INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

World Building (or, a Landscape Worthy of an Adventure)

Of all the deep, geeky pleasures that directly appealed to my (admittedly specific) sensibilities in Independence Day: Resurgence, it’s the world-building that really won me over the most. While the first film took place in a world that was recognizably our own circa 1996, the sequel takes a hard turn into one of my favorite sub-genres: the alternate history tale. Resurgence takes advantage of the two decades that have passed since the release of the first film to set its action in 2016, even it’s not the 2016 we’re living in right. It’s a 2016 that has been thoroughly re-imagined as something fresh and new that grew out of a full-blown alien invasion. The film never forgets what happened twenty years earlier and uses the fact that the human race was fundamentally reshaped by the first invasion to mold a science fiction world expansive and weird enough to house all of the magnificent nonsense that arises throughout the film.

The little details that fascinate me the most. I love how an entire new division of psychotherapy has been developed to assist patients who are living with the trauma of having survived a psychic invasion by the aliens. I would gladly watch a spin-off film following the African warlords who were forced to wage a lonesome guerrilla war against alien survivors for decade after the rest of the world declared victory. I got a kick out of this new world resembling a Star Trek utopia and how the second invasion causes a crisis of faith for young people who have grown up confident following the initial victory (only for their faith to be tested).

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

I even enjoyed how the film let the original cast members evolve, placing them in positions that feel like a genuine reflection of where they left off at the conclusion of the first movie. I want to know who the hell decided to create a drink called Moon Milk and whether or not it’s available on Earth. I also laughed out loud when I saw a portrait of Will Smith in the halls of the White House because it’s silly, but I also appreciated how it quickly and competently it showed off the new status quo of this alternate 2016. The heroes of the War of ’96 now carry as much historical weight as the founding fathers. This movie may be silly, but its setting feels crafted with genuine care and thought. What would a post-alien invasion Earth look like?

And after Independence Day: Resurgence finishes establishing this alternate history, it begins to tear everything down and replace the rubble with concepts and characters that are, somehow, even more out-there than what was there before. The discovery of a third alien race that has been training various other alien races how the battle the “Harvesters” is a step off the deep end for a movie that was already wading deep into silly territory. The promise of a sequel (that will almost certainly never happen) where the humans fly into space using new technology to lead other alien races in an intergalactic war against the Harvesters is the logical next step. Independence Day: Resurgence grows too so and so preposterous in its final act that it has to promise to launch Jeff Goldblum into space. It’s the only logical next step.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

A Ruthless Pace (or, Thank God For Movies That Run 120 Minutes)

At the risk of handing out a backhanded compliment to a movie that already has the entire internet dog piling on it, one of the best things about Independence Day: Resurgence is that it’s short. In fact, it’s a full 25 minutes shorter than the first film, with the credits rolling before the two-hour mark arrives. And that is a glorious feeling.

You’ve surely noticed that summer movies have been getting longer and longer, with very few of them coming close to justifying their length. Captain America: Civil War, a good movie, could stand to lose 15-20 minutes. X-Men: Apocalypse, a very bad movie, overstays its welcome by at least 30 minutes. Independence Day: Resurgence, a whatever-the-hell-this-movie-is, is just long enough. Say what you will about the actual mechanics of the story, but this movie moves, sprinting from one scene to the next without showing off even a tiny shred of fat. Here is a film that doesn’t want to waste your time.

However, it’s also obvious that the film has been cut to ribbons, which means that the killer pacing is another accidental victory. This is especially obvious in the first act, where major characters aren’t given proper introductions and some of that cool world building feels overly rushed. It’s a double-edged sword – is it okay for a film to sacrifice detail in the name of simply not wasting the audience’s time? In the case of Resurgence, where so many of the film’s charms rely on it bouncing from one outrageous concept or set piece to another, it feels like a necessary sacrifice. If Roland Emmerich does have a longer version on his hard drive, even if it’s a version where Dylan Hiller isn’t painfully boring, I have no interest in seeing it. Resurgence functions because it won’t slow down long enough for you to see the sticking.

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About the Author

Jacob Hall is the managing editor of /Film, with previous bylines all over the Internet. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, his pets, and his board game collection.