A Screenplay Written by Insane People (or, Yes, It’s All Intentional)

I have no idea how the people working at a major motion picture studio read the screenplay for Independence Day: Resurgence and said “This is okay. Go shoot this.” And I mean this as a compliment. Sort of. Because the the screenplay for Independence Day: Resurgence, which credits five writers, feels like it was assembled by lunatics. While the world building science fiction I praised above hits all of the right notes, many of the actual plot points work because they feel so gloriously wrong. They feel wrong in that ’90s kind of way, the kind of wrong that gifted the world with bonkers blockbusters like Face/Off and Demolition Man. You know, movies so proud of their excess that they never paused to wonder if the should do what is written on the page. To put this in proper perspective, I immediately went home after my screening of Resurgence and watched Deep Blue Sea, a combination that just felt right deep down in my bones.

Yeah, a certain amount of this may be ’90s nostalgia, as Resurgence feels very much shackled the decade that birthed the first movie. And yet, the absurdity of this film is just self-aware enough, just affable enough, to function. Emmerich knows exactly what he’s doing when he builds a climactic set piece around a 100-foot tall alien queen pursuing Jeff Goldblum across the Nevada desert as he drives a school bus (!) full of abandoned children (!!) after nearly dying because an adorable dog had to rescued from certain doom (!!!). Anyone who thinks that Resurgence isn’t in on the joke and doesn’t realize that it’s a work of crafty insanity by people who have built their entire careers on delivering next-level absurdity. How else are we to explain the spherical robot with its bizarre deadpan? Dr. Okun’s secret laser cutter? Liam Hemsworth distracting an alien guard by pissing all of the floor of the mothership while giving them the finger? A story this full of left turns down rabbit holes and so consistently full of brazenly stupid jokes demands some level of respect, even if you want to give it grudgingly. Resurgence is many things, but dull is not one of ’em.


Not a Cynical Bone in Its Body (or, This Movie Cannot Tell a Lie)

Independence Day: Resurgence is a silly genre movie. It’s ridiculous and lunkheaded, although some of that certainly feels like it’s by design. It’s full of ridiculous set pieces and eye-rolling humor. And yet, everything about this big, dumb movie feels downright honest. Although it’s a very different film from its predecessor in the grand scheme of things, Resurgence overlaps with it in one key area: it’s probably one of the most earnestly made major studio releases you’ll see this year.

When characters make hokey speeches, they mean them. When someone lays down his life to save another, it’s treated with sentimental heft. When the film pauses to celebrate how mankind can come together to defeat anything, it genuinely feels like the movie believes this. There’s no cynicism here and anyone hoping for something post-modern will need to look elsewhere. Roland Emmerich has made cynical movies before (2012, anyone?), but Resurgence wears its heart on its sleeve in a big way. It wants to be rousing. It wants its heroes to be heroes. It wants to showcase humanity at its best, even after half of the population has been wiped out.


The closest recent comparison would be Warcraft, another critically reviled movie that doesn’t contain a single ounce of cynicism in its make-up. Both Warcraft and Resurgence feel old fashioned and a little out of touch, but they also feel like they have been crafted by filmmakers truly and genuinely believe in what they’re putting on screen. I think Warcraft is a disappointing misfire, but I recognize that it’s failure is a noble one. Overall, I’m of the opinion that Independence Day: Resurgence is the better movie because the story make sense and its characters have something resembling arcs, but both films share this uncommon DNA. They belong in the same club as Jupiter Ascending and John Carter – genre movies so profoundly un-hip that they somehow end up feeling like a precious jewel. Well, a cracked jewel.

I’ll take the thrilling hokum and bizarre imagination of Independence Day: Resurgence over most of the films I’ve seen this summer. It’s imperfect and if you hate it with all of your heart, that’s okay. That’s fine. You may be right. I may be crazy. But this may be the lunatic movie I’ve been looking for.

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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.