INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Destruction, and for some Language

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Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Written by: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicholas Wright, James A. Woods & James Vanderbilt

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Travis Tope, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Jessie Usher, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox & Sela Ward

A sequel to 1996’s INDEPENDENCE DAY has been in development for a ridiculously long time. Finally, twenty years after that film’s original release, INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 has invaded theaters. Does this follow-up capture the same fun B-flick vibe that made the first film work so well? Does it entertain enough to make up for obvious shortcomings? Does the silly screenwriting occasionally get in the way of its entertainment factor? Well, the answers to all of these questions can be summed up in one resounding “meh.” While RESURGENCE is somewhat true in tone to its predecessor, this sequel also suffers from crucial missing elements and distractingly sloppy storytelling.

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Two decades have passed since earthlings stood their ground against heavily armed alien invaders. With the otherworldly menace defeated, scientists have incorporated their futuristic technology into our daily lives. We now have manned outposts on the moon, drive hovering cars, and can travel at super speeds across the world. When a mysterious object appears near the moon outpost and human forces shoot it down, it appears that another extraterrestrial attack has been averted. However, an enormous alien spaceship shows up that’s much bigger than the 1996 attack fleets. Instead of trying to colonize our world, the aliens now seem intent on harvesting its core. With a ticking clock and an Atlantic Ocean sized threat parked on our planet, humans must band together once again to take these aliens down.

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Old characters and familiar names with new faces make up the large cast of INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE. Bill Pullman makes a welcomed return as former president Thomas Whitmore. However, Pullman’s character seems to have a bit of temporary dementia that only pops in when it’s convenient for the plot (sloppily explained by alien telepathy messing with his head). Jeff Goldblum carries most of this movie on his shoulders. Though other sequels to 90’s blockbusters have shown that Goldblum is hit-or-miss (cough, THE LOST WORLD, cough), he is a lot of fun here. His character of David Levinson brings back the sarcasm, witty banter, and humor that made the original film enjoyable in the first place. Prepare to be bummed though, because RESURGENCE couldn’t afford Will Smith (yes, even on a budget of 165 million), so they killed his character off-screen. The absent Will Smith charm is noticeable and contributes to this sequel feeling less fun than its predecessor.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

Jessie Usher plays Dylan Hiller, son of Will Smith’s character from the first film, and is convincing enough as a one-dimensional hero. As his annoying sidekick comes Liam Hemsworth’s Jake Morrison, who ruins more than a few action scenes with his over-the-top jokes and obnoxious attitude. Maika Monroe (from IT FOLLOWS and THE 5TH WAVE, the latter being a teeny-bopper INDEPENDENCE DAY knockoff) plays Patricia Whitmore and comes off as the best of these newcomers. On the sidelines we also have Sela Ward as the new President and the always enjoyable William Fichtner as a confident army general. A big standout comes in Deobia Oparei as an African warlord who likes to collect alien skulls, while Charlotte Gainsbourg is completely forgettable as Goldblum’s bland love interest. Oh, we also get way too much of the comic relief Area 51 scientists, but the less said about them, the better.

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INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE takes the “bigger is better” mantra that most summer movie sequels seem to function on and cranks it up to 11. Instead of major cities being destroyed by huge spaceships, we get half the planet being virtually demolished by one massive spacecraft. Instead of taking the less-is-more approach with the alien menace, we get lots of CGI-heavy shots of the creatures, including a giant Queen that seems to deliberately rip off the main monster from a certain 1986 sci-fi classic. Since we have alien technology incorporated into our weapons, you had better believe that the fight scenes are a tad confusing as you’re trying to figure out which ships to root for. I wouldn’t be surprised if humans were accidentally shooting down other humans, because their jets look exactly like the alien spacecraft.

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If you haven’t guessed by now, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is pretty stupid…but so was the first one. The key difference being that the 1996 blockbuster had a fun entertaining charm to it that only occasionally makes its way into this sequel. When it’s taking itself way too seriously, the bad writing sticks out like a sore thumb. RESURGENCE takes about a third of its running time to get going, because its messy script gets bogged down in introducing all of these characters and the futuristic technology. An overuse alien psychic connections serves as a means for convenient exposition and get more than a little annoying, but that’s not nearly as aggravating as the literal talking plot device that rears its ugly head midway through the running time and plays a major role in the proceedings.

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I’m not saying that RESURGENCE isn’t fun, because the film has its moments. However, most of the thrill is gone in this second installment. Part of this can be attributed to a missing Will Smith (who was a major source of energy in the first film) and the rest might be thrown onto the spectacle being less impressive this time around. We’ve seen BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, SKYLINE, OBLIVION, and 2012, there isn’t a whole lot that RESURGENCE can show us in terms of special effects that we haven’t seen before. If this makes a ton of money at the box office that won’t matter though, because there is no ending to this sequel…just a cliffhanger that sets up the premise for a third film. If that eventually happens, hopefully they’ll remember to bring the fun back with the effects and bad writing.

Grade: C+

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