‘Independence Day: Resurgence’: Quality descends in sci-fi sequel
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Well, that was unnecessary.
Twenty years after “Independence Day” stormed the summer box office and Will Smith announced himself as a major star in the making, we get “Independence Day: Resurgence,” which is nothing more than a clunky, cliché-riddled alien invasion movie from the 1950s B-movie playbook dressed up in 21st century special effects.
A sampling of actual lines from the film:
“Nobody else dies today!”
“They got me!”
“Is that an alien space gun?”
“I’m not saving the world. I’m saving YOU.”
(The “Yaaaah!” type lines are indicative of what various pilots “say” as they’re firing on the enemy or getting hit by the enemy. There’s a LOT of yelling the cockpits in this movie.)
After showing initial interest in the sequel, Smith dropped out. (Perhaps the disaster that was “After Earth” turned him off to further sci-fi adventures for a while.)
Lucky Will. They killed off his character, so not only does he avoid appearing in “Resurgence,” there’s virtually no chance (other than flashbacks) of him showing up in the third chapter, which we’re threatened with at the end of this bomb.
We’re told Smith’s Captain Hiller was killed in a training exercise. Gee, after saving the world? Really! There’s a cheesy painting of Captain Hiller hanging in a prominent spot in the White House, and his son Dylan (Jessie T. Usher in a not-great performance) is carrying on his legacy as a hotshot pilot.
“Independence Day: Resurgence” is set in real time, some 20 years after the great alien war of 1996, but in a parallel universe where all nations are united in peace, and there hasn’t been a sign of any giant slimy invading insect-looking creatures in two decades.
As for alums of the original who do appear in the sequel, a partial roster:
• Bill Pullman returns as (now former) President Whitmore, who is haunted by nightmares and calls himself “a crazy old man” even as he warns the aliens are returning. He even sports a Lettermanesque beard to let us know he’s no longer a part of the mainstream.
• Jeff Goldblum is the best thing in the film, seemingly amusing himself with droll line readings, as David Levinson, who has become the director of the Earth Space Defense. (Once the inevitable invasion occurs and major cities begin to fall, Levinson dryly notes, “They like to take out the landmarks.”)
• Unfortunately, Judd Hirsch also returns and once again hams it up beyond belief as David’s meddling, annoying father, who calls people “putz” and “schmuck,” because, you know, he’s Jewish.
Among the newbies: Liam Hemsworth is Jake Morrison, the obligatory Gifted But Cocky Pilot Who Breaks All the Rules. Maika Monroe is the president’s daughter, the obligatory Plucky Girlfriend Who Can Also Fly Jets. Nicholas Wright is Floyd, the obligatory Government Dweeb Who Eventually Picks Up a Gun.
Oh, and Deobia Oparei is the warlord Dikembe Umbutu, who specializes in killing aliens with his twin machetes. All right, I’ll admit that’s a new one.
All of these characters, and far too many more, are mired in a formulaic alien-invasion film that for all its massive 3D battle sequences and all its rousing music and all its attempts to make us care about these characters is one of the most uninvolving movies of the year.
Everyone keeps talking about how the fate of the world is at stake, and we see the destruction of countless cities, meaning millions of lives have been lost — but it’s bloodless, from-a-distance destruction. Even when two of the younger characters witness the deaths of older relatives, I doubt there’ll be a moist eye in the house.
The “Resurgence” blueprint calls for a scene in which characters have human, allegedly humorous and/or touching moments; a scene in which characters plot strategy against the aliens; and a big action sequence in which it’s often difficult to tell the difference between the good-guy spaceships and the bad-guy spaceships. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.
Most of the performances in the film are as forgettable as the storyline and the special effects. There’s a lot of hugging and cheering and weeping and speechifying, but precious little of it rings true. We see CGI explosions and battles and we cut to the actors in the cockpit or command central or squinting up at the sky, and it just doesn’t connect or resonate.
“Independence Day: Resurgence” is directed by Roland Emmerich, whose credits include the first “Independence Day,” “White House Down,” “10,000 BC,” and the 1998 “Godzilla.” He knows how to do slick and bombastic. Five writers teamed up for the screenplay.
This is a disaster by committee.
20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Roland Emmerick and written by Emmerich, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin and James Vanderbilt. Running time: 120 minutes. Running time: 120 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language). Now showing at local theaters.