Simple, uncomplicated, visually stunning. Resurgence offers nothing new, but it does what it sets out to do incredibly well. Leave your brain at the door and you’ll find yourself having a whale of a time to this Roland Emmerich movie. Haters of the original’s cheesy, Hollywood schmaltz need not apply, and quite frankly this movie wasn’t made for them, anyway. In fact, the movie creates enough goodwill with the audience that even the lack of Will Smith is largely unnoticed.
Stop right there. Before you go any further, let me take this opportunity to say that if you hated the original Independence Day- now celebrating its twentieth anniversary- you will find nothing of value in this sequel. However, if you leave your brain at the door, strap on your nostalgia and embrace that part in a human that wants to believe in aliens, you’ll find that this movie offers a lot of bang for its buck and is a whole lot of fun. Myself…well, I was a huge fan of the original, and since I heard about this movie’s release I have been anticipating it greatly. So does it disappoint? Not really. Providing you know what you’re letting yourself in for.
The original ID was a movie packed so full of cheese that the cheese was starting to melt and seep from the screen, but the special effects, at the time, were revolutionary, and it became a cult classic and then quickly a classic in its own right. Now, 20 years later, we take a visit back into the movie’s universe, set in 2016 but taking place in a world that has overcome the original alien attack and has both ceased worldwide hostilities and has used the alien technology to improve their own armament and equipment. Immediately, we meet some of the new characters, thanks to a cheeky cut-away scene that shows Will Smith’s character’s son, and also the president’s daughter, because this is a Roland Emmerich movie and not everything needs to make complete logical sense. We then go up to space, where we meet Baby Hemsworth, whom you may know as Liam, younger brother of Chris ‘Thor’ Hemsworth, as he operates a space tug that is being used to deploy a giant space cannon that has a shorter life expectancy than some of the expendable extras in the battle scenes. As always, there are scenes that explains the characters’ backstories, and eventually, we get to the part we all wanted- the aliens arrive.
Returning from the original are Bill Pullman, who for the majority of the film is seen sporting an unkempt beard, a walking cane and a manic depressive energy that belies his characters’ charisma in the original. Also back for the journey is Jeff Goldblum, who is having about as much fun as Jeff Goldblum can have in a movie of this ilk (which is to say: a lot) and Judd Hirsch as his father. Brent Spiner- he of Data from Star Trek fame- is also back, this time with a gay partner and more dialogue than in the previous outing. Brackish Okun, his character, certainly has a better screen time than before, and is a much more developed character. Maika Monroe, who is building up a good CV, is good, but nothing special, and the whole cast of young, relative unknown actors don’t do anything offensively bad. But let’s be fair here: the real star of the show are the special effects, the aliens and their awesome ships and weapons, and Bill Pullman’s beard. That really is an impressive achievement.
The story is a simple one: the aliens involved in the original attack sent a distress beacon, and one of their ships intercepted the message and responded. Humanity had twenty years to prepare, but so did they, although no effort is ever made to explain why the aliens have drastically changed the appearance of their ships, but yet again, please remember this is a Roland Emmerich movie- we’re only really here for the special effects. The movie’s plot is then pretty obvious to anyone: the aliens come, they are stronger than before, more prepare, but humanity manages to win the fight in the end despite the odds being stacked heavily against them. The cowardly character comes good, turning into an unexpected hero, the previously frayed friendships are repaired, and at least one character makes a sacrifice in order to save the human race. Like I said…Emmerich movie, yadda yadda.
The special effects, though, are top notch, and whilst Emmerich does allow himself to endulge in one epic city-destruction scene- as is his trademark (this is, after all, the man responsible for both the original Independence Day as well as The Day After Tomorrow and 2012)- he is strangely subdued in this, instead choosing to depict his action scenes as epic aerial battles and a showdown with a monstrously huge alien queen. None of this is original but it has that movie magic that can only really be enjoyed on the big screen. Interestingly, the most original part for me was the introduction of another alien, The Sphere, a being who comes from a race so technologically advanced that they have foregone physical existence centuries ago. It only makes an appearance near the end, and although one begins to think it will act as a rather too convenient deus ex machina, it instead serves to set up the all-but-inevitable third instalment. I won’t say anymore on that. Just watch the movie and see for yourself. However, the special effects, whilst outstanding, don’t have the same impact that they had in the original. As with Jurassic World, it simply isn’t new and exciting anymore. In the original ID, we saw a huge alien mothership cast a shadow over a city, and when the camera showed the true scale of the huge alien monstrosity, we gasped at the freshness of it all. This time around, the same shots are utilised, and they do look crisper and much more convincing, but we live in an age where the movie world has spoiled us with SFX and it doesn’t have the same stunning blow to the senses that the original did. As always, there are a few nods to the original- an aerial battle has almost exactly the same dialogue as one from the first movie, and Bill Pullman’s character gets a chance to utter some more famous words, albeit ones that don’t have quite the same resonance as that infamous speech from before.
Some of the dialogue is a little awkward, although this wouldn’t be the first movie in the history of cinema to be guilty of that, and the plot certainly does take its time to get to the meaty parts. But again, many movies have been guilty of this in the past, and you can forgive the movie because once it starts to kick off, it really kicks off. Essentially, if you like aliens, special effects, mind-blowing action and a sense of that good old fashioned cinematic joy, you’ll find something to enjoy about this effort. If you prepare yourself for a good but uncomplicated thrill ride, you’ll have a good time, but please, please, please don’t go expecting Shakespeare- this movie is far from that. It IS good fun, though. Check it out, watch the aliens get blown up, and forget all about this Brexit malarkey. That’s what Roland Emmerich’s 2016 sequel offers, after all- enjoyable escapism. And isn’t that what cinema should be all along?
I know I regularly slate Michael Bay on here for his amazing ability to create special effects and his apparent inability to make a decent movie, and so you may be wondering why Roland Emmerich- a man who is best known for his special effects above all else- isn’t getting quite the same criticism. Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Michael Bay’s movies are essentially giant advertisements with a few action scenes and terrible acting, where Roland Emmerich’s movies have a heart and soul and a human touch that even Bay’s best attempts lack. Emmerich may not be Martin Scorsese, but trust me, he is one thousand levels above that of Bay.