NOTE: This post spoils pretty much all of ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’. If you haven’t seen it yet… well, today is as good a day as any to see it!
Ah, the 4th of July: A time for barbecues, patriotism, and watching movies about aliens invading earth on America’s birthday. I’m talking, of course, about 1996’s ‘Independence Day,’ one of the biggest blockbusters of the 90’s. Considering how much of a success it was, it’s surprising that it took Hollywood twenty years to give us a sequel, ‘Independence Day: Resurgence.’
Unfortunately, ‘Resurgence’ didn’t repeat the success of its predecessor, and quickly faded from view, taking with it any hopes of any further sequels. Yet, despite its lackluster reception by audiences and critics alike, I’d say that, when compared to the many legacy sequels we’ve gotten since then, ‘Resurgence’ is one of the better ones. In honor of the film’s 6th anniversary, I’d like to list (in no particular order) 11 things ‘Resurgence’ does well.
1. The setting
Reflecting the passage of time in our world, ‘Resurgence’ takes place 20 years after the event of the original, and features a world where humanity has not only rebuilt itself in the aftermath of the war of 96, but also reverse-engineered and integrated alien technology into our societies to grant us hover technology, laser blasters, and casual space travel, among other things. But even better, coming together to defeat the harvesters has resulted in humanity putting aside our differences and enjoying twenty years of world peace.
It’s so rare these days to see a sequel where life is unquestionably better for everyone after the events of a previous movie, and this kind of optimism is a welcome change from countless films where the world may have been saved, but is still a dark and dreary place.
2. Almost all the original cast are back, and have large roles in the story.
When legacy sequels bring back original characters, they usually take a backseat to forgettable newcomers. ‘Resurgence,’ bucks that trend, though, by having almost all of the original cast return from the first film and making them integral to the story, from President Whitmore being a key figure in the fight against the harvesters, David being the leading expert on alien technology, and Dylan and Patricia stepping up to fight the harvesters like their parents did. Even side characters, like Julius, Jasmine, and even General Grey get their moments to shine; as a fan of the original film, I was so happy to see all my favorite characters come back after twenty years and still be treated with respect, so much so that the public still adores Whitmore, and little kids want David’s autograph. Goofy? Yes. Heartwarming? Also yes.
3. The film doesn’t negate the accomplishments of the original.
If there’s one common flaw to be found in legacy sequels, it’s the infuriating tendency to undo the accomplishments, resolutions, and happy endings found in our favorite films for the sake of starting a new conflict (see: John Conner being killed off in the first three minutes of Terminator: Dark Fate, the rise of an even more evil empire in the Star Wars sequels, a new Matrix enslaving humanity, etc.) and rendering everything our heroes did pointless and meaningless. Thankfully, ‘Resurgence’ is arguably the one legacy sequel that completely averts this trope, as Earth has enjoyed twenty years of peace, prosperity, and technological advancements, thanks to the efforts of everyone in the original film. That means that, when going back to rewatch the original movie, we know that all the pain, suffering, and sacrifices endured by the characters do pay off, and lead to lasting change that benefits so many people, rather than knowing that all those efforts will be rendered meaningless.
4. The adventures of Julius
Many reviewers have correctly pointed out that Julius doesn’t have much to do in ‘Resurgence,’ and that his subplot of leading some kids to safety ultimately doesn’t contribute anything to the story. While I agree with this critique, his story allows us to see the more personal, intimate side of an alien invasion, with ordinary people dealing with gas shortages, children losing their parents, and just trying to find safety as everything falls apart. Plus, you could also say that, thanks to Julius, he provided the bus that allowed him, David, the kids, and David’s assistant to escape the harvester queen at the climax, meaning that Julius ultimately ends up helping save his son’s life, while also helping bring hope and comfort to some scared teenagers and pre-teens. That, I think, is a worthy outcome to a road trip at the end of the world.
5. Whitmore’s sacrifice
Poor James Whitmore doesn’t have it easy in ‘Resurgence.’ After rising to become one of the most badass fictional presidents in cinema (helped by having given one of the best speeches in film history), we see him as an older, wearier, and worn-down shell of his former self, a man plagued with mental issues and who needs a cane just to walk around. Yet, as the film goes on, James finds his old strength and once again rises to help humanity once more, culminating in him confronting the harvester queen – the source of all the mental pain he’s suffered for so many years – and sacrificing his life to stop her.
