One of this summer's big tentpole releases is undoubtedly Independence Day: Resurgence, director Roland Emmerich's long-awaited return to the story that ushered in a new era of visual spectacle and destruction porn with the first movie in 1996. The scale of that film at the time was unprecedented, its imagery iconic (no one can ever forget that shot of the White House being blasted to hell and gone by a massive alien vessel), and the movie itself was a hoot, an unashamedly pulpy and simplistic adventure that turned Will Smith into a star, made Emmerich one of the hottest directors in Hollywood and raked in some $817 million in worldwide box office.
Emmerich has spoken about a sequel for years, and this Friday (June 24), after a lengthy development process, Independence Day: Resurgence is finally going to hit theaters. But in recent weeks, a pall began to form over the film when it became apparent that the studio, 20th Century Fox, was not going to screen it for critics. With very few exceptions (like Star Wars: The Force Awakens), movies are not screened in advance for critics only if the studio feels the picture is absolutely terrible -- the idea is to wring out a day or two of good box office before the negative reviews start piling up after critics pay to see the film on Thursday night or Friday morning.
That, on the surface, seems to be the case with ID4R. Fox has in fact scheduled screenings for critics -- one each in New York and Los Angeles on Friday morning at 11 a.m., after the movie has begun early screenings on Thursday night and probably too late for reviews to have an impact on Friday's box office. But at the same time, a number of journalists overseas have seen the picture and posted their reviews, and guess what? Most of them think it's not too bad at all!
Here's British genre heayweight outlet Empire:
"Allowing the same blend of multiplex-rattling spectacle and ‘yeah, you got us’ daftness, Emmerich has gone all out to recapture his ’96 mojo and, for the most part, succeeds. While the occasional call-back clunks (Jessie Usher as orphaned-son-of-Will-Smith Dylan Hiller fails to sell the line, 'Get ready for a close encounter, bitch!', but we’re not sure who ever could), other riffs prove sonorously nostalgic. And we’re not just talking about another death-defying dog. Whether it’s Goldblum reliving his co-pilot jitters in another spacecraft, Bill Pullman pulling on his flight suit once more as PTSD-stricken ex-president Whitmore, or Brent Spiner making a welcomely deranged return as surprisingly not-dead professor Brakish Okun, you’ll likely thrum with the same sweet, not-able-to-take-it-too-seriously joy you felt during the first film."
CNET has offered this:
“Resurgence is exactly what you expect, down to the predictable story beats, the laughably earnest dialogue, the fundamental misunderstanding of science and the plot holes deep enough to reach Earth’s gooey delicious center. But that’s all beside the point. You should never have expected it to be anything else."
Here's GQ UK:
"So while this is utter nonsense for much of its runtime, overstuffed with people you will struggle to care about, and while its finale shamelessly begs a sequel (like Steven Hiller, Emmerich apparently ain’t heard no fat lady), there’s still a (molten) core of wild entertainment beneath the hokum. As half the free world rips itself apart, there’s something magnificent in watching humanity team up against a common enemy. If only we could manage it without the alien menace."
This Telegraph review is a little more on the negative side:
"Given the film’s pretence of take-no-prisoners bombast, there’s something desperately feeble about Resurgence’s determination to ride the coat-tails of its predecessor until they rip. In addition to another solo manned flight into the bowels of the mothership (performed by Randy Quaid last time around), there’s also a dogfight over silvery salt flats, a puppy in peril, more creepy tentacle ventriloquism, and another patronising shot of third-world nomads cheering on a ridge."
But Digital Spy digs the movie quite a bit:
"After the giggle-free The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 it’s a relief to see a return to the anarchic, bombastic and euphoric silliness that ID4 captured so well back in the ’90s. Resurgence might not be quite as quotable, and the 20 year gap may prove too long a wait for the casual moviegoer but for fans of the original it should prove pleasing popcorn pulp. It’s silly, it’s ridiculous, it’s over the top. And it’s a perfect piece of ’90s nostalgia."
And finally, here's IGN:
"A silly, cheesy, spectacle-driven blockbuster with heart, Independence Day: Resurgence is a refreshing antidote to the grim and the serious sentiment we’ve seen trending in sci-fi flicks of recent years. While its plot is messy and it’s stuffed with too many characters, I dare you not to leave the theatre with a guilt-free smile on your face."
There you have it. The reviews so far seem to indicate that ID4R is exactly what you would expect from a sequel to the first one -- the same nutty tone, the same exuberant silliness and the same over-the-top spectacle. Is anyone going to see this movie expecting serious science fiction like Blade Runner or 2001: A Space Odyssey?
So the question remains: Why has Fox hidden it here? One theory suggests that the studio has been burned so much by critics in the past year with movies like Fantastic Four and X-Men: Apocalypse that it doesn't want to risk hurting this movie's potential US box office in case American critics are less charitable. There's also unfounded fan speculation out there that the studio wants to keep a cameo from Will Smith (whose character has supposedly died in the interim between the two films) a surprise, although there's no concrete evidence at this point to suggest that's the case. Whatever the truth is, are you planning to see Independence Day: Resurgence this weekend? And would good or bad reviews make a difference to you?