Team America: Universal Police
The American film industry exists within a bubble. In fact every film industry does. The film-makers possess a narcissistic mentality, placing their industry squarely at the center of its own universe of creation, which translates through the films they produce. Standing on the outside it’s obvious that unless the creativity drill strikes a new reserve of inspiration (see 1996 in action blockbusters), the single, constantly used well will inevitably dry up. After that it’s a matter of rinse and repeat and Independence Day: Resurgence is a reiteration of this method.
Disclaimer: this isn’t a hate-filled attack on the United States, nor is it social or political commentary on the country. It’s a critique of the film industry that insists on championing America’s brand of patriotism as a universally viable form of entertainment. It reaches new heights in Resurgence as a three-thousand mile wide spaceship causes widespread devastation to the United States the likes of which we couldn’t imagine (nor could the film-makers depict despite the extravagant budget). As for the rest of the world? Who cares? America gets it the worst and it’s now up to America to rally America and use America to save the world.
It’s not just a general gripe about all American films. It’s a particular exception I take with the latest film franchise (oh boy, another one). Bill Pullman’s speech from the original is as epic as it gets, but proclaiming a domestic holiday as now belonging to all of planet earth is just as arrogant. Resurgence doubles down on this. The broad scope that once enveloped the entire world has been condensed into an attitude that America is the world. Diversity is barren, with a few supporting and tertiary characters who serve as a token for multiculturalism. Meanwhile the moon gets more screen time than Africa. That about sums up earth as far as Resurgence is concerned.
The comparison between father and son doesn’t get any easier. Everything that made this film possible has been thrown to the wayside. Once upon a time the world was heavily out-gunned by a far superior race and it was only through ingenious thought that earth wins the day. The tag-line We had twenty years to prepare. So did they could not be more poetic. That huge ship guarantees a twenty-year upgrade to the unique cinematography, right? Nope. In fact the mothership has a more comprehensive depiction on the film’s posters. But there’s a queen alien who’s going to be a big deal, right? Nope. These once ominous invaders are now comically inept. What was once unassailable is replaced by the adage that if at first you don’t succeed you’ll get it right on the second attempt.
I’ll measure myself at this point and agree that of course an American-based film industry is going to be America-centric. The Australian film industry does the same thing. It’s because the direct predecessor managed to delineate a far more vast global crisis that I take issue with it in Resurgence. The film isn’t inherently bad because it’s set in the United States. In fact it’s not entirely bad to begin with, but it’s gone the way of the big, dumb monster movie. It’s a ye old tradition, and it’s worked in the past but it only goes so far.
Mine is a simple yearning. Resurgence already had the foundations for a suspenseful and intelligent summer blockbuster with great diversity. Unlike the mothership, Resurgence never even bothered tapping the well.