I had been waiting years for this to be released. When I started liking the sci-fi genre I watched Independence Day and loved it. It had some of the best special effects of the 1990s, it was fun, it was cheesy and, I loved it for that reason. When I was fourteen I found out they were planning to make a sequel and after almost six years waiting the film has arrived. Is it any good though? This review does contain spoilers so please skip to the conclusion if you have yet to see the film.
Twenty years after the initial invasion humanity has managed to rebuild itself and incorporate the alien technology with Earth's technology. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is the Director of the Earth Space Defense (ESD) preparing for if the aliens ever return as former President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) continues to have hallucinations from the psychic attack of the alien from the first film. After the ESD shoots down a ship which arrives over the moon a second invasion begins causing widespread devastation. Again humanity has one day to save itself from extinction. I did not expect a plot as detailed and emotive as something like Star Wars and, the plot is nothing too special. It is similar to the first film and this was a, somewhat, good idea. Roland Emmerich knew this was a mindless action/sci-fi movie and a detailed plot would have acted against the film's charm. I even overlooked some of the most outlandish things in the movie, like how humanity put their differences aside after the first invasion, how the aliens somehow drop Beijing and several other Asian cities on London and, how guerrillas in central Africa managed to wipe out a land invasion. However, it lacks something of the original film. Despite the 1990s, f*** yea' 'Murica, cheese of the first film it was very well paced. Hence, it had a sense of urgency. When the aliens were about to blow up Area 51 you felt that this is it. If they don't do something now humanity is extinct. With this film the pacing was quite off so this made it all seem very much less urgent.
Acting and Characters
Both the acting and characters were a mixed bag. It was nice seeing some of the original cast reprise their roles. However, I was disappointed that Mae Whitman was replaced by Maika Monroe. Both are good actors but I felt that Whitman was better for this role and, I have heard rumors that the recast was due to Whitman not being 'conventionally pretty' according to the producers. If this is true I will be furious. Whitman has been in more roles which would suit this film and, (getting into a small rant), casting should not be down to what the media thinks is pretty. It reinforces the most stupid of stereotypes, pushes back more progressive casting and, it hinders the film as you get poor casting. I digress though. Jeff Goldblum and Brent Spiner, (reprising his role as Dr. Okun), are easily the best two actors, and characters, in the film. They have the best lines, are the best written and have the most fun in the roles. Goldblum has many opportunities to go 'uhm' and 'ahh' between every other word and it is done to a good effect. By playing with Goldblum's tropes they really role with an eccentric performance. However, I felt that his character could have had more screentime as he seemed almost shafted in favor of a meandering plot. Spiner is really good as well expanding on his role from the first film. His charisma and energy brings more life into the film. His rapport with John Storey playing Dr. Isaacs is also very fun to watch.
The rest of the acting was not bad but they weren't standout either. Although I did complain about Monroe being cast over Whitman she wasn't that bad in the film. She could have had a really good performance but, like with the other cast members, the script let her down. Everyone seemed to struggle to give a good performance with a mediocre script. Liam Hemsworth and Jessie Usher seemed to be the replacements for Will Smith, (especially Usher who plays Smith's character's son). Hemsworth appeared desperate to appear charismatic and Usher seemed to give up. The first film was saved by the charisma of Goldblum and Will Smith; without Smith the film seemed lacking a certain charm. Bill Pullman at times wavered between good, passable and bad. His last lines were delivered in such a bizarre way that I found it hard to believe that this was the same person who gave one of the greatest speeches in cinematic history! The only other standout characters were Deobia Operai's central African warlord and Nicolas Wright's bumbling UN official. They only stood out because I thought Operai's character had potential but was wasted and I wanted Wright's character to just leave. He was the bumbling comic relief but as there were several other comic relief characters he was just redundant and, he lacked the charm of the others. Wright was one of the writers so I have a feeling that he just wanted to be in the film.
Now we get to why I believe the acting is either passable or lacking: too many characters. There were just too many characters which meant that the script had accommodate establishing so many characters. The first film introduced four groups of characters: the Presidential family/workers, Will Smith's family, Goldblum and his dad and, Randy Quaid's family. In this one we had: the President and her staff, the ESD pilots, the UN group, the army staff, Jeff Goldblum's dad, some refugee kids who team up with Jeff Goldblum's dad, the Area 51 scientists and, this tugboat in the Atlantic. Some characters were given too much screentime and others given too little. The refugee kids seemed to be shoehorned in just to give Jeff Goldblum's dad, (Judd Hirsch), a purpose in the film and, even then, it wasn't to progress the plot but instead offer comic relief. I did not learn most of the names of the characters. They tried to fit too much in too little time.
Roland Emmerich always does at least one thing well and that is destruction scenes. The scenes where they destroy London and Singapore were truly spectacular. I particularly like how creative they were with the destruction scenes. I was initially worried that they'll just rehash the destruction scene from the first film. During the London destruction scene several characters are flying through the city having about three other cities dropped on it and it is very thrilling. The effects threw everything at you at once which made it very overwhelming. This allowed you to feel part of the action. However, this works against the film in other scenes; especially the dog fight scenes between the ESD and the aliens. Some times it works throwing everything at the viewer at once but other times it doesn't. When it wasn't meant to be overwhelming it was. Also it had too much CGI. The original film mixed CGI, practical effects, pyrotechnics and miniatures. It was so good that it won awards for the effects. Here there were only one or two practical effects and literally everything else were made by CGI. Considering how every action and sci-fi utilizes the same effects what would have otherwise been standout effects did not seem memorable. However, this did not mean that the CGI was bad. The designs were very good and they've definitely put effort into creating such a unique universe. I particularly liked the ESD ships and that of the alien Hive Queen (although it did awfully resemble that of the xenomorph queen from the Alien franchise). As said earlier the scenes where they destroy the cities are really good.
The last scene
This scene made me so mad. Nevermind how they dropped several cities nowhere near each other on London, nevermind how Jeff Goldblum's dad became a comic relief babysitter, nevermind Bill Pullman's very strange last performance. What made me mad was Dr. Okun saying that this orb which arrived to save humanity from the evil aliens wanted humanity to lead their resistance. The film then ends. Batman v. Superman made me mad with how it tried to desperately shoehorn in a sequel but compared to this it was subtle. I sat in the cinema at that point thinking 'what the hell?'. It ruined the film for me. I knew beforehand that they were going to do a sequel but this really was something else.
After I gave Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World too high reviews I normally give myself a week to review the film. In those two cases I was so excited to see my favorite Marvel villain and a film I was very nostalgic for so I got caught up in my emotions. As of writing it has not been a week. The reason for this is because everytime I think of the last scene when planning the review the final score drops. If I had waited a week I would likely give it a score much lower than it deserves. As a result for some good acting from Goldblum, a fantastic destruction scene and very good designs of the aliens/ships/ESD ships but, mediocre acting from everyone else and too little time devoted to certain aspects of the plot I give Independence Day: Resurgence a 5.8/10. Overall a mediocre film with some redeemable moments.