"Independence Day: Resurgence"
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Running Time: 129 minutes
The Fourth of July is no longer known as an American holiday in Independence Day: Resurgence, the belated sequel to the 1996 sci-fi epic that turned Stargate director Roland Emmerich into one of cinema’s masters of disaster. Twenty years later, the Fourth of July is celebrated as the day humanity united as one to fend off the alien invaders with a penchant for destroying Earth’s most recognizable landmarks. But before the survivors can shoot off some fireworks to commemorate their victory, the aliens return—and they have brought with them their King Kong-sized queen to finish what they started in Independence Day. Resurgence is Independence Day all over again—and a bit more. Once he’s done introducing us to Resurgence’s unmemorable new characters, Emmerich begins the countdown to the second invasion of Earth. But he fails to generate the same sense of awe and dread that made the beginning of Independence Day crackle with tension. Then it’s down to the business of wiping out many of the world’s most important cities. If Emmerich takes a workman-like approach to his global destruction, it’s because he’s done this a few times in the past two decades. This may explain why he doesn’t muster the energy and creativity to top the disintegration of the White House in Independence Day, although there is an amusing nod to this iconic act of destruction when the East Coast takes a battering. Emmerich then proceeds to restage Independence Day’s climatic confrontation between humans and aliens as a means to show that the aliens have learned a lesson or two from that defeat. Conversely, Resurgence devotes much of its first act showing how Earth has exploited alien technology to expand its arsenal, which inevitably but effectively comes into play during the final showdown. The introduction of the alien queen helps Resurgence to somewhat differentiate itself from Independence Day, and a subplot involving a container of unknown origin offers the promise that a third film would expand about the invasion of Earth in a way Resurgence fails to do. The main problem with Resurgence isn’t its overwhelming feeling of familiarity, or Emmerich’s unimaginative handling of the invasion and the subsequent fight for Earth, but the characters we are forced to rely on to save the day. Resurgence already is at a disadvantage because of Will Smith’s absence. His heroic Capt. Steven Hiller is dead, but I don’t recall Resurgence mentioning when and how. Smith’s inherent charisma is sorely missed, more so because the five new cast members recruited as part of the Earth Defense Force lack the presence needed to carry Resurgence. As Hiller’s now-adult stepson Dylan, Jessie Usher seems very uncomfortable being called upon to make us forget Smith. The Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth’s efforts to bring some swagger to Resurgence feel forced. Maika Monroe can barely keep herself awake as Patricia Whitmore, the former First Daughter who was played by Mae Whitman in Independence Day (we can only speculate as to why Whitman doesn’t return for Resurgence). Travis Tope half-heartedly goofs it up as Hemsworth’s sidekick. And, despite being cast to boost Resurgence’s chance at the Chinese box office, Angelababy is given absolutely nothing to do other than to wave off Tope’s advance. Yup, even during an alien invasion, flyboys will be horndogs. Emmerich does bring back some of the surviving members of Independence Day, most notably Jeff Goldblum, who takes advantage of his first leading role on an aspiring blockbuster since 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park. As scientist David Levinson, Goldblum brings to Resurgence his trademark off-kilter wit and exudes, as usual, intellectual superiority. But he cannot hide his mild irritation at some of the odd and cheesy things that tend to happen toward the end of Resurgence, especially the arrival of some unexpected guests during the confrontation with the alien queen. Bill Pullman reprises his role as now-former President Thomas J. Whitmore but he’s in such a constant state of panic that he’s a distraction in every scene he’s in. You know something’s wrong with Resurgence when Brent Spiner, whose scientist we all assumed died in Independence Day, is considerably calmer and rational than Pullman. Emmerich does give Pullman a few minutes to compose himself so he can deliver a brief speech that’s meant to give hope where there is none. It’s not a speech that compares favorably to the oft-quoted one Pullman gave with passion and conviction in Independence Day. Then again, Resurgence doesn’t measure up to Independence Day. Emmerich’s had 20 years to deliver a superior sequel to a sci-fi blockbuster that wasn’t all that awe-inspiring in the first place. To say that Resurgence is worse than the other sequels we have seen this summer would be unfair. It’s just that Resurgence finds Emmerich going through the motions, which may suggest his heart is now in making such smaller, quieter films as Anonymous and Stonewall. Perhaps the change of scenery that's promised for the next sequel—assuming there is one—will help Emmerich regain his appetite for destruction.
Aired: June 31, 2016
Web site: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/independence-day-resurgence