Let’s Spoil ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’
We always knew they were coming back. After all, what epic, era-defining blockbuster doesn’t get a sequel in this day and age? None. And Independence Day truly was one of the biggest movies of the 1990s, both in terms of grosses (it was the top earner of 1996, both home and abroad) and scope, with mile-wide UFOs descending on our planet, wiping out our most treasured landmarks, and trying to eradicate our species.
A few brave heroes fought back and saved our world from extinction and now, 20 years later, most of them return to fight a new alien menace in Independence Day: Resurgence (except for Will Smith, he was busy). A cast of familiar faces (Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman) and newcomers (Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe) unite to lead the Earth Space Defense against the biggest alien ship yet.
Still reeling from last night’s premiere, ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer and Britt Hayes sat down to discuss their respective reactions, sort out some of the perplexities of the film’s plot, debate its ending, and decide whether the Independence Day series needs to stop here or carry on for another 20 years. From this moment on, you are officially SPOILER warned.
Matt Singer: All right, Britt. Everyone can read my opinion of the movie in our review, but I’m curious about your take. You’re about as big a Jeff Goldblum fan as exists on this planet. Was his presence in dashing military wear enough for you to enjoy Resurgence?
Britt Hayes: Sadly, no. You would think I’d be an easy mark for a film — any film — starring Jeff Goldblum and Charlotte Gainsbourg, but you would be wrong. Goldblum is as good as you expect him to be even though he’s basically just playing himself, and while I do love watching him save the world in a space suit, he cannot save this movie from itself.
Matt: You mentioned her, so let’s go straight to Charlotte Gainsbourg. What was she doing in this movie? And I don’t mean the actress (obvious what she was doing in this movie was making a lot of money, and more power to her). I mean the character. She’s an alien linguist? What point did that character even serve?
Britt: I suspect that Charlotte Gainsbourg possibly thought this was one of Ridley Scott’s new Alien movies. That whole queen alien thing, plus the H.R. Giger on Muscle Milk aesthetic is a bit obvious. As for her actual character, I haven’t the slightest clue. I can only assume they needed a strong female character of some kind considering the way Roland Emmerich treats the rest of the women in this film. But Gainsbourg’s contributions could have been handled by Goldblum or Brent Spiner.
Matt: Brett Spiner has a surprisingly large role. I bet if we stop-watched it he would have more screen time than Goldblum. He definitely has more than Bill Pullman as the former President.
Britt: Spiner is undeniably entertaining and is probably the only person in this movie who actually knows what movie they’re making. He‘s delightful! Pullman is fine, too, and I do like when he shows up during the climax and starts giving a motivation speech. Everyone is compelled to drop what they’re doing and go to him, like, “Guys, come quick! Bill Pullman is speeching again!”
Matt: Yeah I thought Pullman’s appearance at the beginning was mildly poignant; the idea that this great orator now can barely speak is a powerful one. But his big hero moment at the end really made me cringe, when Maika Monroe is like “I’ll take the suicide mission,” and he appears out of nowhere and goes “No you won’t; I will.” And he’s even taken the time in this world-ending crisis to shave his crazy man beard. Gotta look fresh for the alien queen!
Britt: Oh, Maika Monroe. I think she’s solid in It Follows and The Guest, but she’s utterly wasted here. Aside from the fact that Mae Whitman could have easily handled this part, Monroe is sidelined for most of the movie and relegated to playing the crying girlfriend/daughter. Pullman is the only one who ever says her name, while everyone else just calls her “the President’s daughter.” When she does finally get something to do, it’s so brief and pointless since the men show up and finish the job. She’s basically just stalling for time.
Matt: She does carry on the first movie’s tradition of people having hugely important jobs in politics but also being really good fighter pilots on the side. That’s how that works, right?
Britt: Everyone in this movie is a pilot.
Matt: Back to Brett Spiner: I agree he does seem to be having a great time, although I’d say Judd Hirsch might outdo him in the giving zero f---- and having a blast category. What did you think of how they handled Spiner’s character’s relationship in the movie?
