The UnPopular Opinion: Independence Day: Resurgence
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
A few years ago, my buddy asked me if I wanted to go see The Who in concert. Sure, it had been decades since the death of drummer Keith Moon and they had not released an album since, but this was The motherf*cking Who! How many chances do you get a chance to see an iconic band in the annals of rock and roll history? Seeing the band, it was clearly not the same as it would have been if it was 1970, but it was still awesome to see them on stage and delivering renditions of songs I knew and loved. I left the concert with a smile on my face and the knowledge that I just felt a great dose of nostalgia. The same can be said of INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE. Like a greatest hits tribute to the original, Roland Emmerich's science fiction spectacle delivers a highlight reel of disasterporn despite not quite living up to the original. Still, a weak INDEPENDENCE DAY is better than countless other studio mandated reboots and sequels out there.
In 1996, I waited in line in front of the Uptown Theater in Washington DC to see INDEPENDENCE DAY. I was sold by the trailers promising wanton special effects destruction on a scale I had not witnessed on the big screen in my young life. I watched the film with wide-eyed amazement and felt in that instant that it was my favorite movie of all time. I proclaimed it the next STAR WARS as any teenage boy would seeing such badassery on display. In hindsight, I may have given myself over to hyperbole. In subsequent viewings over the years, I have found myself still enjoying the B-movie aspects of Roland Emmerich's movie achieved on an A-level budget. Few, if any, of Emmerich's films that followed ever reached that same level in my mind but I always respected the technical achievement they represented. Twenty years later, I sat down to watch INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE with that 15-year-old sensibility knocking around and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie did not suck.
Not sucking is a far cry from being a great film, but there was no chance of INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE being great. The original ID4 is far from great and holds a nostalgiac place in my heart. The writing is bad, the dialogue atrocious, and the plot essentially nonsensical. But, the original movie is an artifact of the mid-1990s and what every tech savvy movie aimed to be. With a budget just over double the original, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE delivers on the spectacle and visually stuns with some of the most astounding large scale swaths of destruction imaginable. And, true to the 1996 film, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is saddled with bad writing, atrocious dialogue, and a nonsensical plot. But, like seeing The Who decades after their prime, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is like watching the original band get back together for a stadium tour of their greatest hits. This movie is fun and hits the same notes that made the original so much fun by being a film that doesn't require you to sit up and pay attention but rather allows you to sit back, munch on popcorn, and let the explosions wash over you.
What INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE lacks in Will Smith it makes up for with an ambitious narrative. Set essentialy in real time of twenty years after the 1996 alien invasion, Emmerich's film envisions what our world could have been if we harnessed alien technology for good. Unlike other lackluster sequels, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE never takes itself very seriously and plays fast and loose with the returning stars including Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox, and the somehow unaged Judd Hirsch. These actors all play their parts as if their lives depended on it but never taking the material as being more than it is. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is really f*cking stupid in the best way possible. There is absolutely no reason for this movie to exist aside from giving my 15-year-old self the chance to smile like a moron in seeing the second part of a story he never thought would exist outside of his imagination. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is like fan fiction come to life, envisioning a path for these characters thay may not match what anyone saw coming for them.
Expectations from INDEPENDENCE DAY fans, especially after twenty years, were that this would be THE FORCE AWAKENS for the non-franchise that ID4 ended up being. This story should have been continued fifteen years earlier and we would be on the fifth or sixth entry in the franchise by now. Trying to kickstart a franchise with that much time in between entries is no easy task and in recent years we have seen numerous other series fail to capture that spark that made their predecessors so beloved. But does that make INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE a bad movie? Not by any means. If this were not a sequel, this could have easily been the success that the first movie was. While two decades is a large enough pre-production window to have made this movie something truly classic, the somewhat rushed feel of the finished product instead serves as a release gauge that can lead to a lot more in further sequels, which is why this movie deserves so much more of a chance than it has received.
By introducing the younger generation of characters led by Liam Hemsworth, Jesse T. Usher and Maika Monroe, Roland Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin had set the stage for a potential intergalactic space opera sequel that would rival anything outside of STAR WARS. Because, like George Lucas' baby, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is full of a sense of levity and excitement. Jeff Goldblum himself is more than enough to carry this franchise forward as his disarming and kooky personality fits in with this over-the-top storyline. But, like STARGATE before it, INDEPENDENCE DAY works mostly due to the innovative creature design and special effects. By taking the film off of our planet and staging it in space, you can get away from the same old routine. In that sense, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE does share a lot in common with THE FORCE AWAKENS in that it mines familiar elements from an earlier film to reintroduce a new series for a new generation.
As we all know, sequels rarely live up to the original because the stakes get raised in such a way as to force the filmmakers to go all in or risk boring audiences. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is never boring but it also falls prey to being too much like the original. As much as I still get chills when Bill Pullman delivers his iconic speech in the original film, I feel that same wave of goosebumps when I watch the first trailers for the sequel. There is a very fun movie here and that is ultimately what counts. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE was never going to be a masterpiece or even a classic, but it does exactly what it set out to do and that is blow shit up real good while delivering some fun quips along the way. While the originality of the story is lacking, the movie more than makes up for it in great set design and effects execution. When you finish watching INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, you likely won't have that instant urge to watch it again, but you most assuredly will take a deep breath and contemplate just how cool some of the spectacle you just watched was. That makes this movie an experience worth having.
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