Saturday, June 25, 2016

Movie Review: "Independence Day: Resurgence"

It has been 20 years since the first Independence Day hit theaters, and now we have a sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence.  Pretty much every major character is back (sans Will Smith), with Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman reprising their iconic roles from the first movie.  In story time, it too has been 20 years, with humanity having united to repurpose the alien technology left behind to improve our own weapons in preparation.  In preparation for what, you might ask?  The aliens inevitable return, of course.

All in all, Independence Day: Resurgence is a fun movie, but it pales in comparison to its predecessor, which has taken on a massive level of iconography for children of the Nineties.  While there are tons of explosions and one-liners, there seems to be something missing.  That something is the indescribable x-factor that movies like this often have that transforms them into cultural touchstones.  Now none of this is to say that Resurgence is a bad movie or a poor sequel, the filmmakers simply failed to catch lightning in a bottle again.  That is a very hard thing to do, and it only makes you more appreciate the movie franchises that have been able to do it multiple times.  Now with all that out of the way, here is where Resurgence really shines, with the new cast of young characters.

Liam Hemsworth leads a talented cast of 20-somethings -- including Maika Monroe and Jesse Usher, as Bill Pullman's daughter and Will Smith's stepson --  that steal the show.  These new characters are a mixture of orphans and children of the heroes from the first Independence Day who have the kind of resolve reminiscent of young men and women from the Greatest Generation.  It is in the scenes with these new characters that I actually found myself most engaged with the movie, which I did not think would happen going in.  However, this does not mean that the returning cast of Goldblum, Pullman, and the rest don't have good standout moments (with welcome returns from Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner as well), but the filmmakers do a nice job of creating new heroes for a potential sequel.  Another area in which the movie succeeds is in the area of visual effects.

The first Independence Day had amazing visual effects, but the two decades since have really unshackled the filmmakers to let their imaginations run wild.  Things that would have been too expensive to do 20 years ago, can now be done.  While that could have easily been a negative, it actually works as a positive because director Roland Emmerich shows enough restraint to never make the visual effects look like visual effects.  As well, the better visual effects allow the filmmakers to show us more of the aliens this time about.  In the original movie, the aliens were only ever seen in fleeting glimpses or from the waist up.  In this one, there are multiple full body shots of the aliens, which helps to sell the reality of them better.

At the end of the day, if you were a fan of Independence Day, you will probably enjoy this more cartoonish sequel, but I use the word cartoonish in the best possible way.  The first movie had a more realistic tone, whereas this movie reminds me a lot of Japanese animated TV shows I watched growing up in the Nineties and early Aughts.  There seems to be an understanding this go around that it's all fake and meant to just be fun, and while that drains the movie of some of its intensity, it does cause you to childishly grin for most of the runtime.

I give Independence Day: Resurgence a 7 out of 10!

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