“Independence Day: Resurgence”
Twentieth Century Fox
When “Independence Day” hit in 1996 it was met with cheers, jeers, and boatloads of cash. It was a huge hit and made Will Smith, a 2nd rate rapper/sitcom actor into one of the biggest stars in the world. It was thrilling, cheesy, melodramatic and ridiculously entertaining. It was a both throw-back to the disaster movies of the sixties and seventies and the harbinger of a whole new generation of such blockbusters. Every movie you’ve seen since 1996 that involves a giant wave destroying a city or a shot of a beloved landmark being blown to bits owes a debt to writer/director Roland Emmerich. Emmerich himself has been highly influenced by his biggest hit (i.e., “How can I make some more of that crazy ID4 cash?!”), following it with “Godzilla” in 1998, then “The Day After Tomorrow,” “2012,” “White House Down,” and finally this week’s “Independence Day: Resurgence.” On the docket for Emmerich is a mov-ie called “Moonfall,” wherein the moon falls into the Earth, and yet another “Independence Day” sequel. You can’t deny the man likes to blow stuff up.
I am a huge fan, and completely unapologetically so, of “Independence Day.” As such, my reac-tion to this week’s debacle of a film is probably more severe than a twenty-something who views this double-decade-late sequel with a yawn. For them “ID4” is just an old movie where they blow everything up. They don’t realize it’s the first movie where they blow everything up, unless you count “Dr. Strange-love” or “Fail Safe.” That said, if they were going to give us another installment in this series, they wait-ed at least fifteen years too long. Also, they could have actually made a good movie. Maybe that would have helped.
“Independence Day: Resurgence” is one of the biggest blunders I’ve seen in decades, starting right off with the title. Resurgence? What a terrible, hopelessly forgettable tagline. What are they even trying to say? I can just hear the pitch meeting. “Re. Repeat. Surge. The aliens are surging forth. Maybe the humans are surging. Resurge. Sounds like purge. Resurgence. Get it? It’s happening in the present. Clever!”
The story is basically thus: in 1996 we fought and beat an invading army of aliens who wanted to strip-mine the earth. Said aliens sent a distress call into space, alerting their queen and her stupidly massive spaceship to come to their aid. It’s twenty years later, and mom has finally arrived. Human be-ings, however, have not been idle. They have rebuilt their cities and, with a fair amount of reverse-engineering of alien technology, have a vigorous defense system in place. Unfortunately the system is a little too vigorous. While it may be no match for the coming spaceship that is literally the size of the At-lantic Ocean, it does just fine against a completely different alien ship that shows up to try and help the humans. That ship they blow out of the sky. Before you know it, the alien queen has arrived, her space-ship creating its own gravitational pull, although only temporarily, for some reason. Once again, and with little or no preamble, most of the world’s landmarks and population centers are again in ruins. It’s up to scientist Jeff Goldblum, doddering ex-presindet Bill Pullman, and a small host of other insurgents, some new, some returning, to save the day once again.
But this time around it’s all so perfunctory. Emmerich is obviously trying to hit the marks in terms of feeding people’s nostalgia, but without any of the emotional set-up we got in the original. It’s telling that in the first film, Pullman’s ex-fighter pilot President gives his rousing speech to the assembled crowd of defenders, where in “Resurgence,” said speech is delivered in a nearly empty hanger, to the few mechanics who happened to be working late. Some of the performances are comparable to the original film, despite the fact that high melodrama isn’t really currently in fashion outside “Game of Thrones.” Mostly, though, they are simple phone-ins. Goldblum delivers each line as though he was only interested in getting enough for the trailer, context or subtext be damned. Liam Hemsworth tries his best to smolder as a new generation of fighter jockey, but he just lacks the personality of his more successful brother, Chris. Completely lost is Jessie T. Usher as Captain Hiller, son of Will Smith’s character in the original. I don’t know if Usher was trying to keep from being compared to Smith, who bailed out of the film due to scheduling conflicts, but his bland performance disappears into the background. Brent Spiner returns as the creepy Area 51 scientist Dr. Okun, a character I think 0 everybody thought was dead from the first film. Here he appears to be the comic relief, though I found myself cocking my head to the side like a confused Labrador Retriever more often than not.
If the acting leaves something to be desired, the writing is simply atrocious. Not only is the dia-logue odd and stilted, the film never attempts to set up any of the character arcs. What made the first movie so fun, and reminiscent of cheesy classics like “The Towering Inferno” or “The Poseidon Adven-ture,” is that it took the time to introduce the characters, flesh them out to some degree, and make us care. “Resurgence” never comes close to making me care. And if that weren’t enough, when it comes to the film’s major set-piece, the giant alien ship, the filmmakers stumble big time. It’s almost a cliche, but the tired old maxim, “Bigger isn’t necessarily better,” perfectly applies here. The ship is so big it’s impossi-ble to get a sense of the real size. It’s honestly too big. When they show it balancing on the Earth, hang-ing over the edges, it just makes the entire set-up looks silly.
Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of “Independence Day: Resurgence.” I will say, however, that for a PG-13 movie, there’s minimal swearing, no sex and mostly bloodless violence. That was somewhat refreshing, as my schedule dictated that I drag the entire family to this trainwreck. When I asked my eight-year old what he thought, his answer was, “Ummm. Not so great.” My daughter slept through the entire thing. There are a few interesting set-pieces, and at least one character fights aliens with dual ma-chetes, so that’s something. Overall, however, “Resurgence” is clunky, vague, silly, and completely irrel-evant. In other words, too little too late. Grade: D+
“Independence Day: Resurgence” is rated PG-13 for language and sci-fi violence.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.