This Deconstructing the Narrative contains heavy spoilers from the movie Independence Day: Resurgence. It is recommended that you watch the movie first before reading this article in order to get the full effect. You have been warned.
I have been going back and forth on this deconstruction for over a week now. It’s not that I’m having a hard time coming up with material to talk about. On the contrary. There is too much to talk about. As I sat down and started to write all the fallacies in this movie I wanted to talk about, the more rage I felt towards it. ID:R was a blast when I first watched it. All the nostalgia came rushing back to me from 20 years ago and I enjoyed myself. But as I started thinking more about it, the more my inner fanboy started to show and so I started to tear the movie apart. I have a notebook with pages of notes on what I wanted to talk about. But, that’s not what I want Deconstructing the Narrative to be. If you want a scene by scene nit-pick on every single thing wrong with the movie, jump on YouTube and do a search on it. There are plenty of nerds and film experts who will be more that happy to break ID:R down for you. Instead, I’m just going to be focusing on what I think is the most disappointing aspect of the movie: the characters.
First up, the returning characters:
- David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) – Been upgraded from cable repair man to Director of Earth Space Defense (ESD).
- Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch) – Wrote a book apparently and is relatively useless in the movie.
- Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) – Went insane and sees psychic visions from the aliens. Sacrifices self to no avail.
- Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) – Gave death the middle finger and somehow survived strangulation in the first movie. Been in a coma for 20 years.
- Dr. Issacs (John Storey) – Looks after Okun while he’s in a coma. Terrible at crochet. Dies for no reason.
- Jasmine Hiller (Vivica A. Fox) – Went from stripper to doctor in 20 years. Dies for no reason.
Returning cast with new actors:
- Captain Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher) – stepson of Captain Steven Hiller. Ace pilot and leader of the Legacy Squadron in the ESD.
- Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) – daughter of former president Whitmore and is an aide in the White House. Former pilot in the ESD.
- Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) – Rival to Dylan and fiance to Patricia. Typical lead hero type with no parents and a problem with authority.
- Charlie Miller (Travis Trope) – Best friend of Jake. In love with China’s rep in the Legacy Squadron, Rain Lo. Surprisingly doesn’t die.
- Rain Lo (Angleababy) – member of the Legacy Squadron and niece to Commander Jiang.
- Commander Jiang (Chin Han) – Commander of the ESD. Gives Jake a hard time all the time. Dies.
- Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) – African warlord who hunted aliens for years with the resistance. Easily the best character in the movie. Is not a Linux based OS (see: Ubuntu (Linux)).
- Floyd Rosenburg (Nicolas Wright) – an accountant for the ESD who accidentally tags along with the group. Kinda annoying and unfortunately doesn’t die.
- Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward) – President of the United States. Dies.
- Joshua Adams (William Fichtner) – General in the ESD. Becomes president after Landford dies.
- Dr. Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg) – David’s new love interest and medical scientist investigating the people who were affected by the aliens and are psychically attached to them.
First, let’s talk about the glaring omission from the movie, Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller. Will Smith MADE Independence Day. His wit and charisma made the movie so enjoyable. So what happened to him? It was mentioned very briefly, but Captain Hiller was killed in an accident involving the new jets. That… I don’t know. That doesn’t sit right with me. I know they had to work around Will Smith not returning, so they had to do something with his character. But I feel that their execution of that plot element was handled VERY poorly.
Next up for omissions is Constance Spano (Margaret Colin), David’s ex-wife in the first movie. What happened to her? We don’t know. I will have to watch the movie again to get confirmation, but I do not remember anything being said about what happened to her. They seemed to get back together by the end of the movie, so it was a huge surprise to see Dr. Marceaux getting all chummy with David in ID:R. I had to look it up and Constance apparently died in a car accident. If they did explain it in the movie, it was very brief and quickly forgotten.
Lastly the children of Russell Casse (Randy Quaid): Miguel (James Duval), Alicia (Lisa Jakub) and Troy (Giuseppe Andrews). None of them are mentioned. At all. The man who saved the lives of everybody at Area 51 and found the weak point on the aliens ships, and nobody cared to look after his kids. The only nod that we get is Russell’s name on a large wall of names on a memorial for the War of 1996. I was really hoping to see at least one of them following their father’s footsteps.
Now, let’s deconstruct.
Jake Morrison is a useless character. Liam Hemsworth, I like ya. You’re a good actor. But this was not your role. There are no ties to the rest of the cast from the previous movie. This is a character that should have gone to one of Russell’s kids (maybe Troy). That would have made a much better dynamic with Dylan as both are children of war heroes. Liam was only brought on because of star power. He was to be the replacement for Will Smith. But story wise, this made NO sense.
Patricia should be engaged to Dylan, not Jake. Again, tying into Jake being useless, it makes no sense for Patricia to be engaged to Jake. She has more of a history with Dylan. If you’re going to make a principal character fall for a newer character, there has to be reasoning behind it. I know that she was a pilot with both Jake and Dylan, but why did she choose Jake over Dylan?
Why is Dr. Okun in this movie? The man died in the first movie. Why did he return? Sure, you could tell that Brent Spiner was having a blast, but a 20 year coma? A lame excuse to bring back a small character. You could argue that it was because of his knowledge of the aliens and his connection with them telepathically, except that both of those elements could have been done with Thomas Whitmore, who was also mentally affected by the aliens, and Dr. Issacs, who worked with Dr. Okun and had the same alien related knowledge he knew. Plus, I could have gone my entire life not knowing what Brent Spiner’s ass looked like.
