This fucking movie, I swear to God. More than once while I was watching Independence Day: Resurgence did I utter that profaneness. It’s just such a silly movie. It’s also breathtaking in scale, as evidenced by a moment when the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, which also happens to normally be in Dubai, is dropped on London. This is a movie whose aspirations for an international audience are plain to see. There’s the requisite inclusion of token Chinese characters, and even a scene where a Chinese city is sucked up into the sky. That’s how one can know the Chinese have arrived as a world power. We are now destroying their cities in apocalyptic movies.
The movie also appears to have a screenplay written in simple English. At first I thought the flick was just filled with very poor dialogue. Then I thought that it had been dumbed down for appeal to non-discriminating audiences. But then I realized the language in the dialogue is so basic that it cannot be intended for those of us who are fluent. This film uses all the tricks to cast as wide a net as possible.
I’ve written many, many reviews on this site where I lament the lack of the small story in big blockbuster films. That is, the fate of a city, the planet, sometimes the entire universe, is always at stake, and only a small group of heroes can save us. There are other ways to do comic book-style action, but hardly anyone seems willing to film it. For every Dredd, there are about fifty Avengers. But, bombast and spectacle are what Independence Day, the original, was about. The first film was introduced to audiences during the Super Bowl in a commercial where the White House blew up. Spectacular. Of course the sequel had to go bigger.
It’s twenty years after the events of the first film, and earth’s supply of competent acting talent appears to have been whittled to desperate proportions. Following the attack, the survivors rebuilt the earth, better than before, if all the flying cars and future trains are evidence. Besides spending the previous twenty years incorporating alien technology into everyday life, we earthlings have been focused on being ready for the unknown day in which the aliens will return. Of course, that day comes.
There’s no orbital mother ship this go around. Instead, the aliens arrive in a physics-defying ship that is large enough to straddle the entire Atlantic Ocean. Did I mention that this flick is silly? It doesn’t matter! A gigantic claw grabbing earth by the face is ridiculous, and I loved it.
Meanwhile, many cast members return from the previous film to reprise their roles, including Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner, Bill Pullman, Robert Loggia (briefly), Vivica A. Fox (not briefly enough), and Judd Hirsch (as the Anti-Defamation League’s favorite Jewish caricature). They’re joined by a younger group of dead-eyed actors led by Liam Hemsworth as Jake, a dashing young pilot. But why have one dashing young pilot when you can have two? Enter Jessie Usher as Dylan, the all grown up child of Vivica Fox’s Jasmine and the missing Will Smith. Smith’s absence left a huge hole in this cast, and the filmmakers chose to fill it with Usher, who was enthusiastic, to be sure, but not up to the task. But, why have two dashing young pilots when you can have three? In appeal to the Chinese market, enter Angelababy (not a typo), a Chinese actress, as Rain Lao, a deadly competent aviator who has just enough lines to extend the box office in Asia.
Throw the screenplay, the aliens, the cast, and about a billion hours of render time for the CGI into a blender, and what you get is Independence Day: Resurgence. It’s a jumble of fan service and plot elements lifted straight from the previous film. It’s clearly a movie designed for the basest of moviegoing experiences. It was made to get butts in seats and fire enough neurons to keep people from getting bored. So, you know, it has its appeal. Some of it, particularly the bombast, works. A good deal of the film, dialogue and those hired to read it, does not. But it’s still better than Alien: Resurrection.