Independence Day: Resurgence Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Maika Monroe. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Rated PG-13. Now playing citywide.
As cheesy as the original 1996 Independence Day was, it committed to the idea that the fate of humanity was at stake, that the various characters needed to band together, rally their forces and use all their ingenuity to defeat a single-minded, ultra-powerful enemy. The way they accomplished that was completely illogical and contrived, but director Roland Emmerich and his cast sold the hell out of it. Twenty years later, sequel Independence Day: Resurgence arrives in a Hollywood climate in which every other movie is a giant, world-ending epic, and it’s no longer the grand, unifying experience its predecessor was. Instead it’s just another noisy, cluttered, CGI-filled monstrosity, with a convoluted plot that’s ultimately just a prelude to another movie somewhere down the road. The stakes are theoretically just as high, but they don’t mean anything.
Twenty years have also passed in the movie’s world, and in the time since repelling an alien invasion, Earth has become peaceful and prosperous, repurposing some alien technology into new high-tech transportation and defense. But now the aliens are back, with bigger weapons represented by improved special effects, and they once again want to annihilate the Earth (it has something to do with draining the planet’s core, but don’t think too hard about that). Emmerich teams up with four other screenwriters this time around, but even at half an hour shorter than the previous movie, Resurgence feels padded, full of go-nowhere subplots and pointless supporting characters, and an end goal that keeps getting pushed further away for the last hour or so of the movie.
Returning cast members include Jeff Goldblum as scientist David Levinson, now the leader of Earth’s defense efforts, and Bill Pullman as the former president who inspired humanity in the first movie but has since been driven mad by his mental connection with the aliens. They’re the only ones with major roles, but Judd Hirsch also returns as David’s father in a particularly useless subplot about him helping to rescue some kids; Vivica A. Fox gets a scene or two as the widow of Will Smith’s fighter pilot from the first movie (Smith’s character has been killed off between movies, because Smith declined to return); and Brent Spiner is an unexpected delight as the oddball scientist who’s been in a coma since he was attacked by the aliens in the previous movie.
The cast is mainly led by a group of young stars who are obviously meant to carry the potential ongoing franchise, including Liam Hemsworth as a bland fighter pilot and Jessie Usher and Maika Monroe as grown-up versions of child characters from the first movie. Their performances aren’t bad, but they don’t make much of an impression, especially next to Goldblum, Pullman and Spiner clearly having fun returning to their ridiculous characters. The hokey dialogue lacks any memorable one-liners that will be quoted weeks from now, let alone decades, and the meandering plot doesn’t build to the kind of rousing (if nonsensical) climax that the original did. Independence Day probably doesn’t deserve to be as beloved as it is, but Resurgence is unlikely to inspire anywhere near the same devotion.