Jasmine’s death. This death is mind-boggling and infuriating because, one, it happened so quickly and, two, it was completely pointless. You see her save a woman, who had just given birth, by getting her onto a rescue helicopter but she falls into the collapsing building underneath her as Dylan watches helplessly from his jet. Is this rescued woman seen later in the movie to help with the plot? No, she’s completely pointless. Just like Jasmine’s death. Jasmine was such a strong character in the first movie, making this death especially painful to watch. It also doesn’t serve the plot, except to make Dylan sad.
Umbutu is a badass. Seriously, if this movie did anything good, it was Dikembe Umbutu. An African warlord who has been hunting down the aliens for the good part of 20 years, Umbutu lends a much-needed hand in the fight during the third act of the movie, using his twin swords and “get them from behind” method of fighting. A ship landed in his home country and began drilling in the first movie (though it is never seen landing or drilling). Over the next two decades, his people have hunted the aliens and also learned parts of their language. This is easily the best new character and best overall character in the ID:R. Too bad that for most of the movie he was paired with Floyd Rosenburg, who was mostly annoying. If they don’t make a prequel film or series on this guy, I will be very sad.
Julius Levinson is completely worthless. Julius Levinson, David’s dad, in the original movie was mainly used for comedic purposes. He was an old, Jewish stereotype, but he had a personality, was funny, and had a sense of wisdom about him. He even unintentionally gave David the inspiration to create the virus to disable the alien’s ships. The Julius Levinson in ID:R had no redeeming qualities about him. When we first see him, he’s trying to sell his book to a bunch of old, uninterested people in an old folks home. Next we see him, he’s on a boat when the aliens show up, and his boat ends up on top of a house, with him unconscious. He’s rescued by a few kids and they, in turn come across more kids in an abandoned school bus, so Julius takes ALL the kids to Area 51 in the school bus. What does this have to do with the plot? Nothing. This entire arc could be taken out of the movie and NOTHING would be changed. Sure, he saves some kids, but neither the kids nor Julius have any bearing on the plot. Their presence in the third act didn’t amount to anything. It is just a padding arc.
Goodbye, Mr. President. President Whitmore’s speech in Independence Day will go down as one of the greatest speeches in movie history. I do not care who disagrees with me, I still get chills every time I hear it. So when he’s in the hanger giving a speech to the pilots in ID:R, I was on the edge of my seat. I was ready to be blown away once again. Unfortunately, lightning, in fact, does not strike twice and the speech was over just before it started to get good. His death is also cheapened by the fact that he was not able to destroy the Queen in his suicide run. On that note, let’s compare his sacrifice vs Russell Casse’s. Casse made the decision mid-fight to sacrifice himself to save everyone at Area 51. Whitmore went into the cockpit knowing that this mission was his death. What Whitmore did was noble, there is no denying that. But there was no dramatic tension. We knew he was going to die. Casse, on the other hand, had to make the choice after a missile malfunction. He knew that he was the only one with missiles left, and made the ultimate sacrifice to save his kids. You can see him make the decision just from the expression his eyes. He didn’t want to die, but knew that he had no choice. Whitmore seemed more than happy to throw his life away. His death lacked the tension. Sure, we were hoping that he’d be saved last second, but it was obvious that he was a lost cause. A sad end to a great character.
The Sphere and the crux of the problems with ID:R. When we first see the Sphere (voiced by Jenna Purdy), its ship is blasted out of the sky by our moon laser (cue Dr. Evil pinkie pose). We later find out that those who had been affected by the alien’s psychic powers (Whitmore, Okun and Umbutu) keep having visions of a sideward power symbol, a symbol that Umbutu and Dr. Marceaux come to the conclusion means “enemy” in the alien language. They come to the conclusion that the aliens want the Sphere, as they see it as their enemy. The Sphere (who looks like the head of Marvin, the Paranoid Android, from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), tells the cast that it is a life-form that is purely of a digital form and has the coordinates to a planet that has other species whose planets cores were harvested by the aliens. These survivors are forming a resistance group to wipe out the aliens and the Sphere is on Earth to take humans to this planet. In essence, the Sphere is a setup for a sequel. And this, my readers, is the main problem with this movie. This movie is just a setup for a third movie. It’s just tying off “loose ends” so it can go have fun in space.
So, all the great characters are, in essence, thrown away so we can have a space opera like Battlestar Galactica or Star Trek in the future. What I don’t understand is: why? Is this a passing on of the torch to the younger generation? Don’t get me wrong, I want to see where this series could possibly go. What I am NOT a fan of is the disregard of the source material and the characters that made it so much fun to watch. I loved the characters in the original movie. Yes, they have flaws and the original film is far from flawless. But the characters made the movie what is was. Will Smith’s charm, Jeff Goldblum’s awkwardness, Judd Hirsch’s sage advice, Bill Pullman’s leadership, Randy Quaid’s craziness, and Vivica A. Fox’s strength created an unforgettable movie that I will watch every year. ID:R had the fun of the original, but it lacked the soul. The characters are replaced with cookie cutter knockoffs. If a third movie is made, they need to overhaul their characters and actually give them personality and not sell their movie solely on nostalgia, which I admit I was caught up in. It’s still a great popcorn flick, but I don’t see myself buying the 4K 3D Bluray anytime soon.
Though, if I may, the Kaiju-sized Alien Queen was pretty badass. I wasn’t expecting that.
Author’s Note: If you see any fallacies in my analysis because of something I missed, just note that I only watched the movie once and am going off of 2 week old memories of the movie. I tried to avoid looking up wiki pages, since I know that there are books based on the movies and I’m unsure as to what was book or movie in those pages. I am judging the story solely on the movies, as they are the main venue that with the mainstream audience is going to be familiar. These views are the personal opinion of the author and may not follow any status quo or popular opinion.