

  21. xerxes says:

    I saw this film 5 days ago. I did not enjoy it. The chemistry, comedy, character tension and action from the original movie was missing in this sequel. The plot was weak also. There was no real continuity such as we hear people want to leave with the aliens but do not really see that but we see the relationship with a right wing group leader. That handshake scene was juvenile! I do not recommend this film at all.

  22. Brad Ruley says:

    Bunch of Drudge Report right-wingers here who don’t know have to have fun with a movie.

  23. the inside word says:

    Variety was paid under the table by Fox for a favorable write-up to sell this supersized moronic pop-corn bargain base candy store spectacle.

    • Rex says:

      And if Variety hated it, you’re the type of maladjusted loser who’d accuse them of being unable to just leave their brain at the door and enjoy all the ‘splosions. Can’t win with people like you. Ever.

  24. millerfilm says:

    So, what happened? Did the studio relent and allow the critics to see this ahead of time? I thought that the movie wasn’t going to be screened for critics.

    • guylodge says:

      There were no advance press screenings in the US, but there were in the UK, where I am based.

      • millerfilm says:

        Yeah, one of those strange Hollywood things, no doubt! Thank you for the response, and for posting your review! That’s one way around what 20th was trying to accomplish by not showing it to U.S. critics, wasn’t it? :-)

      • guylodge says:

        No idea at all, sorry!

      • millerfilm says:

        Very interesting! Thanks for the perspective. So, 20th still didn’t show it to critics in the U.S. Strange. Do you have any ideas as to why they decided not to show it to U.S. critics?

  25. Lenny says:

    I’ve always thought of Emmerich and Michael Bay as the inheritors of Irwin Allens crown when it comes to “Flashpan” ergo, Don’t bother with scientific accuracy, JUST GIVE’EM MORE RAZZLE-DAZZLE!
    It definately worked for him considering all the Emmys, Oscars and money his shows on T.V. and theater brought in! The only difference between then and now is todays effects are more sophisticated!

    • millerfilm says:

      I think that Allen created one truly great film, “The Poseidon Adventure.” Then, the rest of his stuff ended up becoming increasingly ridiculous. I personally loved “The Swarm,” but in a completely oh-my-gosh-that-was-impossibly-stupid! kind of way.

  26. Robert Allen says:

    I don’t recall Independence Day very well or being very significant, maybe it started the trend of movies being dumbed down for a global audience .. the movie most of us remember that changed our view of the possibilities of movies was the movie that came out that same week .. Mars Attacks! THAT is a movie deserving of a sequel.

    • Unapologetic White Man says:

      “Mars Attacks” is one of Tim Burton’s many disasters. He should never have been allowed into the movie business. His talents would be better served as a tattoo “artist” or something stupid like that.

  27. iambicpentamaster says:

    What a snoozer!

  28. Bill Lewis says:

    I liked the first one and can’t wait to see the second.

  29. Bill B. says:

    I thought the first one was a disappointing piece of trash. Can’t imagine that I would spend money to see this. Seems like a Blu-Ray movie to me.

  30. Crab Mato says:

    Will the White house get blown up again, ’cause that just ain’t ever going to get old. And I will cheer again.

  31. Carl Parsons says:

    Who writes these reviews? They are sing-songy, wordy, and beat around the bush. Someone sure loves the sound of their own keyboard.

  32. LarryD says:

    I hope the Aliens’ computer system still uses Mac OS.

  33. Ron B says:

    Robert Loggia died in December 2015 from Alzheimer’s disease, from which he suffered since 2010. Yet he is listed in the cast. Did he have a cameo only?

  34. Hal Slusher says:

    Just wondering why you would mess with a bunch that chewed up the last fleet you sent?

  35. Dan says:

    What, do the aliens look like spiders/reptiles again. Funny, that’s not what people who claim to have een them describe them as.

  36. Bob says:

    Remind me to never stay at Guy Lodge again, …next time I’m staying at grammar’s house.

  37. Will says:

    When are they going to make a movie like this that tells the truth. We lose. There is no way we could beat a,alien force like this with our puny weapons. It may be good entertainment but a far cry from reality. To think that our president and a cable guy can out smart a alien race that can build ships like that and travel the universe. Godzilla was more plausible and factual.

    • KayFlyte says:

      Since when is a sci-fi movie anything but good entertainment ? If you want reality, read an expose about the Clinton Crime Family.

      P.S. “Travel the universe” ? Really ? A far cry from reality. How about we limit it to the Milky Way and leave it at that ?

    • Were it even possible for aliens to live on another planet outside the one they evolved on, which is very unlikely for the reasons pointed out in War of the Worlds, they would not try to remove the current inhabitants through brute force combat. They would simply release a deadly virus that wipes them all out. No muss, no fuss, come back later and move in.