But wait a minute, you might say; James’ sacrifice fails to kill the Queen! And you’d be right… but James did destroy the Queen’s ship, critically damaged her shield, and forced her out into the open, where she was vulnerable and attacked by others, ultimately leading to her death, none of which would have happened if he hadn’t sacrificed himself. Thus, James manages to save humanity from aliens a second time, complete with a great pre-mortmen one liner to boot.
6. It introduces a new faction of aliens
It would have been easy for ‘Resurgence’ to focus its story only on the harvesters; after all, we came to see our favorite characters once again fighting them to save the Earth, and we would have still gotten a good, focused story. But ‘Resurgence’ introduces the spheres, a new species of alien that’s friendly to humanity, one that’s thousands of years ahead of us in terms of technology.
With the sphere, ‘Resurgence’ expands the lore of Independence Day by revealing that the harvesters are a much greater threat than we believed, and that they’ve destroyed countless worlds. And not only that, but there are other species that have been fighting back against them, and that it is possible to defeat the harvesters for good. Now that’s good world-building.
7. Dikembe Umbutu, warrior extraordinaire
If I’m being honest, most of the newcomers in ‘Resurgence’ don’t make much of an impression… save for Dikembe, a veteran of a ten year ground war against the harvesters in Africa, making him a warrior skilled enough that he can take down a harvester in a one-on-one fight with nothing but two machetes. And while he’s not the warmest or most personable of people, Dikembe is a reliable ally who isn’t afraid to help when it’s needed, and to give praise to those who do their part who fight to stop the harvesters. If only one newcomer were to be kept in ‘Resurgence’ while all others were deleted, I would pick this guy.
8. Steven Hiller’s Action Figure
This one is cheating just a little, as it only happens in the film’s novelization, but at the hospital that Jasmine works in, one of the patients – a little boy suffering from cancer – can’t sleep without having his favorite action figure by his side. What is it? A figure of Jasmine’s husband, Steven Hiller, who was so memorably played by Will Smith in the original film. It’s a moment that should be unspeakably goofy… and yet, it works. I just love the idea that Steven is so beloved by the world after all that he did that action figures were made of him; makes you wonder if there are figures of James, David, and all the other heroes of the original film.
9. The Harvester Queen
While the harvesters in the first film were more like the Borg in that they had no leader, ‘Resurgence’ gives us a harvester queen to be the film’s antagonist. And like the xenomorph queen from the ‘Alien’ movies, this queen doesn’t mess around, personally leading the attack on Earth, causing destruction on a scale that the original attack couldn’t even dream of, wiping out all of Earth’s defenses, and beginning the process of drilling down to the planet’s core, an act that would destroy Earth and humanity. And if that wasn’t enough, the queen is then revealed to be a skyscraper-sized colossus who single-handily attacks Area 51; it’s only by sheer luck and grit that humanity manages to take her out.
No matter how you may look at the movie, it cannot be denied that the harvester queen is an incredibly dangerous, determined, and smart antagonist who does not fool around and almost single-handily wiped out humanity by herself.
10. James and Grey’s reunion
It’s a very brief moment, but when James is rushing to warn Earth about the impending alien invasion, he spots his old friend, General Grey. At this point in the story, Whitmore is desperate to get his message out. His mental illness is driving him to act regardless of the consequences, but he still respects Grey enough to stop for just a few moments to acknowledge him. Without any words, it conveys the bond the two share, and the respect they have for one another. It’s a lovely moment, made all the more bittersweet with the knowledge that Grey’s actor, Robert Loggia, was suffering from Alzheimer’s during filming (he passed away shortly before the movie’s release, and the film is dedicated to his memory).
11. The Invasion of Earth
Regardless of what you may think about his storytelling abilities, there’s no denying that Roland Emmerich is a master of presenting disasters on screen, and in my opinion, the arrival of the harvester Queen’s ship to Earth is among his best work: we get a ship the size of the Atlantic Ocean effortlessly demolishing part of the Moon, then arriving on the planet, sucking up entire cities and dumping them down on other cities in addition to causing enormous tidal waves that topple oil rigs and send ships flying. The massive amount of destruction is awe-inspiring, and I just love the shots of Singapore getting ripped from its foundations and getting sucked up into the sky.
It took over 20 years to get ‘Resurgence,’ but it was worth waiting that long to see some of the most creative destruction Emmerich has ever made. What about you? Are there any other moments or elements of ‘Resurgence’ that work well for you? If so, shout them out in the comments!