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Independence Day: Resurgence is a creatively bankrupt highlight reel of the best parts of the first movie, adding next to nothing to a franchise that really should not have been a franchise.
There is a modern precedent for mega blockbuster sequels that fall back on the familiar. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a prime example of a movie that closely mirrors key plot beats from its predecessors, mainly ‘A New Hope’ – the key difference is that ‘The Force Awakens’ was more than a repeat of what worked before, despite what some of its critics might say. ‘The Force Awakens’ took the core formula it knows works and built upon it to craft a superior sequel with new, interesting, fleshed out characters that brought a renewed sense of purpose to the saga. It was a refreshing mix of old and new that revitalized the franchise while paying homage to its roots.
Independence Day: Resurgence is the same movie as the first, with just about every single moment of significance mirroring something that happened in the original. It falls back on what knows it works and does nothing but update the special effects – and while they are outstanding, they are not enough to make ‘Resurgence’ memorable in any way. They only serve as minute-to-minute popcorn entertainment that will be completely forgotten by the time you leave the cinema.
Aliens invade, wreaking wide spread chaos and destruction. Humanity retaliates, with disastrous results, only to figure out a way to trick the aliens with one last, desperate gamble that calls upon a true patriot to sacrifice himself to save the planet and all life on it. ‘Resurgence’ too often feels like a checklist of things we have seen before, except not as good this time around.
It’s an inferior movie overall, with a poor sense of pace and an overabundance of characters. This is a story that has three separate characters with a telepathic link to the aliens, three different presidents of the USA, two alien experts, five pilots, one African warlord and literally just some guy that’s there for no adequately explained reason beyond providing mild comic relief. That’s not even counting a wide range of minor supporting characters and a handful of cameos from people that were in the first movie.
It’s ridiculous how many characters ‘Resurgence’ has to keep track of at all times, especially since it’s blatantly obvious most of them could and probably should have been condensed into different roles. As such, the characterization is lackluster and uninspired.
The cast is dependable, if desperately lacking in charisma. It’s less the fault of the actors than the fact that almost no one has enough screentime to really do anything beyond dropping exposition. Even Jeff Goldblum, for all the fun he’s clearly having, has little to do.
Which ties into ‘Resurgence’s’ other main problem – this a movie that’s all about forward momentum. It’s full throttle from the start and it never lets up and not in a good way. While the first movie was smart enough to really let the devastation that the aliens unleash sink in, ‘Resurgence’ insists on rushing from set-piece to set-piece, subplot to subplot, cramming the moments in between with more exposition and side characters.
Independence Day had its quiet moments and it knew how to space out its set-pieces to make them feel meaningful and important. It had a large cast of characters, but everyone had a part to play. ‘Resurgence’ opts for bigger and shinier battles instead of a coherent plot structure. It’s never confusing or complicated in its storytelling, but it buckles under its own weight. It’s pretty much the cinematic equivalent of junk food.
It’s okay to make a big, dumb movie, but ‘Resurgence’ is such a carbon copy of its predecessor that it fails to make a compelling argument as to why you would rather watch it than the first movie. Independence Day is not a masterpiece, but it has its place in popular culture and cinematic history, for better or for worse. ‘Resurgence’ is a hollow, if glossy shell that will probably make a lot of money (and if the insultingly transparent sequel-bait ending follows through, more movies) but will otherwise be completely forgotten.