“Independence Day: Resurgence” (2016) is a Whole Lot of Nothing



As the title suggests, “Independence Day: Resurgence” (2016) is a sequel to “Independence Day,” the 1996 blockbuster in which the United States saves the entire human race from invasion of aliens on America’s Independence Day.  The original had shallow characters in a predictable story with emotionally manipulative scenes and a lot of explosions.  It wasn’t much but at least it was a fun something.  “Fun,” though, is the last thing that can be said for the sequel.

The premise of “Resurgence” is that the aliens from the original had sent a distress call to its home planet and it took only 20 years for the aliens to get their act together to counter-attack.

In those 20 years, humans have advanced quite a bit.  There is no longer inter-country warfare, with humanity united in defending itself against extraterrestrial attack through a global defense program called Earth Space Defense (although somehow, United States president still seems to be in charge of the world).  There is a space station on the moon that is the earth’s first line of defense, and people are able to travel from the moon to the earth on spaceships as easily as they travel between continents on planes.

With humanity so much more advanced, the invasion on the scale of the original just wouldn’t have gotten the job done for the aliens.  And so it is that aliens in “Resurgence” are twice as unattractive, thrice as big and a hundred times more numerous than in the original.

The central human characters, meanwhile, mostly haven’t changed, although they are noticeably older.  Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson, who now heads the ESD presumably because of his heroic efforts in the original.  His father Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch) is back, as is former president Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who exhibits mental and physical fraility until aliens come back invading.  Brent Spiner also returns as Dr. Brakish Okun, the mad scientist who conveniently wakes up from a 20 year coma just in time to engage in all sorts of unfunny shenanigans.

The one notable omission from the original cast is Will Smith, who had a good enough sense to not reprise his role as the hero Captain Steven Hiller.  Instead, there is Hiller’s stepson Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher) and his fellow fighter pilots Jake Morrison  (Liam Hemsworth), Rain Lao (Angelababy) and Charlie Miller (Travis Tope), each of whom are equally superfluous to the plot.

These characters old and new join forces to create a truly dreadful movie that fails on every level imaginable.

Humor?  Spiner, Miller and even Goldblum try desperately to elicit it but each attempt get progressively more desperate, all the way until Spiner’s cringe-inducing last line of the film.

Romance?  The movie concocts a love relationship between Morrison and Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), the daughter of former president Whitmore, that was so manufactured I’d forgotten the two were a couple by the end of the film.

Tears?  Several characters from the original meet untimely deaths, but “Resurgence” doesn’t even have the competence to be emotionally manipulative; the only emotion I felt upon their deaths was to cheer on others to follow their course.

To understand why this movie completely falls apart, look no further than the number of people involved with the writing.  The film gives a “story by” credit to four people, then credits those four plus James Vanderbilt for the screenplay.  I can only presume that the four conceptualized a story that they couldn’t make into a workable script, so they turned to Vanderbilt (of “Zodiac” (2007) and “The Amazing Spiderman” (2012)) to salvage it.

Vanderbilt could salvage only so much.  The climax that’s teed off of a revelation of a whole new alien species was so preposterous I wondered what the entire purpose of the first hour and a half was.  Vanderbilt, though, can’t lay the entire blame on the half-baked story; the mistake of showing the aliens far too early and far too often falls squarely on him.

Still, if you want to blame one person for this trainwreck, blame Roland Emmerich.  His name is plastered all over this project, as producer, director and screenwriter, as well as in bylines “story by” and “based on characters created by.”  Emmerich has delivered some quality entertainment like “Stargate” (1994) and “Day After Tomorrow” (2004) before,  but “Resurgence” is sure to join “Godzilla” (1998) in the category of his many duds.

I don’t think I’ve ever sat through a movie that evoked as little emotion in me as  “Independence Day: Resurgence.”  This movie isn’t fun or funny.  It can’t even amaze in its dreadfulness. To say that it was boring would be to concede there was something on screen worth responding to.  This movie is $165 million wasted for a whole lot of nothing.


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