11 Great Things About ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

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!

How To Make ‘Aliens’ Even Better

Ever since the release of ‘Aliens’ back in 1986, it’s been hailed as one of the greatest sci-fi action horror films of all time, as well as one of the greatest sequels ever. While I agree with both sentiments, I still prefer the original, 1979 ‘Alien’. Where ‘Aliens’ is about highly-trained warriors taking on a threat they can kill, ‘Alien’ is about everyday people struggling to defeat an opponent who’s stronger than them, faster than them, and can kill them in an instant. ‘Aliens’ has a stronger focus on action, while ‘Alien’ has a better formula for horror.

Recently, that got me thinking: What would ‘Aliens’ look like if we were to, say, take away all the marines, guns and military-grade equipment?

In this parallel universe, ‘Alien’ ends with Ripley, Parker, Lambert, and Jones escaping the Nostromo, which explodes and kills the Xenomorph. Sixty years later, the three survivors are woken by the escape shuttle’s computer detecting a nearby colony. Ripley and the others set down on the planet, only to discover that the colony is in ruins. Sneaking inside, Ripley, Parker, and Lambert (Jones remains on the parked shuttle) find Newt and realize that the colony has been overrun by Xenomorphs. Needless to say, the group tries to get back into space to avoid facing any more penis-monsters from beyond the stars, but the shuttle is overrun by said penis-monsters. While they just barely manage to rescue Jones, the shuttle is rendered inoperable via acid blood, stranding Ripley and the others on the planet.

Lambert, predictably, freaks out. Parker’s not happy, either, but Ripley manages to calm them down: if they can use the colony’s communications grid to call for help, they can then hunker down and wait for a rescue, as Newt managed to survive on her own without any training. But due to damage to the colony’s atmosphere processing unit, power is out throughout the complex. Parker and Lambert jury-rig the system to let them send off a single broadcast, and then all they can do is survive until help arrives. But as in the original film, the processing unit begins to melt down, and without any means of escaping into space, everyone will be forced to flee into the inhospitable wilderness of LV-426 and fend off any Xenomorphs that come after them.

Would Ripley and the others be able to survive? Would they be able to drive far enough away from the plant before it explodes? Would they be able to last months before help arrives? And, most importantly, would they be able to discover why kids like the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch? I’ll leave that up to you, but this thought experiment changes the tone and feel of the movie completely: by replacing marines and their weapons with untrained civilians, ‘Aliens’ becomes a more frightening movie because surviving becomes so much harder without smartguns, pulse rifles, and APCs. Ripley and her friends would have to scavenge whatever equipment they could find and improvise in order to fight for survival. And where they had to only face one alien last time, now they have to face dozens, if not hundreds. Survival is still a possibility, but much less likely.

The bottom line from this thought experiment? Untrained, unprepared, everyday people are almost always the best protagonists to have in horror movies, as the fight to survive will feel more authentic than if our protagonists are highly-trained, testosterone-filled, well-armed soldiers. Take away the big, powerful guns, the body armor, the apcs, grenades, missiles, and fighter craft, and you’re no longer the alpha predator; you’re prey, and your fight to survive will be all the more intense.

Perfect Moments: Ellen Ripley’s Message

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

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The Game

‘Alien Isolation’

The Moment

Why it’s perfect

Earlier this week, I suggested a new way of watching the Alien series in order to give it – and Ellen – a more hopeful ending instead of the bittersweet one in both ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection’. Part of that new trilogy was the videogame, ‘Alien: Isolation’ because of the strength of its core concept: Ellen’s daughter, Amanda, has spent 15 years searching for any clue about her mother’s fate after she disappeared aboard the Nostromo, and after fighting her way through a decaying space station while hiding from the cosmos’ most terrifying alien, she finally finds a message for her that was recorded by her mother.

