In 1996, Earth was invaded by extraterrestrials whose chief weapons were the cliches and tried-and-true tropes of science fiction. Gigantic spaceships positioned themselves over Earth’s major cities (Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke’s seminal novel of 1953). The aliens were discovered by the detection of a seemingly interstellar broadcast (John Varley’s superior 1977 novel The Ophiuchi Hotline and Carl Sagan’s brilliant Contact). They were biomechanical in nature (Ridley Scott’s classic Alien). They had a gazillion fighters (every Star Wars movie) and impenetrable electromagnetic shields (Star Trek, but only here and there, really). They did not come in peace (every invasion movie in human history, except Steven Spielberg’s amazing Close Encounters of the Third Kind). They were defeated by a computer genius with a Macbook that greeted him with “Hello Dave” (Arthur C. Clarke again in Stanley Kubrick’s singular 2001: A Space Odyssey). In short, way back when Independence Day came out and I saw it for the first time, I left the theater feeling like I’d seen it before.
And I loved it. I’ve watched it twice a year (at least) ever since.
Twenty years later, they’re back in Independence Day Resurgence, a sequel that attempts (more successfully than Star Wars: The Force Awakens) to be a continuation and a reboot while upping the ante in the invaders’ siege against humanity. Does it work? Oh, my stars and garters, yes it does.
IDR may come off at first as a note-for-note remake of its venerable predecessor (so did Predator 2, a noteworthy if underrated sequel itself), but it adds considerably to the mythology established two decades ago. Giant ships become even more humongous. Humanity has advanced as a result of the alien technology left behind and now has better weapons and super cool fighter planes. And something new has been added to the mix, potentially enlarging the conflict to galactic proportions.
Most of the principals from ID4 are present though Will Smith is obvious in his absence. The film carries on well without him, the weight carried by a slew of new characters and choice parts given to those returning, particularly Judd Hirsch, whom I have adored since his days on Taxi. The new cast members are pretty great (though their backstories are vague and their characters barely developed) and are convincing in their roles. Their emotions and conflicts seem real enough given the circumstances of the film, though the pacing of the story is both breakneck and headlong.
Also notably absent in IDR is the often irreverent and just a little too self-aware humor. There is no drunken pilot turned savior like Randy Quaid in the original and his presence is sorely missed. In his stead, Judd Hirsch, who was arguably the heart and soul ofID4, serves as the much needed comic relief and his performance is just as masterful as you’d expect. Aside from him, we are treated to the occasional smart remark or witty retort, but none of the memorable moments like those that Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum shared and seemed to relish so mightily.
All in all, I adored Independence Day Resurgence just as much as I did the first one. I’ve heard rumor that Roland Emmerichintends a sequel to complete the story and I hope to the heavens that I don’t have to wait another 20 years for it. IDR is a fun science fiction romp with of oodles of visual effects to delight any fan of alien invasions…and the destruction of Earth’s magnificent landmarks.