Make No Mistake About It, Independence Day: Resurgence Is Torture
This last weekend, I arrived with a couple of friends (yes, I have friends) at the local movie theater five minutes before showtime to purchase a ticket for Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster epic Independence Day: Resurgence. It was Sunday evening on the opening weekend, and we were the first people to arrive for the show that night. By the time the lights went down, there were maybe a dozen people spread out across the seats. Not great for an opening weekend crowd, and it probably should have alerted me to the torture I was about to endure. I came into the movie with pretty low expectations, but I was surprised as this one quickly dropped below those, and then just started drilling.
After seeing the movie, I wasn’t necessarily thrilled at the prospect of reliving the torture and writing an Independence Day: Resurgence movie review. However, I’m hoping that by sharing a detailed account of my pain, I’ll be able to maybe save others from the torture of this sci-fi turd. So strap in, because this is going to be a rocky ride. And, of course, there are *spoilers.* Many, many spoilers.
My Epic Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review
The sci-fi stupidity starts almost right away, following a credit sequence jaunt through space that ends in a brief reveal of the troubled President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) from the first movie. In the twenty years since the initial attacks, Earth has changed into a Utopia of peace and cooperation, thanks to incorporating the alien’s technology into our own.
This impressive advance in technology is represented by massive flat screen TVs all over locations like the Capitol Building and New York’s Central Park, which better allow the populous to hear Madame President Lanford’s (Sela Ward) thoughts on the upcoming anniversary of the Independence Day attacks.
Of course, there is absolutely no sign of the devastation caused by those attacks, which included the leveling of New York, and many other of Earth’s most populous cities around the world.
I guess along with the alien technology, we also found a few Complete Infrastructure and Massive City Rebuilding KitsTM. This is indicative of the film’s biggest weakness, which is poor and extremely convenient writing. It’s actually hard to give a coherent summary of the movie’s plot because nothing that happens in the movie is part of an organically functioning story. Events don’t logically build on each other, things happen for no or extremely convenient reasons, and nothing seems to actually matter as plot details are regularly contradicted minutes or even moments after they’ve been established.
After a glimpse of this Newtopia on Earth, we’re introduced to the film’s cast of young stars. First up are Jessie T. Usher and Maika Monroe playing Dylan Hiller and Patricia Whitmore, grown-up versions of characters established in the original. Will Smith makes the first of a couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances in the film here, in a photo on the wall. Up next are Liam Hemsworth and Travis Tope playing new characters Jake Morrison and Charlie Miller.
The introduction of Morrison and Miller, in particular, provided me with the film’s first unintentional laugh-out-loud moment. The two are flying a Moon Tug, currently engaged in setting up equipment on our Moon Base. (That’s right, we now have defensive bases on the Moon and, randomly, one of Saturn’s moons.) Naturally, something goes wrong, the large piece of equipment isn’t secured properly and it threatens to come crashing down. Morrison and Miller are ordered to draw back, but instead, they fly their tug directly at the tipping equipment. Morrison literally pushes on the controls with all his strength, grunting and straining with the effort, which actually appears to somehow magically increase the lifting power of the tug, allowing them to muscle it back into place.
None of the new actors make an impression in their roles, in no small part due to the poor writing.
Finally, after what seems like an eternity, we get the first dose of Jeff Goldblum, returning as David Levinson. He’s on a trip out into the African desert to investigate one of the ships from the first movie, an area remote enough that he’s “unreachable.” I guess along with Moon bases and intergalactic travel, the aliens forgot to tell us how to upgrade our cell network for better coverage. Along with Levinson, we’re also introduced to another collection of new characters, bringing the running total to somewhere between “stop introducing new characters, no one cares about them,” and “no, really, no one cares about any of these new characters.”
The characters exist only to provide totally unmasked exposition, and convenient plot devices. Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei), the son of the African warlord who fought the aliens that came from this ship, for example, helpfully lets us know that the best way to kill an alien is from behind. Oh, and also, as they’ve been fighting these aliens, Umbutu took the time to learn their language, so he could better hunt his enemies. And all without the use of a solid example of their written language, an Alien Linguistics college course, or a helpful alien tutor. Anyway, they find out the ship was drilling a hole towards the Earth’s core for reasons unknown, and that it sent out a distress call just before the aliens were defeated.
After some more forced banter, the off-screen disappearance / destruction of the Saturn Moon Base, more forgettable backstory, a noticeable lack of Will Smith and Brent Spiner’s Dr. Brakish Okun waking up from a coma, aliens finally arrive at our Moon Base. Only the alien spaceship that shows up is a lot smaller and less threatening than the ones that came before. So after a quick vote from the world leaders (government in the future has a lot less red tape), and against Levinson’s advice (who though he’s still in Africa, is suddenly quite reachable via video chat), we, of course, shoot it down. Hope they weren’t here on a peace mission of some sort.
After the good guys arrive in a Moon Tug to snag a piece of the wreckage for further study, the REAL aliens suddenly show up, in a much larger spaceship. The Moon Base fires off a couple of shots, but they’re useless against the ship’s shields, and the alien ship proceeds to blow away the Moon Base.
The tug heads back to Earth, followed by the massive alien craft, which it’s revealed is 3000 miles wide, or roughly 38% of the Earth’s diameter. Oh, and because it’s so big, it has an artificial gravitational pull which sucks up cities and then rains them down on other cities. And though it deals out a fair share of destruction as it lands on Earth (goodbye London and the US East Coast), it’s surprisingly tame considering what would probably happen if an object of that size suddenly appeared and landed on / crashed into Earth.
