When you create an earth-shattering film, iterating on that concept can be daunting. So much so, in the days before multipart mega franchises, it was hardly done. In 1996, Roland Emmerich brought the human stories to a continent-spanning epic of alien apocalyptic adventure. Called Independence Day; it was a box office smash, still fondly remembered. Although nobody expected a continuation of that story, In 2016, 20 years after the aliens were bested by… then-current technology… that is exactly what they got, as the aliens are back, though a lot has changed in Independence Day: Resurgence.
After being welcomed to earth, and on the receiving end of a Jeff Goldblum computer virus. The alien threat left earth with their tales between their legs. Humanity is in a golden age of peace, with the infusion of alien tech, and a global desire to rebuild, propelling the Earth of 2016 into an unrecognisable interplanetary government. Protected by an early-warning system and a well-equipped Earth Space Defense. When one of the forward bases gets destroyed by mysterious entities; concerns reach the higher-ups that the extraterrestrial threat is back, having sent a signal back to their home that they need reinforcements. Even with the preparedness and the advanced technology behind them, can the citizens of Earth survive round two?
The film takes great pleasure in showing us what the characters of the old film have been up to, though with some slight alterations. Mae Whitman, unfortunately, has been recast, and Will Smith’s presence is conspicuous, but the remaining ‘survivors’ do a good job. The mental scarring of the previous assault has left an impact on former President Whitman, (Pullman does a great job of showing those exact symptoms). Goldblum’s wit and charm is a welcome return as Levinson, along with Brent Spiner returning in a non-robotic role. But the new characters also shine, such as the intrepid members of the Earth Space Defense force. Liam Hemsworth, portraying hot-shot pilot Jake Morrison, represents the new blood of this interplanetary military, and his relationship with now grown-up Dylan (following in his father’s footsteps) is the perfect fuel for that interpersonal insight that made the first film so successful.
The 20 minutes into the future approach does add a smack of ingenuity to the proceedings So Resurgence feels more than just another sequel. Although the classic elements that made the original Independence Day so popular are present: C.G.I. spectacles (like seeing Britain ablaze) make a triumphant return, and creatively designed alien troopers pursuing the minuscule (by comparison) members of the Earth Space Defence. These are just some set pieces showing the evolution of the technology (both on and off the screen). Along with some new ideas particularly with the rise of psychic powers, mysterious spheres that hold masses of data, and an increasing understanding of the aliens from the first film, offering great rewards for those who are invested in the mythology of these interstellar foes.
With the increasing competition of the summer blockbuster market, it can be cutthroat and while it may be tempting to repeat yourself, the evolving tide of tastes and technology means you cannot go back. Resurgence cleverly does not try to repeat itself, especially moving forward as we all have done. Independence Day: Resurgence manages to sing the classic ballad with a fresh arrangement. A mesh of action and drama providing fitting fun for the whole family. While blockbusters up their game, it can seem like overkill to compete, Independence Day: Resurgence shows that humanity is still ready for that fight.
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