The first Independence Day is one of those films that strikes just the right tone, something between earnest and goofy-as-hell, genuinely terrifying and gloriously indulgent. It was like the best possible kind of Irwin Allen disaster movie, where the spectacle was off-set by a charming ensemble of personalities and attitude was an acceptable replacement for character development. In all these regards, the sequel fails to measure up.
The first half of Resurgence creaks with forced exposition and the tedious introduction of new, younger characters that fail to be very interesting. Even though one of the new characters is a pretty Hemsworth boy, you really want to swat the new kids away and spend time with the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and others from the original film. And you do — but few characters, old or new, have many moments to shine. Brent Spiner, returning as Dr. Okun from Area 51, is given a much bigger role and turns out to be one of the movie’s biggest highlights. Meanwhile, William Fichtner, Robert Loggia, Judd Hirsch, and Sela Ward (as the President) are given thankless tasks, complete with stereotypical bad-ass dialogue that will make you cringe. The lack of charisma among the cast made me miss Will Smith.
Half-way through the movie, I was suddenly overwhelmed with how lifeless it was. And I decided it was largely in part for two reasons. First, locations. Most of the movie takes place inside bunkers, air hangers, and dark offices. You don’t get to spend as much time outdoors or in many interesting locations in this movie, and it starts to get depressing. It feels cold and disaffecting. It doesn’t help whenever characters are communicating over screens and holograms instead of face to face. Since the movie takes place in a variant 2016 where alien technology has advanced civilization, Earth feels like an alien world. It may make sense, but it also further distances the audience from the story and its characters.
Second, the score. David Arnold scored the first film like John Williams and John Philip Sousa rolled into one. It was an epic, over-the-top, patriotic score that went for broke and won the game. As cheesy as Independence Day was, Arnold’s score anchored it in a reality and in a certain seriousness. The new score, by two people I don’t know, pays a bit of homage to Arnold’s work, but is otherwise forgettable and nowhere near as helpful to the film. The new score doesn’t go for broke. It plays it safe, like a generic action movie. And Resurgence, like Independence Day, is the kind of movie that needs a little musical nudging.