Box Office Democracy: Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day: Resurgence is inexcusably boring, the kind of movie script I would expect if you went to one of those experimental Google A.I. routines and asked them to make a summer blockbuster. None of the ideas feel clever or new but instead a naïve attempt to maximize potential profits.  It’s a disaster movie mixtape with a couple alien cliché deep cuts thrown in to appear hip. Resurgence tries so hard to traffic in the positive memories we have of the original Independence Day and while it’s occasionally evocative enough to stir that up, it so much more often completely fails to not only carry the weight of the first movie but to even be a coherent film.

The original Independence Day was particularly relatable because we were offered so many different slices of life. We saw the goofy scientist and his nebbishy father, we saw the air force pilot and his exotic dancer wife, and, yes, we saw the President of the United States and his family but we also saw the trailer parks and the end of the world parties. We got a world that felt lived in. Every principal character in Resurgence is either a holdover character from the first film, now renowned for their work saving the earth, one of their children who are uniformly top fighter pilots, or a spectacularly important global political figure. There’s no relating to any of these people because so few people actually travel in these circles. The problem seems to come from the world being way more science-fiction-y than the original film and there seems to be no desire to explore how things have changed in any respect besides anti-alien war machines. The world feels so much less lived in and so it’s much harder to care when they start wrecking things.

Along with being unrelatable, none of the characters have narrative arcs at all. With the exception of being sad about loved ones being killed or mad that alien invaders are back, none of the characters have any kind of emotional growth. None of them have to change the way they interact with the world to solve the problem of the alien invasion, they just sort of do the same things over and over again and eventually it works and the day is saved. There’s a certain catharsis to seeing a bunch of alien ships explode and everything but there’s no meaningful character work happening here so there’s nothing but hollow victories.

Independence Day: Resurgence is set in a world where all of humanity has come together in harmony after the monumental alien attacks of 20 years ago. This new one world government is composed mainly of American and Chinese people and I’m sure it’s a complete coincidence that these are the two largest markets for movies these days. No other nations are represented in any significant way at all unless you count the African warlord of a nameless country who seems to exist only to provide a vague sense of menace and have a kind of racist interaction with a minor character toward the end of the film. One of the three big disaster sequences also takes place in China, which is either an attempt to underscore the stakes for all of the main players (including the Chinese fighter pilot) or more transparent pandering to the Chinese market, and I’m betting heavily on the latter.

I could go on and on with things that were boring or lazy about Independence Day: Resurgence. The alien queen looks suspiciously like the one in Alien vs. Predator. Two different plotlines have separate bumbling nerdy guy characters, I assume because they couldn’t figure out a way to combine them, and they both get external validation of their masculinity to close out their stories. Jeff Goldblum is carted around from place to place to react to things in his inimitable way and they rely on his charm being so strong that we don’t notice that he doesn’t ever do anything in the film; he could be replaced by a handsome coat rack. The mysterious object that can save the world is stunningly poorly designed and could quite accurately be described as a mecha-Pac-Man. The third movie basically announced in the closing moments of this one is a hundred times more compelling conceptually but still isn’t a movie I want to go see after this wretched chapter. The original Independence Day was an iconic disaster film that shaped a decade of blockbusters, but Resurgence is an emotionless husk, an exoskeleton with no alien pilot, gracelessly going through the motions.