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Independence Day: Resurgence (3D Blu-ray Review)

28 Oct, 2016 By: John Latchem

Box office $103.14 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 3D Blu-ray, $49.99 4K UHD Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language
Stars Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, Travis Tope, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Sela Ward, Angelababy.

In the 20 years since aliens attacked Earth in Independence Day, humanity used their technology to create new weapons in case they ever returned. That’s the hook that sets Independence Day: Resurgence apart from most sequels, which might have tried to re-adjust the story to fit the contemporary setting.

Granted, most alien invasion thrillers don’t get sequels, though the 1953 War of the Worlds was followed 25 years later by a TV series that tried to cover up the events of the movie. Resurgence takes place in 2016, but leaves little doubt that this is an alternate reality from our own.

The Earth of this film is unified, with bases on the moon and orbital defenses ready to blast any more alien threats. They hardly get a chance, of course, when a ship the size of the North Atlantic shows up and causes more destruction, forcing the main characters to regroup and figure out a desperate plan to once again save the Earth.

The original Independence Day was structured like a classic disaster movie, with disparate characters affected by a global storyline and eventually coming together to resolve it. With Resurgence, the filmmakers pivot into the realm of goofy space opera, with most of the focus on high-ranking characters with alien-fighting experience called upon to do it again. That includes Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman reprising their memorable roles from the first movie, but the big missing piece is Will Smith, who passed on this to take a meatier role in Suicide Squad.

The script is basically a jumble of interesting “what if” scenarios based on the outcome of the first movie, all crammed together until it starts to resemble a story. By pushing the setting more into outer space and ramping up the technology of both sides, the film wants to feel bigger than the original, but, ironically, ends up feeling much more confined.

The film runs a lean two hours, which is 25 minutes shorter than the first movie, and struggles to reach even the shorter running time, padding the narrative with pointless subplots such as Judd Hirsch’s encounter with some scared kids.

The first movie may have been a bit cheesy and melodramatic, and people might disagree about how well it holds up, but one of the reasons it was so effective as entertainment was its scope — lingering on wide shots of these massive spaceships threatening the cities of the world, and taking its time to depict their destruction to really let the audience feel their impact.

Resurgence, however, seems more interested in rushing through its story points to set up a third film. The mayhem may be bigger, but the audience doesn’t get much of a chance to absorb what’s going on before the scene cuts to something else. Cities are barely introduced before being wiped out. We’re left more with the impression of a 3,500-mile wide spaceship clamped onto Earth rather than given the chance to take that in (without using the pause button, of course).

It may just be a factor of advancements in computer graphics and visual effects, which make it so easy for filmmakers to depict anything they imagine that they take such resources for granted, either putting too much on the screen thinking they’re getting their money’s worth or forgetting to imagine anything worth depicting. Director Roland Emmerich even admits in the Blu-ray’s commentary track that one of the reasons he eventually agreed to do a sequel was the notion of how he could make Independence Day with newer visual effects techniques.

And that’s part of what makes a movie such as Resurgence a bit frustrating. It has a lot of interesting ideas littered throughout, but the filmmakers can’t seem to bring them all together in a way that resonates.

The film works as a visual spectacle, especially in 3D, though some of the simpler scenes of people standing around don’t seem to have been set up with the post-conversion process in mind (lots of awkward attempts to create depth around blurry foreground shapes).

And it’s nice to see some of the old characters again in new roles, especially Brent Spiner, whose character is revealed to merely be in a coma after being strangled by an alien in the first movie, and not dead.

Some film fans might get a chuckle from seeing William Fichtner as the main general, switching it up from the jerks and hotheaded military types he usually plays and actually being reasonable and agreeable (a part of me suspects this was supposed to be Will Smith’s character had he returned).

The fate of Smith’s Steven Hiller is revealed in the five-minute short The War of 1996, which was released prior to the film’s theatrical release and makes its way to the Blu-ray. The clip was designed as a marketing tool to prime audiences on how events evolved since the first movie, and touts a 20th anniversary celebration as an upcoming event to be seen in the movie (curiously, by showing clips from the celebration).

The Blu-ray also includes eight-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes, with optional commentary by Emmerich. These are interesting but mostly alternate versions of similar scenes in the movie.

Emmerich spends most of his aforementioned full-length movie commentary narrating what’s on screen and explaining rather obvious plot points, while occasionally interjecting some behind-the-scenes insights and some explanations for some of the film’s more confusing segments. A more in-depth look at the making of the movie is offered with “Another Day: The Making of Independence Day: Resurgence,” a four-part documentary that runs about 55 minutes.

However, the Blu-ray’s best extras might be the ones poking fun of the whole concept of the movie, including a six-minute gag reel that’s actually pretty funny.

Another highlight is the “It’s Early ABQ!” video, a three-minute clip starring Fred Armisen as a morning talk show host interviewing Hirsch’s character about the latter’s book covering the events of the first movie.

About the Author: John Latchem

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