“Resurgence” is just one of many sequels this year for which arguably no one asked for except the film studio, which is hoping to make a quick buck out of nostalgia. Before we head into the movie itself I have to point out that – even though as Science Fiction-geek you’d think that it would be right up my ally – I’m not the biggest fan of ID4 (1996 edition). I actually was very disappointed back then, and even though I came to appreciate it more as years went by, I never really got what all the fuzz was about.
However, although I might not be its biggest fan, even I have to concede that if nothing else, “Independence Day” at least offered an apocalyptic spectacle on a scale that back then, had never been seen before. Which already brings us to one of the biggest problems of “Resurgence”. Back in 1996, “Independence Day” offered something new. Now, its old news, and if anything, I actually grew rather tired of all these destroyed buildings and cities in recent past, be it in disaster (“San Andreas”, “2012”) or superhero movies (“Man of Steel”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “X-Men: Apocalypse”). Also, while “Independence Day” told a fictitious (and arguably not especially realistic) story about an alien invasion that was very much set in the world as we knew it back then, “Resurgence” plays in some sort of alternate reality (since the world of ID4 understandably has changed considerably in the last 20 years, and is very different from the one that we know). Which, while possibly the only aspect where this one actually diverges from the first one (because the humans now also have advanced technology, like space ships, ray guns etc.), also means that it’s harder to relate to what’s going on, and you also miss at least part of the “David against Goliath”-appeal.
With a shorter running time (and even that feels kinda stretched, given totally redundant subplots like the one around Levinson’s father and the children, which leads absolutely nowhere, and is completely superfluous and unnecessary), this also immediately feels less epic, and also means that “Resurgence” spends considerable less time to set up its world and especially its characters. Jeff Goldblum is the only one who breathes some life into his character – and also the movie – the rest is stuck with roles that register less as full-on characters and more like tokens who fulfill a certain function. Also, Will Smith’s swagger is truly missed (and that’s coming from someone who’s not his biggest fan). Apart from the few instances where they quote the first one, the score also is totally forgettable. There are also no moments here even half as iconic as the shot of the White House getting destroyed, or President Whitmore’s rousing speech. And even though there are a couple of new ideas, ultimately “Resurgence” simply can’t shake its “been there, done that”-impression.
However, the fact that it’s worse than the first “Independence Day”-film doesn’t automatically mean that it’s bad. There are still a few things to enjoy here. Emmerich definitely hasn’t unlearned how to present gripping, spectacular action scenes, and also doesn’t bow to the recent – if by now thankfully mostly passed, it seems – trend of shooting the action as incomprehensible as possible, giving them almost an old-fashioned feel. It’s not just the action, though. The disaster scenes also seem far more sophisticated, from a picture composition-point of view, than in many movies with similar levels of destruction. “Resurgence” also presents a nice mix of old and new characters, and I really appreciated the depiction of a gay relationship (probably the first in a big budget-popcorn-blockbuster-movie like this?). And the effects, even though I missed the model work of the first one, were mostly flawless. As far as “shut off your brain and let yourself get washed over by a movie”-entertainment goes, “Resurgence” is serviceable enough. However, the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of the first one might actually have helped my impression of it, since even though it might be a weaker and totally unnecessary sequel, I at least feel no need to be angry at it (since in my case it’s not besmearing a beloved classic). Which might make this the rare sequel that could appeal more to those who have similarly muted feelings about the first one, than those who hold it in high esteem.