Nostalgia Review

Independence Day: Resurgence

Or, An Overdue Exercise in Derivative Storytelling

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The current Hollywood landscape is dreary, unoriginal, and well…still making money. This is what I was reminded constantly during the runtime of Independence Day: Resurgence. For all intents and purposes, I must say that I enjoyed the movie. For those of you that know me personally, I enjoy most things, not because I have no particular taste, but because I make a point to temper my expectations accordingly for all the media I take in. If something DOESN’T match my expectations, that’s when I’m negatively affected (Transcendence, Prometheus, etc.). That said, since IDR met said expectations, I have no real issue with the movie’s quality. There are glaring issues, however, that it brings to light.

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The years 2015 and 2016 have accounted for an extreme shift towards my generation’s feelings of nostalgia. This was most evident with Jurassic World’s box office performance last year after 14 years of waiting, along with The Force Awakens, a return to the world of Mad Max in Fury Road (and unsuccessful remakes/boots of Poltergeist, Vacation), and now Finding Dory and IDR in the same weekend–two movies most didn’t even expect to have sequels in the first place. For more support to my point, this same time frame also introduced a new series for DragonBall, Voltron, and the upcoming Power Rangers movie. The amount of time between these resurgent franchises (HA!) suggests that we want more of what we used to love. That something was missing in between the years. Let me remind you: we are oversaturated by every media in existence–we didn’t need these things to come back. I’m not going to say I didn’t want them…but when I see critics and (often) fans pan an “updated” version of their childhood loves, it makes me sick. IDR currently has a 32% on Metacritic and an unfavorable 4.5 (of 10) user score. Without spoiling the movie, it is very nearly a beat by beat repeat, so much so that a child watching it today would legitimately have issues even discerning it as a sequel. Goldblum is Goldblum, just a different kind of attractive than he used to be. Brent Spiner somehow is exactly the same. Bill Pullman is a shadow of his former self, but that’s more a character arc than the actor’s problem. Roland Emmerich somehow made a better movie this time, despite the shit he’s pumped out since the original. Yet, people hate IDR. I went in expecting the same Independence Day and got it. What did the haters expect? I want stories to organically get better and evolve, yes. But when it comes to the nostalgia factor, that’s not the point.

You’re going to see this movie because it will bring back the feelings you used to have, not because it will be different. However, the vitriol for IDR remains that it is derivative, dull, and lacking heart. That’s because you’re looking at it through an updated, more scathing lens–not because the movie didn’t give you what you wanted.

When watching IDR you have to realize that ID4 wasn’t great sci-fi and didn’t pretend to be. It used aliens as a reason to blow shit up. It didn’t go through details about the species, there was no lore evident in the movie (there was more thought in the novelization and toy line). Despite this, it is in the sci-fi category and in the past twenty years, ID4 has been outclassed in every way by other (alien-based) sci-fi stories. The following aren’t all fantastic but they all brought something else to the table:

Avatar

Battle: Los Angeles

Cloverfield

District 9

Edge of Tomorrow

Half-Life

Halo

Men in Black

Pacific Rim

Skyline

Super 8

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I’ll mention Battleship here for fun, because it did nothing for good storytelling, but it somehow made a board game into an unnecessary hot mess of sci-fi. This list is to show that IDR IS DERIVATIVE, but that is due to the polarizing influx of stories that sci-fi has attained. As a whole, IDR remains Independence Day, but with unpolished nods to Aliens, Oblivion, Halo, what have you. Blame the sci-fi environment in media right now, it’s only getting more saturated as the lines get crossed between genres with comic book films and book adaptations always looming. Honestly, I didn’t see IDR coming out any differently than it did. And for kids nowdays, maybe it won’t be the most bombastic blockbuster film of the decade like the original. It’s too bad, really.

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If we truly want greater stories to come, we need to make them. Don’t keep hating–just create. I have worked on a dream story for 15 years–sci-fi, no less, that constantly evolves to erase the seeds of similarity towards other stories I experience. It’s unfinished. Untested. It’s derivative. Because we will always be inspired by other stories. But you know what? I consciously make the effort to write a story that stands out, that has heart because it knows where it came from and why it was created, it pushes the boundaries of its genre because that is what I meant for it. Roland Emmerich meant to make another Independence Day. Because the first made nearly $1 billion. Please, critics, temper your expectations accordingly. Or if you feel so inclined, write your own damn movie.

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