Think about how many things could go wrong in a movie. Now, think of all this happening and collapsing above your head. This is precisely what happened to the sequel of the 1996 classic even after 20 years of planning. To describe it as a disappointment would be a kindness. Sorry, director Roland Emmerich.
Independence Day Resurgence picks up 20 years after the original attack when the world is just about to celebrate their historic victory against alien invaders, but an American space station in the moon detects an unidentified entity approach. At the same time, alien captives from the first attack who have remained dormant for decades, begin to stir. Without having much time to decide whether to attack or to wait, world leaders immediately jumped to the wrong conclusions and order the station to open fire. But the threat has just pierced the surface and now, US pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) and Steven Hiller’s (Will Smith) stepson Lt. Dylan Dubrow Hiller (Jessie Usher) must lead the earth’s resistance against the resurgence of the alien invaders, with some help from scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and former president Thomas Whitmore (BIll Pullman).
Let me get this straight. I understand how difficult it is to work with an ensemble cast. You have to balance each character’s exposure and make sense of it all amid the chaos that is a sci fi disaster movie. But I sincerely wished that filmmakers took the saying “too many cooks spoil the brew” to heart and simply eliminated half of the characters to focus on developing a semi decent film that at least made sense. You may think I’m being too hard on the film but if you’ve seen it, you may agree with my sentiments.
So where exactly did this film go wrong? Let me count the ways.
- Character development. I get that establishing a character requires scenes that would support specific character traits, like in the case of Jake, his renegade way of doing things get him in trouble with authorities but his resourcefulness, integrity and natural skill should have made him Will Smith 2.0 of this film. Somehow, it did not happen, and nothing really happened for the rest of the cast too because they all felt like watered down versions of characters who have appeared in similar scenes before. Jesse Usher, if he was being developed to be the new lead brought nothing to the table. The only person worth watching in this movie was Bill Pullman and Judd Hirsch who played his eccentric dad in both movies. Sorry but even Bill Pullman was a faint echo if his former self as President Whitmore.
- Cliches. Everything in this movie was a cliche. The plot, the characters — and they were trying too hard to sell it. Everyone was over-acting as if to increase the level of intensity of the film by sheer determination. No dice.
- Self Sabotage. The film was a victim of itself — as it manages to sabotage every supposed dramatic moment by being too unoriginal. If they were trying to go for establishing parallels between the first and second movies, they failed miserably because there never seemed to be enough time to establish the scenes properly before they had to move on to the next one. And what kind of decision making process was involved here? The current president Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward) was not at all inspiring to be the leader of the free world, focused more on showmanship than weighing the consequences of her actions. (spoiler: she died in the movie which was a good thing because at least, it left someone capable in charge). It was such a far cry from the original it was depressing.
It seemed like the film imploded on itself when they failed to sign on Will Smith and tried to build a character that was somehow a reflection of him. But more than the lack of Will Smith, the film lacked the heart and the focus of the original. The original had a limited amount of big stars/ bankable stars going for it but it actually became a hit because it told a compelling story and executed the elements properly.
This time around, it felt like the casting was focused more on getting the younger generation interested in the franchise to inspire a third movie instead of simply paying tribute to the original by at least coming out with something that was at its level. I believe this was why it signed on younger stars who have appeared in YA films that have performed well in the box office (Liam Hemsworth, Angelbaby). The problem was mainly the wrong reasons for developing the film (and implying a third film).
All in all, if you value your time and if you have good memories of the original, steer clear of this movie. It will cause you nightmares. Seriously. Sorry director Roland Emmerich, I love you but you can’t win ’em all.