After some more slick debris dodging, the tug heads for Area 51, Earth’s Space Defense HQ, currently being run by General Adams (William Fichtner). Here, President Whitmore uses his Presidential override (something I’m sure all ex-Presidents have) to lock himself in with an alien prisoner who uses him to communicate with everyone else in a manner similar to Dr. Okun from the first movie, one of many meaningless nods to the original.
It’s here we learn that the aliens operate with a sort of hive mind, led by a Queen, and they have activated a plasma drill in the Atlantic Ocean, again drilling toward the Earth’s core. In a ridiculous subplot involving even more characters, a treasure hunting crew aboard a small ship just happens to be hanging out in the ocean by the plasma drill (and is totally unaffected by hanging out in the ocean next to a mile-wide plasma drill currently drilling into the Earth) and helpfully relays periodic updates to the Good Guys on how long is left until the alien drill makes it to the core.
So in order to stop the Queen, we decide to, well, re-use the same plan from the first film (which didn’t work), and fly a bunch of planes over there to nuke the ship. Only this time, we’re going to use cold-fusion warheads! Surprise, it doesn’t work this time either. You might be thinking this is because of the ship’s super-tough shields that even the Moon Cannon couldn’t dent. But they don’t use those shields. No, instead, the aliens send out a bunch of fighters so the audience can be alternately dizzied and bored by yet another crowded digital dogfight where it’s impossible to tell what the Hell is going on.
At this point, the attacking team decides the top is too heavily defended to drop the bombs, but hey, would you look at that, the aliens left the mothership’s side doors open.
So the fighters and bombers fly inside to deliver their cold-fusion payload, only to realize it’s a trap when the aliens set off a massive EMP to disable all the aircraft (no, I’m not making this up.) Then, as the fighters and bombers are falling, little spinny discs come out and attach themselves to the bombs, so that when we try to detonate the bombs (guess the EMP didn’t disable the electronics on the bombs), the explosion are contained within little shield bubbles (still not making this up.) Finally, it’s revealed that the aliens developed an Earth-ish ecosystem inside the ship, probably so that all the pilots who bail out of the disabled aircraft have giant alien trees and water in which to hide from the alien ground troops (still not making this up.)
Meanwhile, Dr. Okun is finally able to open the orb-shaped container (not surprisingly, it contains an orb) recovered from the wreckage of the first alien spaceship shot down. Turns out, they did come in peace.
The Orb of Deus Exposition reveals the reason the aliens are drilling towards our core is they want to suck it out and use it to power their ships. It also reveals that there’s a secret planet somewhere with survivors from other cultures these aliens have ruined and it holds technology that can be used to defeat them. Oh, and sorry guys, but now that the orb has been activated, the Queen can sense it and she’s personally coming to get the orb as it can lead the aliens to the secret rebel base.
The Queen detaches a smaller but still sizeable ship from the massive one, complete with fighters and assorted alien ground troops, and starts flying toward Area 51. At this point, the treasure hunting crew calls back to reveal they miscalculated on the drilling time, and there’s only about an hour left until the aliens get to the core. Oh no, whatever will we do? Why, fly a cold-fusion nuke up their “alien asshole,” Randy Quaid style! This time, it’s President Whitmore who makes the sacrifice, leading the Queen’s ship into a trap where Levinson encloses the blast in a shield they generate, which concentrates the destructive force and destroys the ship … but not the Queen. Turns out she has a personal shield powerful enough to withstand ground zero of a cold-fusion nuke.
So now the sizeable Queen sets out Godzilla style, raging across the desert and literally pounding her way into the Area 51 bunker so she can claim the Orb of Deus Exposition for herself. Morrison and crew, now flying alien fighters they jacked from the mothership, show up and, through a series of nonsensical and contradicting events, manage to take down the Queen, which shuts down all the other aliens as well.
And that’s it. Humans win again! And just in time, too. Turns out the aliens were only about a minute away from breaching our core. But wait, it’s not over! The orb is packed with alien technology, and that map to resistance HQ, and this will all help us, in the words of Dr. Okun, “kick some serious Alien ass” in Independence Day 3. (No one ever addresses the fact that there’s now a mile wide, roughly 1,750 miles deep hole in the Earth’s surface in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which would probably cause some problems. But hey, maybe the Orb revealed a new hole filling technology.)
Yikes. If they actually do go ahead with another Independence Day (this one opened in second place at the box-office, behind Finding Dory, pulling in a disappointing $41 million) may I suggest spending more money on the writing? If I had to guess, I’d say that about $36.50 of the reported $165 million dollar budget for Resurgence was spent on the writing. And that would have been split among the five credited writers. In all seriousness, watching this movie was physically painful. And though I’m not one to condone the torture of prisoners, if you really want to inflict pain, skip waterboarding and bamboo needles under the fingernails, and go straight to Independence Day: Resurgence.
If I had to pick a numerical rating for Resurgence, I’d probably go with 2 out of 10. It had Jeff Goldblum, some of the effects were neat, and it wasn’t quite as bad as Ultraviolet.
Now that we’re at the end of my Independence Day: Resurgence movie review, I did want to quickly point one final thing out. This movie currently has a 33% critics score (and 40% audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes. Which, hey, is better than a lot of other movies, but even that number becomes suspect when you realize what they’re counting as positive reviews.
Images: 20th Century Fox