Britt: Oh, are you talking about his implied romantic relationship with Dr. Isaacs? It’s strange because it feels like Emmerich was trying to have his cake and eat it, too, and even stranger (maybe) since he directed Stonewall. You don’t really get the sense that Dr. Okun and Dr. Isaacs are a couple — regardless of that hideous knitting — until their final scene together, and then it’s like, wait, what? It’s such an intimate and lovely moment between these two men, but Emmerich kind of chickens out by ending it with a joke instead of having them kiss each other.
On the one hand, I can respect that maybe he’s not trying to make a big deal out of two men being in a relationship (and he shouldn’t), but there’s something very hesitant about the whole thing, like he doesn’t want to fully commit and possibly alienate certain audience members.
Matt: Absolutely. At first, I thought Isaacs was Spiner’s doctor! And then they start calling each other “Baby” and you realize that they’re a couple, but they don’t have any sort of physical or intimate connection at all until their very last scene — which I agree is surprisingly emotional, and maybe the only truly emotional bit of business in the entire last hour of the movie. It’s just a very poorly-handled element. So it fits perfectly in with the rest of the movie, I suppose.
So I have some more questions for you. You are very smart, and I am very dumb, so I am hoping you can explain some of the plot points of this movie to me.
Britt: I will try my best, but there were things that left me baffled, like Moon Milk. What is it? Is it from the moon? How do you milk the moon? Are their bio-engineered moon cows? Does it help you moonwalk? I have so many questions.
Matt: It’s milk that’s sold on the moon. Moon Milk, Britt. Duh. That’s like the least confusing thing in this movie.
Britt: Well, you’re the expert.
Matt: I am; that’s why they call me Matt “Moon Milk” Singer.
Okay so first question: Who the hell was that guy who was hounding Jeff Goldblum in Africa, who winds up following him on the entire adventure? He’s auditing his taxes or something?
Britt: He’s my future husband, clearly, but beyond that, I haven’t the slightest clue. Something about going over some numbers for something that sounds important, but not important enough to tear Jeff Goldblum away from Africa.
Matt: But important enough to follow him to the middle of Africa to discuss it! And then to the moon! Can you imagine the IRS following someone to the moon over taxes? “Mr. Levinson, I know the world is literally in the process of ending forever, but I really need to talk to you about your expenses on that business trip to Paris last year. Did you keep your receipts?”
Britt: “Do you have a moment to go over your Roth IRA investments? At your age, now really is the ideal time to secure your future.”
Matt: “Hang on, let’s just move out of the way of this oil tanker falling out of the sky.”
Britt: But Dikembe, the African warlord is amazing. He belongs in a different movie. Can Shane Black put him in the new Predator?
Matt: He’d fit in better there, that’s for sure. I did chuckle in the scene where the alien breaks out and grabs the human’s space gun and starts shooting and he springs into action and slides under him and chops him up. Go Dikembe!
Britt: That was maybe the only fist-pump-worthy moment in the whole thing.
Matt: Next question: Those guys out on the boat who just happened to be perched right next to the alien laser drilling to the molten core (MOLTEN CORE!) of the Earth: How did they know how far the drill was getting? Did they have sensors in the Earth’s crust?
Britt: At first I thought they were just salty Irish fisherman types with great taste in sweaters, but I think they are oceanographers of some kind? Maybe they are fishermen and they just happen to have radar tech, and they just happened to be in the right (wrong?) place at the right time. That’s another weird subplot that feels totally pointless. You could cut that and the Hirsch road trip stuff out and easily save 30 minutes of everyone’s time.
Matt: I’m pretty sure they’re salvage guys; they’re trying to recover gold from a sunken ship. Unless the ship sunk to the Earth’s core, I’m not sure they’re qualified for this job. Also, they’re like 100 feet from a space laser blasing through the planet’s mantle. Those guys are all dead of radiation in three weeks right?
Britt: At least they will die rich.
Matt: Right, in a world where currency no longer has an value because the entire world economy has been smooshed under a giant alien. Between this movie and the Brexit, the U.K. is having the worst week ever.
