Fri, 03 Jul 2020

Independence Day: Resurgence

Director: Roland Emmerich
Screenplay: Nicolas Wright & James A. Woods and Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich and James Vanderbilt (story by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich and Nicolas Wright & James A. Woods; based on characters created by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich)
Stars: Liam Hemsworth (Jake Morrison), Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson), Jessie T. Usher (Dylan Hiller), Bill Pullman (President Whitmore), Maika Monroe (Patricia Whitmore), Sela Ward (President Lanford), William Fichtner (General Adams), Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson), Brent Spiner (Dr. Brakish Okun), Patrick St. Esprit (Secretary of Defense Tanner), Vivica A. Fox (Jasmine Hiller), Angelababy (Rain Lao), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Catherine Marceaux)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

Like it or not, right or wrong, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's Independence Day forever changed Hollywood filmmaking in the summer of 1996. Their canny updating of '50s-era alien invasion hokum with state-of-the-art special effects, the anticipation for which went through the roof with an impeccably well-timed (and, at the time, daring) six-months-in-advance trailer during the Super Bowl showcasing a massive alien ship blowing up the White House, ushered in a new era of outsized blockbuster filmmaking predicated on big emotions, end-of-the-world stakes, and mass destruction (Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg's game changer three years earlier, looks positively tame by comparison with its isolated location, limited number of characters, and emphasis on old-fashioned suspense).

Now that two decades have passed along with dozens and dozens of blockbuster blow-out movies they helped spawn, Emmerich and Devlin reteamed, for the first time since 2000's The Patriot, to produce a belated, and long-rumored sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence. It would seem that with the wholesale destruction of the invading alien forces in Independence Day (enabled by an Apple Macbook, surely one of Hollywood's greatest and most ridiculous moments of product placement), there wouldn't be much left to do, but it's hard to keep a good idea down. So, the film presupposes that the aliens, having been rebuffed by the forces of Planet Earth led by (who else?) the American President, have spent the past 20 years retooling for another invasion, and when they arrive, they are bigger and badder than ever.

Rather than a bunch of ships 15 miles wide, now we get one ship that is 3,000 miles in diameter, which plants itself on the western hemisphere, and starts drilling into the ocean with the goal of sucking out the planet's core. A number of characters from the first film return to help save the world once again, including Jeff Goldblum's sardonic scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum); former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who led the Earth's defense the first time around and is now a slightly hobbled, heavily bearded old man with bad dreams and possible visions of a new attack; Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner), the long-haired Area 51 scientist who was supposedly killed back in '96 but has apparently just been in a two-decade coma; and Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch), David's father who has no real place in the story except to provide another familiar face and some cantankerous shtick.

Of course, there needs to be some new blood as well, and Liam Hemsworth is on hand to provide good looks and not much else as Jake Morrison, a pilot who is engaged to Patricia (Maika Monroe), President Whitmore's daughter. The only real dramatic conflict in the film is between Jake and Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), another pilot and the son of the character played by Will Smith in the first film (who was apparently killed on a test flight). The conflict between them boils down to an old feud stemming from Jake's almost getting Dylan killed during flight school, and it is so thin as to barely merit mentioning, much less the amount of screen time that it gets. Other new faces include Sela Ward as the current President; Travis Toe as Charlie, Jake's brainy sidekick; Angelababy as a Chinese pilot after whom Charlie shamelessly lusts; Charlotte Gainsbourg as a psychologist who studies human-alien psychic connections; and Deobia Oparei as an African warlord on whose territory an alien ship landed back in '96 and has remained ever since. As in the first film, Resurgence has scenes that take place all over the world-in Washington, DC, in Africa, in London, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean-and also on the moon, as humankind has utilized the alien technologies to advance their own, which gives the film a futuristic sci-fi feel even though it takes place in the present.

Of course, what audiences are looking for in Independence Day: Resurgence is spectacle, and Emmerich delivers plenty of it. Much of it will feel familiar, especially since Emmerich has already destroyed much of the world many times over-not only in the first Independence Day, but also in Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and 2012 (2009)-and there are only so many visually interesting ways you can lay waste to major cities (the destruction of the London Bridge gives occasion for one of the film's funnier self-aware comments, when Goldblum mutters, "They always go after the national landmarks"). The special effects are often quite good, although there are several scenes that were clearly shot on soundstages and look utterly unconvincing. A lot of the action feels regurgitated from other action movies (including the original film), but some of them stick, like the big climax in the Nevada salt flats, whose expanse of white ground and blue sky lend visual clarity that is often lacking in the darker, more hectic sequences.

