Let’s get this straight from the start: the very, very belated sequel to Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster is utterly predictable, suffers from a mostly leaden script, is occasionally silly, and is definitely not too smart. It is what many would term a ‘bad’ film.
However, for all that, I’m going to defend it for sneaking in a lot of intriguing ideas, and for the fact that not once during its 120 minute running time did I feel bored or was I overwhelmed by Michael Bay/Transformers-style “too many E numbers” compositions or editing. In short, was I not entertained? Well, yes, I was.
The plot itself can be written on the back of a (small) popcorn box – it’s twenty years later, the aliens return in a bigger ship, a bunch of stuff happens, things look bad for mankind and (SPOILER ALERT) we kick their slimy asses.
This all runs pretty much as expected (in fact, exactly as expected). Most of the surviving characters from ID4 crop up and run through their shtick, with the huge exception of Will Smith, who obviously felt this wasn’t going to be his much needed return to blockbusterville. The lack of Smith gives us more time to spend with Jeff Goldblum, and this should always be considered a benefit.
Now, snuck into all this predictable guff are some highly admirable concepts and character arcs, and this is where things get interesting. The world that ID:R posits is that the two decades since the first invasion have seen mankind put aside its petty international squabbling and come together as a unified planet (and boy, as someone from the UK, does that hit home right now), it also expands on the background of the aliens interestingly.
Many of the supporting characters are also shown to be normal people doing good and heroic things in terrible circumstances (above and beyond the super heroics of the chiseled leads): there’s a rather nice arc where Judd Hirsch’s character is saved by some orphaned children and then, later in the narrative, he stops his flight to find his son to save another group of stranded children. It’s a nicely understated piece of karmic business that wouldn’t hope to exist in many modern blockbusters. There’s also a subtle but definite gay relationship gifted to one of the returning characters, it’s a nice addition handled in a nice way.
These positive views of the human race and their heroic acts and ideas shine quite brightly through the otherwise by-the-numbers story and frequently risible, exposition heavy dialogue, and when added to always clear film making (definitely something of a rarity these days), plus some genuinely cool sequences (the climax, involving the alien queen and a whirling fleet of alien ships, while dumb as a box of frogs, is undeniably visually exciting) it shows that Independence Day: Resurgence is far from the complete disaster many reviews have suggested.
For a bad movie it sure has a lot of good qualities.