Independence Day: Resurgence

Posted by Joel Copling on June 23, 2016

"We had twenty years to prepare," states the tag line; "So did they." It has, indeed, been twenty years since the enjoyably cornball summer event picture "Independence Day" was released in 1996, and having viewed it within the hour before its long-gestating first sequel, its charms remain: There was an appeal to the way Roland Emmerich and the members of his crew built to the arrival of the formidable spaceship (which, of course, included the dazed reactions of passersby and primary characters alike) that more than carried it through the first eventful hour. "Independence Day: Resurgence," on the other hand, feels no such joy. Utilizing (to a mysterious degree) six screenwriters--including returning director Emmerich, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, and James Vanderbilt--this is an atrocity. Subjectively, visually, and narratively, this film is a disaster for other reasons than its subgenre.

That, of course, would be the disaster movie as it falls under the umbrella of science fiction, although someone who edited the Wikipedia entry for the film added the phrase "alternate history" into the description, which I suppose is vaguely apt. This does not feel like it comes from the same historical timeline as the first film, and I'm referring to its place in real life right now. Seeming like a know-nothing hack picked up a camera for the first time, Emmerich's usual penchant for culling together excellent visual effects works and game actors who are up to the task of reconfiguring the B-movie formula to be something with a little more prestige is nowhere to be found here. There is no more nuanced way to put it: This is the worst big-budget summer blockbuster so far this decade.

The plot rehashes the first film, reintroducing us to older characters and lazily shoehorning in a few new ones. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who is suffering from early-onset dementia and posttraumatic stress disorder from his previous close encounter, is back to ramble aimlessly and putter around before randomly gaining the courage to revert to being a fighter pilot. His daughter Patty (Maika Monroe, replacing Mae Whitman for some reason) was a fighter pilot previously, has now taken a job in the White House under President Lanford (Sela Ward). Her husband and stepfather to her child has since died (via a convenient but oddly harsh way to shut out the movie star who played him), but Jasmine Hiller (Vivica A. Fox) has found a more suitable job for herself than exotic dancing as a doctor (When in the first film was this even hinted at?), while Dylan (Jessie T. Usher, replacing Ross Bagley for some reason) has taken his stepfather's place as the face of the military.

As you can expect, the aliens return, and the city-sized craft that cable repairman David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) helped the old hero destroy wasn't even remotely the biggest (The only two captivating images in the film are those of the newer invading ship, which is big enough to cover a continent). David returns here, too, to aid in fighting off the new extra-terrestrials, as does his dad Julius (Judd Hirsch) to go on a road trip with some underage stragglers. Also back for the action is Brakish Okun, the eccentric (and, here, highly annoying) doctor played once again by a grating, over-the-top Brent Spiner (Hey, he needs the money), who provides a lot of Important Exposition after waking from a two-decade coma, and joining the fray are Liam Hemsworth as Patty's fiancee and fellow pilot Jake and Charlotte Gainsbourg, losing a bet and applying a lisp as scientist Catherine Marceaux.

Of course, none of the actors (who are all dreadful) or characters (who are all an insult to cardboard) matter to an audience who wants to lose themselves in a bunch of action to which they can munch popcorn and shut off their brains, but Emmerich bungles even this. Rarely has big-budgeted, action-heavy spectacle more resembled random, vaguely colorful motion without rhythm or purpose on screen. Ships fly toward spaceships with blue beams shooting out of them, dart in and around smaller alien fighter jets with green blobs of CGI spurting from them, the climax presents us, not only with aliens of the same design as before (without the benefit of being practical effects), but also a queen alien who is just a towering, visually indistinctive hunk of plasticky ineptitude, and none of it seems remotely authentic. The stakes are as nonexistent as the laughable attempt at human drama, the dialogue often is just copied and pasted over onto characters (or relatives of characters) who said them before, and "Independence Day: Resurgence" flails its way toward appalling, risible worthlessness.

Film Information

Liam Hemsworth (Jake Morrison), Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson), Jessie T. Usher (Dylan Hiller), Bill Pullman (President Whitmore), Maika Monroe (Patricia Whitmore), Sela Ward (President Lanford), William Fichtner (Gen. Adams), Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson), Brent Spiner (Dr. Brakish Okun), Patrick St. Esprit (Secretary of Defense Tanner), Vivica A. Fox (Jasmine Hiller), Angelababy (Rain Lao), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Catherine Marceaux), Deobia Oparei (Dikembe Umbutu), Nicolas Wright (Floyd Rosenberg).

Directed by Roland Emmerich and written by Emmerich, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, and James Vanderbilt.

Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action/destruction, language).

120 minutes.

Released on June 24, 2016.