When I first played through ‘Isolation’, I almost teared up at this moment. Not only does Sigourney Weaver perfectly play Ellen once more, but bringing an emotional, tragic side of her we almost never see, but the meaning behind this moment is so tragic: This is the first time Amanda has heard her mother in 15 years, and can give her both closure and hope; the novelization of the game reveals that she believes her mother is still alive, and the story ends with her vowing to survive at all costs so she will one day reunite with Ellen. For the first time in over a decade, she has a reason to live, to survive against all odds.

Sadly, it’s not to be:

While Amanda did get closure, and presumably died hoping that her mother was still alive, knowing that the two would never see each other again makes Ellen’s message so perfectly bittersweet.

Favorite Moments: Goofy Alien Resurrection Subtitles

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

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The video:

Why it’s great:

I can’t say why this is great without spoiling it: Make sure closed captioning is turned on and press play (Note that this video is not safe for work).

Done?

What I adore about this video isn’t the clip itself, but the fact that whoever wrote the captions for for it decided to go nuts and turn the scene of Xenomorphs killing one of their own to escape a cell into them arguing about Five Nights at Freddy’s and eventually resorting to cursing in internet slang.

What makes these captions so bizzare is that Movie Clips is a company that legally hosts clips from movies and TV shows for fans to watch. Taking a scene and using wildly inaccurate subtitles conjures the image of a disgruntled employee deciding to have some fun behind his or her boss’ backs. I, for one, am glad that he or she did, as it takes a serious scene showcasing alien intelligence and remakes it as a comedy that turns the terrifying Xenomorph into cursing, slang-using aliens who hate the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise. Even better, it retroactively making it easy to imagine aliens in previous films being immature jerks saying, “Comin’ to kill ya, LOL,’ ‘Haha u ded,’ and the like whenever they kill someone, which adds a whole new layer of entertainment to this long-running franchise.

Bravo to you, anonymous caption writer!

Perfect Moments: A Shadow On The Wall

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

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The Movie

‘Signs.’

The Moment

Why it’s perfect

No matter the project, and no matter what medium, all storytellers face one problem when telling a story: How do you tell your audience everything they need to know about the main character within the first third of your story? There are countless ways to do so (Many, many, many, many, ways, actually), but I want to take a look at one of my favorite introductions, one that accomplishes so much despite showing so little.

2002’s ‘Signs’ opens with a man waking up in bed inside a house near a cornfield. He listens to see if someone else is awake, picks up some socks, brushes his teeth, and then hears a little girl scream. It sounds boring, but when he’s brushing his teeth, we initially don’t see Graham, just the door to the bathroom and the wall beside it. But on that wall is the faded outline of a vanished crucifix.

In an instant, that outline tells us that something terrible happened to this man, something that made him turn his back on his faith. We don’t know what that event is, but after seeing a family picture of him with a woman who doesn’t appear in the scene, it’s easy to guess. Coupled with the silence of the scene, the dim lighting, and the feeling of loneliness, we know this man has been through a lot, turning him into an underdog who’s trying to recover, but has seemingly given up and has resigned himself to just existing.

I’m still amazed how one tiny detail can tell so much about someone. When done correctly, such a trait can tell us the main problem the character is going to try and overcome, or tell us a lot about their history. Consider the following scenarios and what they tell us:

*We’re in a home. There’s a photo of a a woman and a young girl on the mantlepiece, but we can just faintly see the edges of someone’s pants on the edge of the photo, which looks like it was ripped.

*An old, out-of-shape man eats a microwavable meal for one in his tiny, filthy apartment. On a wall behind him are newspaper clippings and framed magazine covers about a star baseball player who was legendary in his day.

*A group of terrified explorers enters an enormous cave and finds it piled high with hundreds, if not thousands of bones of giant creatures, many covered in gashes. They hear something growling from deeper within the cave.

All three tell us something about characters: The first might revolve around a disgraced husband. The second, an old man who longs for the days when people cared about him, and the third, an unseen beast who has been around a long time, and clearly dangerous. When utilized properly, such small details can reveal so much about a character, even before they appear or talk. In my opinion, that cross in ‘Signs’ is one of the best examples on how to do it right – and in under a minute, no less!