Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Written by Nicolas Wright & James A. Woods, Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich, and James Vanderbilt
Directed by Roland Emmerich
It has been 20 years since the aliens invaded Earth and decimated many a landmark building. Humanity has recovered quite well, using the leftover technology to make multi-centuries’ leap in a couple decades. A base has been established on the moon to continue harvesting the remaining technology and Earth is surrounded by a network of defense satellites in case bad guys happened to come again. Humanity has ended all war, and everyone loves each other now. Well, you know what that means? An even bigger alien ship is coming to destroy even more things, this time so big it has it’s own gravitational field. Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and some new faces come to the rescue in a film that delivers something the audience was clamoring for: Brent Spiner’s bare ass.
I was all about Independence Day back in 1996. I actually bought and read the novelization of the movie before I even saw it. I was hyped to finally see the film and thought it was pretty good. But then time passed, and I watched more, better movies and learned what good storytelling and cinematography and direction are like. Now I look back on Independence Day as a piece of insignificant fluff because that’s what it is. But ol’ Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich wanted to get in on the nostalgia money train that is running through Hollywood and slapped together this sequel. They are acutely aware we had been asking ourselves, “Whatever happened to….*checks IMDB* David Levinson?” or “I wonder if….*checks IMDB again* Steve Hiller is still out there fighting aliens?”.
Resurgence ends up being exactly what I expected: a big loud, dumb light show with no real theme or entertainment value. I give the writers credit for the integration of the alien tech, that is an interesting element to the film. But, like all Emmerich/Devlin collabs, the characters are insanely flat, one-note bores. Liam Hemsworth, the low-rent Chris, does his damnedest to be a movie star action hero but doesn’t have it in him. Jessie Usher doesn’t come anywhere close to the charisma of Will Smith. I mean even in a film as terrible as the original Independence Day, Smith was still presenting himself as a charming, magnetic movie star. Maika Monroe feels so out of place. She’s not a stellar actress, but I think she does a great job in It Follows and The Guest. But here…that woodenness feels cringey.
One person is having a hell of a time in this movie: Brent Spiner. He is the only enjoyable element because you can see his glee at A) getting a great paycheck and B) being allowed to ham it up to 11. Spiner is able to take a character who could be a bland exposition delivery device (as most Devlin/Emmerich characters are) and infuse it with some character.
Resurgence doesn’t harm the reputation of the original because the original sucked too. I think there are some significant problems in the Hollywood studio system. We could talk about dark/gritty tones, Michael Bay’s horrendous influence, but I think the most overreaching problem is Nostalgia. I hate nostalgia, yet I’ll admit I can be overtaken by it too. My recent love fest for Twin Peaks was definitely nostalgic, but something happened with the premiere of the new series though. I love how radically different the new Twin Peaks is from the old, I love that it’s not simply a retread. I’ve seen a small contingent of other fans who whine endlessly about where all their favorite characters are. They seem to think David Lynch is punishing them by not giving them what they want. You see it in other pockets of the internet, fans demanding a product they think will make them happy because it will be like it was when they first enjoyed the original.
We first have to realize that the things we loved back when we were children are likely terrible. Go back and revisit G.I. Joe or He-Man. Even a show I loved dearly, Animaniacs, doesn’t quite hit the same when I revisit it now. The reason behind this is that my tastes have refined and matured. I expect more nuanced and complex writing. What was funny to me when I was a preteen is not funny to me now as an adult. That is a good thing, that is what is supposed to happen. Emmerich and Devlin gave the fans exactly what they wanted: a retread of a terrible movie. Resurgence is sort of the perfect example of the end result of nostalgia. If your nostalgia causes you to sit back and daydream fondly of a simpler time when you were a kid then, by all means, enjoy. If your nostalgia leads you to rage on social media about how the new thing needs to be exactly like the old thing and if not, the creators behind this are scum, then you’re an idiot.
Adults in our culture consume way too much cavity inducing fluff in the form of big loud, dumb movies. I hear the argument, “But I want to watch these movies to escape because the world is such a terrible place.” Okay, well these are the only kinds of movies you ever watch. A diet of processed sugar leads to some pretty nasty side effects. In the case of continuously consuming dumb media, you end up uninformed about crucial things. You get conditioned to a particular type of pacing and storytelling that makes it harder for you to delve deep into meaningful films. Complaints I’ve heard about the new Twin Peaks is that it is so unbearably slow for some viewers. They’re used to binge watching on Netflix instead of being made to pace themselves and absorb something.
I look at my blog stats daily, and I notice trends in views. These trends make sense, but they are disheartening and feel like a lack of curiosity. A review of Star Wars: Rogue One or Logan get tons of hits, but a review of brilliant films like Raw or Prevenge dwindle in the single digits for months. These are really good films that have complex characters and have something to say about our culture. And they say it in a way that is genuinely entertaining and plays with genres we all love. I personally believe that the remedy to living in a world where Loud and Dumb feels like it’s the status quo is to seek out the obscure and strange. I promise you will never regret it.