'Resurgence' is a weak payoff for fans of 1996's 'Independence Day'
Posted June 26, 2016
“INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE” — 2 stars — Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward; PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language); in general release
“Independence Day: Resurgence” feels like a reunion concert for a classic rock band that’s missing its lead singer. It’s fun to hear some of the old songs, but you know you are getting an inferior product.
Still, it’s hard to believe that adding Will Smith to the “Resurgence” cast would have fixed all its problems. Even for a B-movie masquerading behind a blockbuster budget, “Resurgence” is just too lazy for its own good.
The story picks up 20 years after the events of the 1996 original, in a world that has enjoyed the fruits of peaceful unity and alien technology. Which is to say they have flying cars and a moon base.
Along the way, the heroes of the ’96 encounter have passed the torch to the next generation. Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher) is a fighter pilot living in the shadow of his famous deceased father (Smith’s character). Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) was also a pilot until a field mishap involving Dylan landed him grunt duty on the moon. Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), another ex-pilot, is President Whitmore’s daughter and Jake’s fiancée, and has recently taken a position on the new POTUS’s staff.
A few familiar faces are still around, too. Dr. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is researching strange happenings in Africa, where a ground war between the aliens and the local humans raged for years after the greater invasion failed. Jasmine Hiller (Vivica A. Fox) has left her stripper career behind to become a doctor. Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) has been in a coma for the last 20 years, and a white-bearded President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) looks about ready to join him. Levinson’s father Julius (Judd Hirsch, who doesn’t seem to have aged in 20 years) is out pushing a book that gives him credit for inspiring the victory in 1996.
The peace was fun while it lasted, but after encountering a strange probe on the moon, the people of Earth get some bad news: The aliens have returned for vengeance, this time in a 3,000-mile-long mothership that lands on the Atlantic Ocean and starts drilling for the Earth’s core.
President Lanford (Sela Ward) spearheads the resistance efforts of the other world leaders, mostly by giving passionate stares and solemnly delivering lines like, “let’s do this,” and “permission granted.” The strategy eventually boils down to another offensive on the alien ship, and in spite of a few modest variations, “Resurgence” quickly begins to feel like more of a re-hash than a sequel.
There’s nothing wrong with a B-movie, even a B-movie with a multi-million dollar budget. But “Resurgence” pairs miles-wide scope with about 6 inches of depth, trafficking in melodramatic moments that fail to connect, clichéd dialogue that feels like it was selected at random, and plot holes wide enough to fly a 3,000-mile wide spaceship through.
It isn’t a total failure, but anyone hoping “Resurgence” would deliver on 20 years worth of buildup will leave disappointed. Director Roland Emmerich (who also helmed the original) puts his emphasis on the visuals, and they do look pretty good. But good enough to justify a full price 2016 movie ticket? That may be a stretch.
The original “Independence Day” wasn’t exactly contending for Best Picture, but it had a sense of fun and a charm that “Resurgence” fails to deliver. Blame it on the absence of Smith or any number of other culprits, but the result is the same: outside of some fun effects and a couple of hours of escapism, “Independence Day: Resurgence” just doesn’t have that much to offer.
“Independence Day: Resurgence” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction and for some language; running time: 120 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.