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Invade me twice, shame on me: “Independence Day: Resurgence”

June 25, 2016

 

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1996’s Independence Day was a perfect summer movie. It had a big budget, eye-popping special effects, arresting visuals, and some charismatic actors. Also, it was dumber than a retarded opossum, which, really, is about the IQ you want attached to your summer movies. We don’t go to them to think—that shit’s for winter movies, yo. Now, some 20 years later we have the long-awaited sequel Independence Day: Resurgence. Is it as dumb as the original? A thousand times yes! Is it as good as the original? Alas, no (whomp whomp). Is it as fun as the original? Well, it gets close. Allow me to explain…

So, Resurgence (should I feel dirty typing that word? I kind of do) picks up an appropriate twenty years after aliens curb-stomped humanity in the first film, and, as it turns out, having most of our major cities burnt to a crisp and millions exterminated by alien invaders was the super bestest thing that could have happened to humanity. Rather than plunge into a new dark age due to the fact that all major utilities have been destroyed and food and water supplies undoubtedly poisoned (not to mention the means to distribute what few resources we have left were undoubtedly shattered), everything is totally jake with the world. Seems we raided the crashed spaceships and found to technology to rebuild, repopulate, and invent spaceplanes and moonbases.

Holy shit, I kinda want aliens to attack us right now. Like, this minute.

Maybe if we raided a UFO we could get the F-35 to work right.

Maybe if we raided a UFO we could get the F-35 to work right.

Unfortunately, on the 20th anniversary of our victory over our potential alien overlords, (a victory, we should remember, made possible by an alcoholic crop-duster played by Randy Quaid, who in the interim managed to go even crazier than the character he played). Another ship shows up. This time, however, we’re ready for it, and President Sela Ward zaps it. Ha! Take that, alien overlords!

Yeah, but oops, it was trying to warn us of another alien attack, and by the time we figure that out, a super-mega-banzai alien ship the size of a continent shows up and begins going to town on the Earth again. Once more, humanity must fight off an alien aggressor. Only this time we’ve been through it before so everyone’s a little more blasé about the end of the world.

Goddamn it, why can't they ever be E.T.'s people?

Goddamn it, why can’t they ever be E.T.’s people?

The various characters and subplots are so freaking numerous—owing to the fact that, aside from Will Smith, everyone from the original movie returns and are joined by a cast of newcomers—I probably won’t be able to list them all, but I’ll give it a try.

So, Jeff Goldblum is back as the premiere alien-expert owing to the fact he managed to pwn the aliens last time with nought but a Macbook and a soda can (that there’s some bragging rights). He’s joined by Charlotte Gainsbourg who play his old flame, a psychiatrist who specializes in alien telepathy (I guess that’s a thing now). Former President Bill Pullman is still around, but kinda mentally unstable.

"So, after the alien attack I moved to Brooklyn..."

“So, after the alien attack I moved to Brooklyn…”

His pilot daughter (Maika Monroe taking over for Mae Whitman because, apparently, the producers didn’t feel like a DUFF could fight off aliens) is hooking up with another hotshot pilot (played by the non-Thor Hemsworth) who lives on the moon. Non-Thor has a frenemy in Jesse T. Usher, who’s also a hotshot pilot. Together with a beta-male pilot (Travis Tope), who’s crushing on a Chinese hotshot pilot (Angelababy), they’re our airborne defense system. On the ground we got Brent Spiner returning as Doctor Okum, William Fitchner as the hard-nosed Vice President, Deobia Oparei as a not-at-all-racist African warlord, and Nicholas Wright as a doofy guy named Floyd.

So much beef, so little cake.

So much beef, so little cake.

And here is Resurgence’s big problem. Clocking in at barely two hours, this movie is a solid 25 minutes shorter than ID4 despite having almost twice as many characters. As a result, where ID4 was well-paced and proceeded logically to its finale, Resurgence is choppy and lurching. Scenes are edited so quickly, they don’t land emotionally. At one point some major characters are killed, but the scene cuts so abruptly, I was expected to return to it later. Instead, a couple characters inform us that, yes they’re dead, so now we gotta move. Likewise, the finale has to give so many characters something to do that it stretches into a seemingly endless series of action sequences. It manages to be both interminable and abrupt at the same time.

"Imma invade all y'all!"

“Imma invade all y’all!”

All of that having been said, Resurgence is still dumb fun. Hey, it’s got massive spaceships, tentacle aliens, and spaceplanes dogfighting spaceships. You gotta be some kind of genius to screw that up.

The returning cast is as good as they were the first time (is it possible for Jeff Goldblum, at this stage in his career, to not be charming?), but the new cast is more wobbly. Usher and Not-Thor are both pretty bland, but Monroe is great once the third act gives her something to do (still, it’s too bad, we didn’t get to see Whitman in the role, stupid Hollywood).

In the end, Resurgence is a worthy, if inferior, successor to ID4, if only because the original wasn’t exactly high art. Resurgence is a dumb, big-budget spectacle that doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Well, it succeeded on that front.

Also: the whole spaceplanes bit seems like a direct lift from The Asylum’s War of the Worlds sequel (remember that). So, yeah, Hollywood is now strip-mining some of the cheapest, dumbest cash-grab VOD fodder for ideas. The endtimes may indeed be upon us.

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