This review has some spoilers for the set up of the movie, including events that took place between the films, but there are no major spoilers for the film itself.
In preparation for this sequel, I re-watched Independence Day to get myself in the right head-space. I knew going in that it wasn't going to be a great movie, but at least I wanted to make sure it paid tribute to the story beats, characters, and plot of the original. Thankfully, on most of those points, the sequel was a success. Especially in terms of continuity, which expanded beautifully on the idea of a world after a massive alien invasion.
The thousands of small details about the twenty year gap between movies were almost more intriguing than the actual plot of the film, with the technological advances being almost realistic realizations of human ingenuity toying with technology thousands of years ahead of us. There were even some great little details pertaining to the fallout of the invasion, including the fact that the aliens didn't just give up, and there were some major protracted land wars in some parts of the world.
There were also some fun details involving the original characters; where they would go and who they would become were clearly given careful thought. Nearly all of the original characters, save two big omissions, were given some screen time and were well served by the story. The returning actors looked like they were having fun, even if their parts were nothing more than glorified cameos. Even the late Robert Loggia got a small cameo, probably one of his last on-screen appearances.
My second favorite returning character was Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), who grew up to be a fighter pilot, an aide to the president, and a caretaker of her crazy father. Jeff Goldblum had some fun scenes, but for some reason he didn't feel quite as important a character as he was in the original movie -- unlike Bill Pullman's ex-president Whitmore, who had a very important role that worked very well within confines of this particular movie universe.
Brent Spiner returning as Dr. Brakish Okun basically stole every single scene he was in, and made me laugh on more than one occasion. He was exactly the same character as before, except he was a bit of a fish out of water. I won't even quibble about the fact that he was supposed to be in a twenty year coma and suffered no muscle atrophy. He was absolutely my favorite returning character, and probably the main reason I liked this sequel.
Of the two big missing characters, Will Smith's character Steven Hiller was treated with appropriate reverence after his character's death off screen, a plot point mentioned throughout the film, and there was a picture of his character front and center in an opening scene. Although it felt like his legacy was important, it was mainly a plot device for his adopted son Dylan, also a fighter pilot who was trying to fly from under his father's shadow. Unfortunately, he didn't have nearly the screen presence as Patricia Whitmore, even though they shared roughly the same screen time.
Also unfortunately, Constance Spano (Margaret Colin), Dr. Levinson's ex-wife, was totally and completely forgotten, as if she were utterly unimportant to the continuity of the story. Since I watched the movies back to back, her absence was particularly jarring, because she shared the screen in the closing seconds of first film with the rest of main characters who all returned (including the two children). After doing a little digging, I found out that apparently Constance died tragically in a car accident in 2009, which was detailed in the bridge novel Independence Day: Crucible.
I wouldn't have minded her death quite so much if Dr. Levinson had been mourning her, or if he'd even acknowledged her passing. Instead, he ended up romancing a new character played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, one of several new characters that were introduced that I honestly couldn't tell you much about. Sela Ward was President Lanford, and she was tough. William Fichtner played General Adams, a bit gruff and good at his job. Rain Lao and Liam Hemsworth played pilots. Deobia Oparei was an African warlord and an alien killer; he was probably my favorite new character, but that's pretty much the extent of the development of the new characters.
The plot was somewhat empty, moving from one giant set piece to the next without really much connective tissue. Judd Hirsch returned for a sub-plot with a bus full of kids that made very little sense, just one example of the occasionally bizarre story choices and weird editing that plagued this film. I should probably stop here before I go further into spoiler territory.
Thankfully, what did work was very enjoyable, and the spectacle and world building mostly made up for what the film lacked in plot. So while this wasn't a movie I would spend hours deconstructing (putting it up to that much scrutiny would be silly), Independence Day: Resurgence is movie I'll probably watch again in a few years when the next inevitable sequel comes out.
2 out of 4 Ships the size of the Atlantic Ocean
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.