Despite the many complaints I will get to with Independence Day: Resurgence it will always stick in my mind as the first premiere I attended at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The Brexit vote was counted during the screening and when everyone exited the movie the press were sticking mics in the faces of celebs asking them for their opinion on Britain leaving the EU - a fitting occurrence considering the title of the movie.
Sadly, the film bombed, raking in just $100,000,000 during it's run, a fraction of the original's box office takings. It was too little too late. A 20-year gap between movies was just too long and the politics and culture of the US is now drastically different. Independence Day came out in a time when spirits were high, the '96 Olympics had everyone pumped up, the summer season was full of exciting blockbusters, and painful, boring superhero movies were virtually non-existent. Fever Pitch was the feeling all summer long and a jingoistic, heroic movie was exactly what audience wanted at the time. ID:4 delivered all that and more. In 2016 the culture war had already started and self-hatred in America was beginning to rip the country apart. Independence Day 2 really should have come out in 2000, when there was still optimism, but Roland Emmerich was too busy making The Patriot during that time, plus he and Dean Devlin had no idea how to tackle the gargantuan scope a sequel would inevitably have.
It's a shame, because this is actually much more thoughtful film than the first and I really dug the psychic storyline. But everything else in the film is pedestrian and lazy, even for Emmerich these cliches and tropes are tired and dull. Remember David Arnold's rousing, exciting score from the first movie? Of course you do! It's not here. Instead, excruciatingly untalented "composer" Harald Kloser (also serving as producer) cranks out worthless noise that a high-schooler could beat. There are musicians with real talent out there, chomping at the bit to get a start in movies and yet this man constantly gets work (only with Emmerich). It boggles my mind.
With Will Smith asking for a stupendously arrogant $50,000,000 paycheck they wisely wrote his character out. How dare this man ask for that money! His star power has been on the decline for years now (thanks largely to fast-tracking his untalented children into movie stardom) and he should have embraced this movie as a comeback. Margaret Colin is also written-out with no explanation within the movie (in the prequel novel she died in a car wreck). Mae Whitman has been replaced with Maika Monroe because she didn't grow up to be pretty enough, apparently. At least Brent Spiner came back (his character's fate was left unexplained in the first one, be he was never written to die, it just seemed that way) and Jeff Goldblum is front and centre, whether he likes it or not, but he's got the charisma to carry it. He's certainly far, far more appealing than the lesser Hemsworth and Jessie Usher, who are given virtually nothing to do and really shouldn't have been in the movie when their screen time could have been used for building suspense instead.
The scenes of destruction in the first movie were breathtaking at the time, and still have impressive effect all this time later thanks mainly to the extensive model work used (ID:4 holds the record for the most model work ever used in a movie, which will likely never be broken thanks to the advent of excessive CGI) but we're so used to scenes of cities being destroyed at this point that none of the effects, no matter how elaborate, really fill us with awe.
The model work and real locations in the first movie gave it a tangible realness and placed it in a world you could identify. Here literally EV-ER-Y-THING is done against a green screen, giving far too many shots a flat, static look where the lighting on the actors doesn't match the light on the CGI background. It's horrible, and gives the film the look and feel of a cheap TV movie. This is Emmerich at his laziest. There's no passion behind this.
First time around we had a double climax and two reasons to cheer (and, believe me, audiences did). No such luck with the sequel. The ending is completely disappointing and any excitement you might feel will completely fizzle out before the credits roll. They strongly hint at a third movie, but there's no way that will ever happen now. The energy in this franchise drained out a long time ago and the culture in the US is too self-hating to embrace it.
I really wanted to like this movie, and it has some really good ideas, but it squanders all of its potential and sleepwalks through poorly-directed familiar territory. Such a huge shame.
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