In the first movie, I seem to recall that the aliens were described as having gone from planet to planet, stripping each of their natural resources. But here they only seem to want to suck out our molten core (MOLTEN CORE!) the way I used to suck the syrup out of Gushers fruit snacks. If that’s the case, why bother even letting humanity linger to destroy you? Why not blow up everyone with your gigantic ship and then when we’re all extinct suck our our delicious delicious molten core (MOLTEN CORE!)?
Britt: Yes, basically planets are like those Ben & Jerry’s flavors with the giant vein of caramel or whatever in the middle. In this case, the ice cream (like humans) is an afterthought. Who cares when you can just eat congealed sugar syrup?
But again, you are thinking this through way more than Emmerich and his, what, five screenwriters ever did? Everyone in this movie is a dummy. The President. The aliens. Liam-Not-Thor Hemsworth. The weird accountant. Only Brent Spiner and Jeff Goldblum can help us make any sense of this senseless world. Jesse Usher, the kid who plays Will Smith’s son, is so uninteresting and bland.
Matt: Well he’s Smith’s character’s stepson, not his son. Which explains why he didn’t inherit his dad’s charisma. I really don’t understand why that character is even in there. Was the part originally written for Will Smith and when he chose not to return they just scratched out his name and wrote the son’s name? He’s just a constant reminder of this great star who didn’t come back.
Britt: Yeah, Emmerich had two versions: One with Smith and one without. When Smith turned it down (wisely, we now know), he went with Plan B. But at least he gets to punch Liam Hemsworth, who is like the cardboard cutout version of his brother.
Matt: Clearly they were trying to recreate the tension between Goldblum and Pullman in the first movie, where David Levinson had punched President Whitmore because he thought he was sleeping his ex-wife. The backstory between Hemsworth and Usher is almost identical. Of course the new movie doesn’t mention David Levinson’s ex-wife even though they reconciled at the end of ID4. And Levinson and Whitmore are besties now!
Britt: The sequel has a very redundant plot that follows the Hollywood franchise mandate of “more of the same, but, you know, different.” It’s the same aliens, the same people in slightly different positions, the same character types, and the same plot structure. Even Dr. Okun pulls out his trusty old laser and dusts it off, and the climax takes place in the salt flats, where — correct me if I’m wrong — Will Smith beat that alien and dragged its corpse across the desert. I’d love to think Emmerich is making a statement about how humanity is doomed to repeat the same mistakes in more spectacular fashion each time, but I don’t think he has such lofty aims.
Matt: Yeah, in a sense it is a faithful sequel in that it took the thing that made Independence Day so successful — its bigness— and amplifies it. This time the spaceship is almost as big as the entire planet! But as I said in my review, when the threat is that large and the humans are essentially insignificant ants in the face of this thing, who cares what happens?
Britt: It never gives you a reason to care about anyone. Vivica A. Fox is a great example. They bring her back just to kill her off two minutes later, but hey, at least she’s not a stripper anymore. She’s a doctor! But her death is meaningless just like everything else in this movie. By the end of it, I was rooting for the aliens to wipe out Earth just so I wouldn’t have to spend anymore time with all these dummies.
Matt: That’s not fair. Vivica A. Fox is in this movie for way less than two minutes. 45 seconds tops.
Britt: It feels cruel. And she’s not the only woman dismissed. Like I said before, Maika Monroe is just the crying girlfriend. Then there’s Sela Ward, a woman President, and she makes the dumbest decisions out of everyone. The thing trying to destroy our planet is a giant, evil female alien.
Matt: Yeah, I felt bad for Sela Ward. Although I plan to use her “There will be no peace!” line in contentious business meetings from now until the end of time.
Matt: The last scene is as clear a setup for another sequel as any blockbuster ever. Would you watch another Independence Day? Or did that piss you off as much as the lady at my screening?
Britt: That lady’s rant was epic. I audibly groaned at “Let’s kick some alien ass!” or whatever that was, and when the lights came up I turned to my friend and said, “No, let’s not.” But the truth is this: I might be part of the problem here because I definitely would go see a third ID movie in which they go to space with a giant Siri sphere and team up with refugee aliens to fight big mean aliens.
Britt: I know. I am a traitor to myself.
Matt: And a traitor to Earth.