I saw Independence Day: Resurgence over my Fourth of July weekend. I didn’t go in expecting the next great American Sci Fi movie, or even something that would surpass the original in anything other than scope, and I think that probably played a good role in why I enjoyed it so much. ID4-2 is what it is, and unashamedly so: A tentpole summer movie (that wanted so very badly to be a blockbuster) full of nostalgia, patriotism a healthy dose cheese and melodrama. And, honestly, it was just a little bit surprising in places.
What surprised me the most is how excellently the veteran cast was used.
I feel like Jeff Goldblum was a really big draw for this movie — because, like Robin Williams, he’s an inimitable character with a particular quality that a lot of people like — and it would have been so easy to overdo it. But the film really knew when to pull back. While his David Levinson was by no means sidelined, the role was more of a chorus: Spout some technobabble, a little gloom and doom, a little bit of hope, and a few quippy (and so, so cheesy) one-liners for the trailer. And it was just the right amount of Goldblum.
Bill Pullman’s former President Whitmore was given a pretty significant arc that didn’t disappoint, even if it was pretty predictable and pretty unbelievable that he would be able to do some of the things he did. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re a former president and war hero known for leading the troops in the battle for Earth
But the breakout performance for the old guard goes to Brent Spiner’s Dr. Brackish Okun (and I’m not just saying that because I’m nearing the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Data owns my heart). Independence Day: Resurgence took what really was little more than a minor role from beloved character actor and elevated it to a much larger part of this ensemble. Sure it was a little hammy, but hammy can be fun, and I found Spiner as refreshing as the matter-of-fact relationship that survived a 20-year coma between Okun and Dr. Milton Isaac. Some might call that relationship PC pandering, others might hate it for the trope it ultimately invokes, and others still might deny its existence entirely, and all those reactions are fine, but for the balance of newness, familiarity and gravity it brought, I liked it.
As for the movie as a whole, it’s not without its faults. There was a character so unmemorable I can’t even remember her name. She just seemed to exist to be sort of reminiscent of David’s ex-wife from the first movie, which was disappointing, because it just left me wondering what that character had been up in the past 20 years.
I also wish the movie had opened a little slower and given the audience time to get to know the alien-tech enhanced world and to see the younger characters as people rather than trading on “Here are the kids of from the first movie all grown up with friends, but now look at these explosions!”
Don’t get me wrong, explosions and futuristic dogfights with aliens are a big reason to see Independence Day: Resurgence, but maybe a little more substance and a little (just a little) less flash wouldn’t have been remiss.
Having said that, I think Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe and Liam Hemsworth did wonderfully in their roles, as did Deobia Oparei, playing the warlord with a knack for killing aliens in hand-to-hand combat. Even the comic-relief side characters were cute, as long as you’re not bothered by one-note characters filling the stereotypical “little guy, big hero” role. After all, as the Jaws theme reminds us: A couple of one-notes can be awfully compelling all on their own.
The movie pulls a mild Back to the Future Part II, ending with the promise of more adventures (but suitably closing the one it began), and I just don’t know if the box office numbers will be good enough for a third installment, but overall I had a good time.
For solo viewing, it’s worth the matinee price, and for group viewing, I’d even say it’s worth evening prices, as long as you manage expectations. Because it’s not as good as the original, despite having a story that really doesn’t stray far from it, and it is fairly predictable. But it’s got some heart and is a nice reunion of loved characters. There’s certainly plenty of action and enough comedy, and is a worthy reminder that heroes can come in all sizes, from all walks of life.
And it’s a good excuse to eat popcorn for two hours while things blow up.
Leisure Time is on Twitter! Follow @theLTtweet for post updates and smaller thoughts.