It was twenty years ago today that beings from another planet attacked the Earth. Earth won and in the two decades since, we have united, rebuilt, adapted their technology and prepared for their return. And on the day we were celebrating our victory, they returned—smarter than before and on the verge of defeating us—again.
There are a lot of smart things in the script for Independence Day: Resurgence, which is both a strength and a weakness. The filmmakers seem to feel that everyone has seen the original movie at least two or three times since its release so characters are introduced like relatives who missed the last couple of family reunions but they made this one. (“Hi, I’m the president’s daughter, all grown up!” “And I’m Will Smith’s stepson!”) In a sense it’s a bridge, handing the franchise off to the next generation, giving you one last look at the old guard before they head off to the retirement home. The smartest thing is the youngsters do not bring baggage—except for one thing—like having to live up to their elders achievements. That being said…
Resurgence feels you want to see the band back together so much you don’t care how it happens. Coincidences pile up in ways that r-e-a-l-l-y stretch credulity (I mean, how does a fishing boat get from New York City to somewhere in Nevada?). Some character relationships are unexplained, one character checks on a parent, just in time to see them selflessly give their live to save another (And would the most negligent hospital not check to see if all the patients had been evacuated?), giving the character another reason to hate the invaders, as if destroying the planet wasn’t enough. (Genocide on a global basis is one thing, but this makes it personal!) And the theme is established: in order for you to be a soldier in this army, you have to be an orphan.
It’s been said for some types of movies, they are better when the budget is smaller: when you don’t have a log to spend on CGI, you have to tell a real story—with character development, dialogue, plot—rather than just giving people something cool to look at for a couple of hours. Adjusted for inflation, the original movie didn’t cost significantly less than the current one, but the first one had to rely on “real” special effects—models, puppets, “in camera” tricks, rather than the requisite thousands of people needed for a modern SFX feature. (The total film crew for Iron Man 3 was 3,310, 326 more people than the crew who worked on Avatar.) So the more-is-less argument doesn’t quite hold up for the shortcomings of Independence Day: Resurgence. The problem, I think, is that sometimes it’s too clever for its own good, despite the virtual lack of science in a science fiction movie.