  38. MimiTran_RonnieDang says:

    Is movie is entertainment, but is make me fell inspiration ,make me believe, and creating an fighting sprit like I was in the movie that the best is best part an unique. I guess belive is the key .!

  39. mainstream pretentious snobberly isn’t as comfortable as it used to be. we see through your narrative now. time to find another job

  40. John says:

    Hitlery for President Yal

    • H.M.L. says:

      Why must you fossils inflict your political bilge on unrelated subjects. You probably jerk it to Megyn twice a week (that’s all Viagra probably allows you to and then your orgasm comes out in dust).

    • Will says:

      Yiu believe in si-fi don’t you.

  41. tonygreen says:

    Another Pentagon funded piece of social engineering for an already massively dumbed down society. Notice how the President of the USA is a woman in the film? They’re pushing Hillary their globalist bitch puppet. And the whole alien invasion scam is what’s going to gather all the tribes together under the umbrella of a one world government. Star Trek (Gene Rodenberry 33 degree Freemason) pushed the same agenda. Enjoy!

    • Unapologetic White Man says:

      With Hillary as POTUS, the aliens took mercy on us and decided to put us out of our misery. Too bad they didn’t get here 8 years sooner when the dumb people were jizzing their shorts over The One. Dear Leader. Barack Obama.

    • Alex says:

      I’m pretty sure Sela Ward is a Republican in real life.

  42. David Lanham says:

    Surprize! A President who sounds exactly like Hillary Clinton. FKK HOLLYWOOD.

  43. I ‘might’ watch this on cable in 4 or 5 years.

  44. Roland Emmerich… isn’t he the guy who throws the pool parties?

  45. from the few trailers that I’ve seen, this movie looks like pure un-adulterated drek. I’m sure that, considering the American movie going public, it will do quite well.

  46. Chris says:

    Movie looks like garbage! Liam Hemsworth is a horrible actor.

    • Greg says:

      Well then you make something better. You won’t but you will complain just the same. Derp.

      • KayFlyte says:

        He doesn’t have to ‘make something better’ to recognize a stinker. I can’t fly a Boeing 747 but I know a bad landing when I feel one. ESAD.

      • Andy says:

        One doesn’t have to be a mechanic to know when a car won’t start.

  47. Mitch T. says:

    Spoiler Alert! The good guys win.

  48. Mitch T. says:

    Best part? No friggin’ Will Smiff!

    • Lex says:

      You mean, no Jaden Smith, either. He tried to put his kid in MIB 3. It’s good that he’s not in this one.

    • BillUSA says:

      I’m on the lesser side of the fence about “ID” because it was a bit hokey even for a sci-fi film. It was crafted well, but the dialogue was straight out of high-school. Okay college, perhaps. What could have been a great masterpiece of impending doom and humanity putting aside its differences to prevent it, was nothing more that typical Hollywood “overdo it for the sake of overdoing it” price-hiking. One of my cinematic regrets was that I actually paid good money to see “ID”…..via Blockbuster.

      Just once, before I leave this good Earth, I want to see a film that enthralls me as the originals of “War of the Worlds” and The Day the Earth Stood Still” did when I was just a boy. It’s easy to forget, after repeated viewings over decades, the fright of Gort zapping away our military machinery and the Martians emerging unscathed from an atomic bomb blast like a car from a car wash. It’s no anyone’s fault that I’m pushing 60 and that I have seen over a thousand films. But it also seems that cursory (even generic) effort is put forth when it comes to alien sci-fi.

      In the classics I mention above, each had its own message of warning about how we all don’t get along. But they were subtle. Today, they club you over the head with it – repeatedly – as if you were a stubborn teenager. That doesn’t begin to get into how the messages of today might be accepted.

      • Here’s the problem: you have to be a young boy to get enthralled the way you once did when you were a boy.

      • I totally identify with your sentiments. Invaders from Mars along with the ones you mentioned. I dread the day somebody says ‘Hey- let’s remake Forbidden Planet”. Not on my watch.

      • BillUSA says:

        Note to Mitch T.

        I mistakenly posted my above comment as a response to yours when I meant it to be an original post.

  49. Bob Smith says:

    I thought Hollywood liked illegal aliens.

  50. David Peters says:

    Explain this one too me, in the original, Brent Spinne’s character the crazy scientist was killed, he was dead, they checked his pulse and said he’s dead. How the F do you say he was in a coma, what bull.

    • John Scott says:

      He was only “mostly dead”.

    • danny says:

      He was in a coma apparently. It tripped me out to because I clearly remember him dying. Apparently when the movie was originally made they added a line from the general that checks his pulse ” He’s dead.” THey took it out for whatever reason, and now that they are doing the sequel, he didn’t actually die in the first one, he went into a coma

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