Blu-ray 3D Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

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Prepare to throw brickbats, but I must confess I enjoyed Independence Day: Resurgence for exactly what it is: a not-particularly-ambitious popcorn flick. During its lukewarm theatrical run, the complaint most often heard was "it's not as good as the original." Maybe that's true, as it is with the majority of sequels. But I know I enjoyed eating Big Macs back in 1996 and I still like them today. Fast food is fast food. Besides, the original Independence Day was no great shakes in the first place. Director Roland Emmerich returns for Resurgence, along with original cast members Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and Brent Spiner, which is basically round two of Earth's global battle with invading space aliens.

The very worst that can be said about Resurgence is that it just doesn't have any novelty value. The original film, rooted in now-dated but then-revolutionary special effects, offered a new level of sheer spectacle. A recent Blu-ray reissue of the '96 film demonstrates that, even if today's youngsters might snicker a bit at some of its relative clunkiness, much of the original film's production design holds up well. So, much like the conundrum faced by post-Judgement Day Terminator sequels, Resurgence can't possibly live up to anyone's expectations for groundbreaking visuals. We just get more of the same kinds of disaster flick CG bombast that has dominated summer tent poles for years (albeit quite well-executed bombast). 

Independence Day Resurgence goldblum hemsworth.jpg Now that you can get Independence Day: Resurgence on Blu-ray in both standard and 3D versions (also available on 4K UltraHD), try to let go of any high expectations, turn off the critical-thinking center of your brain, crank up the DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround mix and enjoy. It's the end of the world all over again, except Earth considers itself better prepared this time. They've reversed-engineered everything salvaged from the first invasion, so 2016 looks a whole lot more advanced in Resurgence than it does in real life.

For one thing, we now now have a well-equipped base on the moon, with further installations as far away as Saturn. For two decades, the world’s leaders have nervously anticipated the return of the aliens who nearly instigated an extinction level event. Once it has been determined that a repeat attack is imminent, it’s largely up to hotshot spacecraft pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) and former president Thomas Whitmore’s (Pullman) daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe, in for the original’s Mae Whitman) to save the planet. 

Independence Day Resurgence 2.jpg No Will Smith in this one, another source of understandable disappointment for many fans of the franchise. His heroic pilot Steven Miller apparently croaked rather unceremoniously some years ago, so his stepson Dylan (Jessie Usher) joins the fight. Nothing against the young Jessie Usher, but his relative inexperience makes him a rather uninspired substitution for Smith. To be fair, Hemsworth seems out of his league too (so far his movie career seems cursed by the long shadow cast by his Mjölnir-wielding brother). The franchise vets fair best by not taking things too seriously, with Goldblum in fine relaxed mode and Spiner stealing the most scenes (despite his Dr. Okun appearing to have died in the first film).

I began with "the very worst that can be said" about Independence Day: Resurgence, but perhaps I spoke too soon. In a case of 'partly-good, partly-bad,' Emmerich ends Resurgence with a huge teaser for an intriguing sequel we may never get. Apparently Fox was betting big that this was a full-on relaunch rather than a one-off encore. But since box office receipts were modest (for a $165 million movie, that is), we may never get the further adventures hinted at in Resurgence's closing moments. There's a cool twist as the film ends, but we may never see what happens next. 

Independence Day Resurgence brent spiner.jpg Fox Home Entertainment has done right by Resurgence with an outstanding transfer that lets us bask in the detailed clarity of all those millions of dollars worth of effects. The 3D is cool—the outer space stuff (like the moon base sequence) is really fun to see in this format. Ultimately, I'm not sold that the 3D is essential in this case as the film looks great in 2D as well, but fans of the format should come away pleased. And again, the lossless 7.1 surround track is hard-hitting, demo-worthy stuff.

The meat of the special features can be found in director Roland Emmerich's audio commentary and, more enjoyably, the nearly hour-long "Another Day: The Making of Independence Day: Resurgence." Though clearly promotional in nature, "Another Day" provides plenty of neat moments with the cast. There are a couple of fake news footage featurettes, "The War of 1996" and "It's Early ABQ" (a mock morning show), that are worth a look. Deleted scenes (with optional Emmerich commentary), a gag reel, and concept art images round out the supplements.

So it didn't bowl over the critics or moviegoers (for the most part, anyway), but there is actually fun to be had in Independence Day: Resurgence. It's not exactly a memorable movie, but nostalgia aside neither was the first one.
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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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