While Emmerich and Devlin managed screenwriting duties on the original film by themselves, the sequel has required no less than three additional scribes, including Nicolas Wright (White House Down, James A. Woods (a minor character actor making his screenwriting debut), and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Amazing Spider-Man). As a result, the film often feels overcooked and overseasoned-the proverbial "too many chefs" problem. The basic structure works fine and some of the ideas are pretty good, but there is no emotional resonance; the characters are all flat, even Goldblum's David, who is good for a few funny lines and not much else. Will Smith appears briefly in the background in a framed photograph in the new White House, which only makes his lack of presence all the more noticeable. Some initially laughed in the mid-'90s about the idea of the Fresh Prince taking on invading aliens, but Resurgence could have used some of that charisma and energy to round out and enliven the mostly empty spectacle.

Independence Day: Resurgenc Blu-Ray 3D + Blu-Ray + Digital HD
Aspect Ratio2.39:1

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • English Descriptive Audio 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish

  • Audio commentary by director Roland Emmerich
  • Another Day: The Making of Independence Day: Resurgence four-part making-of documentary
  • Eight deleted scenes with audio commentary by Emmerich
  • "The War of 1996" featurette
  • "It's Early, Albuquerque!" featurette
  • Gag reel
  • Concept Art
  • Theatrical trailers and TV spot
  • Distributor20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
    Release DateOctober 18, 2016

    Unlike its predecessor, which was made back in the celluloid era, Independence Day: Resurgence was shot digitally in 4K on the Red camera, and it definitely shows. The 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation on the Blu-ray is pretty much flawless, as it gives us an absolutely accurate rendition of the film's sleek, detail-rich look. Many scenes are washed in steely blues and greens, which is what makes the climax on the arid Utah salt flat such a visual relief. Black levels and contrast look great, and the epic scenes of destruction-which is, frankly, what a lot of people are looking for-certainly wow the eye. As I mentioned in my review of the film itself, the digital effects are sometimes hit-or-miss, with some of the blue-screen work looking way too flat, which is obviously not the fault of the transfer. Those who choose to go with the Blu-ray 3D will find that the three-dimensional effects are good, but not overwhelming. Given that the film went through the 2D-to-3D postproduction conversion, the effects will never be as good as true 3D, with most of the spaciousness being reserved for the foreground and middle ground while the background tends to look a bit uniform (which only highlights the blue-screen nature of much of the film's photography). Some scenes are done very nicely, though (especially the interior scenes on the moon base and the underground Area 51 lab), and the big disaster sequences and aerial battles certainly benefit, although there is a decided lack of stuff flying out of the screen (a gimmick, sure, but one that would have been wholly appropriate in a film like this). The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel soundtrack is pretty much a knockout, with consistently impressive deployment of the surround speakers and the LFE channel to make those destruction sequences really stand out. Dialogue is clean and clear and the orchestral score sounds fantastic, as do more subtle ambient and atmospheric effects.
    The supplements are pretty thorough, and I actually enjoyed learning about the film's production more than I liked watching the film itself (it seems like it's a case of some good ideas just not quite translating in practice). Cowriter / coproducer / director Roland Emmerich supplies a generally entertaining and information-rich audio commentary that is nicely supplemented by the four-part, 55-minute making-of documentary Another Day: The Making of Independence Day: Resurgence, which boasts an impressive amount of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with all of the primary contributors in terms of both cast and crew. I was not surprised to see how much of the film was shot in front of blue screens, but there were also a number of full-sized sets constructed, as well as several full-size fighters and a full-size moon tug, which were fun to see. Also included are eight short deleted scenes with optional commentary by Emmerich, a 6-minute gag reel, concept art galleries ("Aliens," "AI," "Humans," "Locations," and "Original Presentational Images), and several theatrical trailers and a TV spot. There are also two brief featurettes from "the world" of the film: "The War of 1996," a 5-minute faux documentary for the fictional United World News (UWN) that recaps the events in the first film and shows how they resulted in the nations of Earth uniting together in common defense, and "It's Early, Albuquerque!," an amusing 3-minute clip from a fictional morning show in which the host, Terry Dudley (Fred Armisen), interviews Julius Levinson about his book How I Saved the World, with David making a late, thoroughly disgruntled appearance.

    Copyright 2016 James Kendrick

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (2)


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