Independence Day: Resurgence has been labeled by the broad critic community as an abomination. It’s been called lazy, nonsensical, and joyless. I voluntarily saw the sequel, 20 years in the making, last night, and none of the words match what I saw.
The movie certainly isn’t lazy. Like so many recent summer blockbusters, it’s overstuffed with plot. But unlike its contemporaries, it condenses the story to a long, but comparatively brief two hours. It hustles like a Saturday morning cartoon, eager to have its story cake and eat its action set pieces, too.
The move isn’t nonsensical, in the capacity that a child could track what’s happening. There aren’t characters and storylines from a dozen other movies buttressing Resurgence — you don’t even need to know the plot of the original. Twenty years ago, aliens attacked Earth. We won, built a harmonious global community, and advanced our weaponry for when they returned — which is now. How will we beat them this time? The answer is no less preposterous than its predecessor’s solution: a head cold.
And lastly, let’s speak to the claim that this film is joyless. Judging from critical reaction and public interest, few people will actually see this movie, so, allow me to whet the appetite of those who remain curious. Here are 23 pieces of evidence for the case that Independence Day: Resurgence deserves a place in the catalogue of great sci-fi B-movies.
1. Liam Hemsworth pees on a dead alien in front of another alien.
2. When Hemsworth pees on a dead alien, it’s inside a giant alien forest that is inside of a UFO large enough to cover much of the Atlantic Ocean.
3. The mega UFO has legs, like a spider legs but, you know, the size of a city. One of these legs dig into the East Coast of the USA, and stops in the backyard of the recreation of the White House — destroyed in the first film. The city-sized leg of a giant UFO doesn't totally destroy the most politically loaded building in the nation; it just knocks over the American flag on its roof.
4. There’s an entire story about space pilots from across the world. The storyline works because the characters who speak languages that aren’t English are more than a dumb punchline, and because it basically doubles the film as a spiritual sequel to Starship Troopers.
Liem Hemsworth pees on a dead alien
5. Oh yeah, so alongside world peace, humans have also mastered fusion power, which they use for giant moon weapons, human-sized rifles, and spaceship boosters. But a lot of people still drive cars that look like they rolled off the assembly line in 1989. Like the works of Shakespeare, Independence Day: Resurgence is of a time, and yet timeless.
6. Before the movie begins, we learn an "African warlord" spent 10 years fighting the aliens in hand-to-hand combat. (Frankly, this is the movie that should have been made, but c’est la vie.) In the movie, we see warlord Dikembe Umbutu murder an alien with two machetes.
7. In the course of the movie — which spans three days, tops — Jeff Goldblum travels from an unnamed African nation, to the moon, to Area 51. Will Smith’s fighter pilot son outdoes Goldblum, traveling from Washington, DC, to the moon, to Los Angeles where he watches his mother die, to Area 51.
8. President Bill Pullman has, for decades, suffered visions of this grand attack, but somehow is allowed to sneak away from the guards in an alien prison to release an alien into a room with him.
9. Oh yeah, there is an alien prison at Area 51.
Just like the works of Shakespeare
10. Anyway, back to President Pullman. He sacrifices himself to the prison alien so he can serve as a human translation device. But he doesn’t die.
11. Instead, President Pullman, again, who has severe mental attacks caused by the alien’s presence, is given the one shot at actually killing the Alien Queen before the mothership drills into Earth’s core and steals its molten materials, thereby neutralizing Earth’s magnetic something or another, and ending civilization.
12. Oh yeah, there’s an Alien Queen roughly the size of the Eiffel Tower.
13. And yeah, there’s a ticking-time bomb plot device involving the Earth’s core being harvested, and it arbitrarily gets condensed at the most crucial moments to ratchet the tension.
14. Anyway, back to President Pullman. He is the lone pilot that flies a suicide payload of fusion bombs into an alien mothership.
15. And he does this in front of his fighter pilot daughter, who is not played by Mae Whitman, as in the original, even though much of the original cast returns and Mae Whitman is a great actress. Safe to say the absence of Mae Whitman is this film’s most unforgivable mistake.
President Pullman has become Randy Quaid
16. Remember the long-haired scientist in the original film? The one played by Data and is killed by an alien in front of President Pullman? He isn’t dead, actually! So, Data wakes up from a 20-year coma. Maybe I’m shipping here, but we discover Data has been taken care of all this time by a Jewish man, who I think is his lover, and who has spent the last two decades watering orchids and failing to knit a sweater.
17. And these two get the big, final charming dramatic moment!
18. Judd Hirsch, aka Jeff Goldblum’s father, is alive, and takes credit for saving the world by coming up with the plan to give the aliens a head cold 20 years ago.
19. Jeff Goldblum’s father spends the entire second half of the movie collecting children. He starts with three and ends with an entire busload of kids abandoned by the worst adults in the universe.
20. Back to the mega UFO megaL it produces another smaller ship, which itself contains the Alien Queen, like some sort of Independence Day-themed Kinder Surprise.
21. When the smaller ship containing the Alien Queen is destroyed, its passenger — the one roughly the size of the Eiffel Tower — survives and we discover the Alien Queen has the exact same alien design as the normal aliens, just now it’s really, really big! Why would an alien need to be this big, you ask? My best guess is someone who was both involved with the creation of this film, yes doesn’t know how movies work on a metaphysical level, thought the Alien Queen might leap from the screen, make its way into an adjoining theater, find the BFG and rip off its head.
22. And do you know the first thing the Alien Queen sees on Earth? Jeff Goldblum’s father’s magical school bus full of abandoned kids, speeding through the desert. Minutes before a potential apocalypse, an Alien Queen the size of the Eiffel Tower chases a school bus full of kids.
23. Anyway, long story short: the humans shoot down a different alien species on the moon, recover its most important part, bring it to Area 51, cut it open, meet the last survivor superior artificial intelligence species, beat the Alien Queen more or less without its help, then accept its request to lead a multispecies resistance, taking the fight to the bad aliens in the Independence Day threequel that will, criminally, never be made unless this film does gangbusters overseas. Stranger things have happened.