One has to wonder if Roland Emmerich is compensating for something. The writer/director known for disaster films such as Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998) and 2012 (2009) seems to pride himself on destroying the world in bigger and bolder ways. If only someone would tell him that it’s not about the size, it’s about how you use it…
Independence Day Resurgence is Emmerich’s first sequel, and makes a strong argument for him sticking to original concepts. Released and taking place 20 years after the original, the human race has moved on from their epic battle with their intergalactic foes, and is doing better than ever. The whole world is peaceful, and technology has improved rapidly thanks to the alien remnants. However, all of this is challenged when the same alien invaders arrive for round two, this time stronger than ever.
What separates the enemy in this installment from the previous film is that now there is a central leader. In the previous movie, it was acknowledged that all of the aliens are connected, but this film makes it 100% clear that there is a Queen alien who is running the show. What separates the protagonists in this installment from the previous movie is that now there is no central leader. While the previous film had a clear hierarchy and a large variety of characters playing distinct but connected roles, the characters in this movie act independently and chaotically.
A large reason for the isolation of the characters comes from a lack of central leadership within the production. While Independence Day was just written by Emmerich and his writing partner, Dean Devlin, Independence Day Resurgence features five screenwriters and four story credits. With such a large number of different voices, all likely rewriting each other’s drafts, it’s more difficult to make a good screenplay than it is to defeat a large group of angry aliens. Inside and outside of the narrative, a Deus Ex Machina is needed to keep it all alive.
And when a movie is trying to stay alive, the lack of heart is painfully obvious. In 20 years, a lot has changed in America, but even more has changed in the Independence Day universe. Because the on-screen world has been exposed to alien technology, it is far more advanced than the present world. It’s also much more disconnected. Resurgence is much more sci-fi oriented than the original film, which could hypothetically lead to much more stunning imagery, but ends up just making it harder to sympathize. Not to mention that the whole world is suddenly at peace after the first movie. This concept is not only hard to believe (wouldn’t it be more interesting to see the in-fighting and trauma after the invasion?), but it makes the conflict seem a little frustrating and meaningless. There’s no investment in the outcome, because it’s just a lot of violence to either lose an unrecognizable earth or remain stagnant.
Finally, this lack of a singular voice makes the whole movie feel rather messy. The original has a really neat and simple structure – July 2nd they arrive, July 3rd they attack, July 4th we fight back – whereas this new film’s structure is indecipherable. The shooting starts early and the shooting stays constant. What this means is that the movie becomes a frenzied shootout that seemingly never ends until the credits. There is no sense of urgency or development, because everything is just danger and violence.
Slowly but surely, this movie will dull all of your emotions. The jokes will no longer feel like jokes. The deaths will no longer feel like deaths. The Jeff Goldblum will no longer feel like Jeff Goldblum. Nothing matters except for the colors and the cuts and the empty void you stare into while trying to remember life outside of the movie theatre. The special effects aren’t even that good and the editing is absolutely horrendous. There have been better looking aliens on TV and often times, cuts are more frequent than blinks. This movie really makes you respect all of the quiet moments in the first film because none of them are here. It’s less of a movie and more of a frontal assault. Independence Day Resurgence is trying so hard to go bigger that it doesn’t even know what made the original good in the first place.