A Sad Celebration. Independence Day is at best a commonly humored and fondly, if not ironically, appreciated staple of 90s action-disaster film. It was one of many films that starred a highly saturated Will Smith. It’s just as much a staple of Roland Emmerich’s filmography because it showcases the explosive exploits and quotable characters he has become known for. There is little new to say about the film and it has solidified its place in a particular canon of films, good or bad, that is highly recognized and known. So why not make a new one?
Spilt Milk. The best way to describe the story and the structuring of this film is to call it milk. Milk is easily one of the most consistent and familiar drinks out there. Before you even taste it you know what you’re getting. It gives no surprises. It’s easy to consume and safe for all ages. It’s just a clean product with limited personality and character. But like ID:R, it’s best in a smaller dose and even better when complimenting something else. As a stand-alone product, there is just not enough. The waiting of twenty years between sips is also ill-advised. But here we are and here’s our milk and now we’ve got to talk about it. So let’s talk about it.
The General Idea. Maybe the milk analogy doesn't work for you. We can start with the characters. There are just too many of them. Three presidents, two generals, five pilots, three scientists, four children, and it doesn’t end there. We also have an African warlord and a comic relief character whose initial purpose and name I have forgotten entirely. While everyone is tied together, there isn’t enough for everyone to do. They are given minor tasks and stretched far too thin. The cast could have been reduced by half. Sometimes characters exist just for their reactions. Nobody adds tension or drama and nobody really feels essential. Despite the fact that the fate of the world hangs in the balance, it’s a challenge to ever become invested in the outcome. The story and the structure are so familiar and trite that there is no chance an audience won’t know where everything leads to.
The Fireworks. Between dull scenes of predictable and eye-rolling dialog. we do get some action. The final battle sequence is decent enough, but it lacks all grit or resolve and stutters to a hollow fart that’s supposed to pass for a climax. It’s quintessential mediocrity. An impressive balance of safe entertainment and frustrating boredom. The dump cost by the three-quarter mark may be too high to let the film go, but the last quarter delivers little less than George Lucas style laser shows with no sense of danger. The stakes are just so hilariously high for our characters that we as an audience know there is no possible way it will go as sour of they say it might. This isn’t simply aliens invading our planet. This is aliens landing a continent-sized ship on the Earth and continuing what is called an intergalactic war. It’s hard to take seriously.
Colorful Show. While the technical merits of the film are barely worth examining (it’s Roland Emmerich, you’re getting some goofy disaster), the audience in my screening seemed to enjoy themselves. Keeping with the idea that the movie is like milk, it’s likely that anybody choosing to sit through the film knows what they are getting themselves into. It’s a sequel to a movie that came out twenty years ago. This isn’t a follow-up to a beloved classic and it isn’t a remake of an important title. It’s just another cash grab with an uninspired formula. It isn’t so dull and drab that you couldn’t enjoy it, however. A group of friends looking to sit back and laugh and enjoy the silliness of a movie might find that ID:R delivers. But this is a time when action movies are becoming more up close and personal. They’re becoming more technically proficient and stripped down. They’re exciting again! Science fiction has gone from the wild antics of fantasy to the realm of real science. They’re smart again! So the kitschy style that ID:R has feels dated and reminiscent of a time that’s fading more and more. So, the bottom line comes to this: should you see Independence Day: Resurgence? Ask yourself, why not?