Independence Day: Resurgence

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“We had twenty years to prepare”…for a dumber version of what we’d already seen.
★★
Movie Review #1,068

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Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi. Running time: 2 hours. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language. Released June 24, 2016. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Screenplay by Nicolas Wright & James A. Woods and Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich and James Vanderbilt. Story by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich and Nicolas Wright & James A. Woods. Based on characters created by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich. Starring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox, Angelababy, Robert Loggia, and John Storey.

How curious that “Independence Day: Resurgence” is exactly the same story as the original movie, and yet it feels completely different. This is hardly a sequel or a reboot. It’s essentially a remake. Another movie where Jeff Goldblum investigates an alien mothership that is suddenly hovering over the earth. Another movie where scientists and military pilots team up to take out the mothership. Another movie where all this happens around the Fourth of July.

There are three minor differences in this story. One is that, this time around, the humans of Planet Earth think they’re prepared for another attack. The second difference is that, this time around, the mothership is so much larger than it was last time, which means they are in fact not prepared. And third of all, this time around, there is essentially no exposition at all. Director Roland Emmerich (returning 20 years after directing the first movie) doesn’t spend any time at all introducing the characters as he so preciously did for the first 45 minutes of the original. We learn their names during the first 5-10 minutes of the movie, and then it’s off to the races.

It’s tempting to call this a carbon copy of the first movie, but then again, a carbon copy means delivering the same quality as the first time around, which is certainly not the case. 20 years ago, writers Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich told the story on a very political level. It was essentially a movie about terrorism, only told through the exciting lens of science fiction. What’s interesting about “Resurgence” is that it took not two, but five writers to create the screenplay, and yet there’s nothing to show that the film operates on a higher level of thinking. The only thing remotely political this time around is the fact that the President is now apparently (and unconvincingly) a woman. But that only serves as further annoyance, thanks to the fact that, ever since President Obama took office, the President in just about every movie and TV show has been either a) Black, b) a woman, or c) a Black woman.

I’m not saying “Independence Day: Resurgence” had to be political; it should have been smart in some way, though. And let me tell you very frankly that if you happen to think there’s something smart in watching aliens and humans try and mindlessly blow each other up for two hours, you probably need your head checked.

The cast falters in mostly every aspect. Jessie Usher’s role is meant solely as compensation for the fact that Will Smith didn’t want to be in this movie (and boy, do I wonder why). He plays the stepson of Smith’s character from the original movie, and he’s a rather uninteresting character. In the lead is Liam Hemsworth, whose presence in this film is, for the most part, unwanted. Hemsworth’s terrible acting is something we should’ve gotten used to by now, but unfortunately it reaches a whole new level in “Resurgence”. Additionally, Charlotte Gainsbourg feels misplaced in this movie. She’s an outstanding actress, but she’s also a name that only fans of European cinema will recognize. How and why did she ever consent to going from the brilliant psychological dramas of Lars von Trier, to a $165 million movie where every other word in the script is “bang” or “kaboom”?

There are redeeming factors in the cast. It’s nice to see Jeff Goldblum and Jeff Daniels reprising their roles from the first film, as the computer expert and the former President, respectively. It does seem like they enjoy being here for a second time, and watching them might be all that we really enjoy in this film. But we still can’t help but feel sorry for them, knowing that watching them in “Resurgence”, a poor recreation of the first film, is like watching Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in a junior high performance of The Phantom of the Opera.

The one area in which “Resurgence” actually improves upon its predecessor is in the visual department. The CGI is far superior to what we saw in the first film. This is largely because the technology used for special effects has greatly improved in the last 20 years. And as we have become accustomed to by 2016, “Resurgence” is available in both 2-D and 3-D. On one hand, the use of the latter feels much more gimmicky than creative, but then again, the experience is more realistic than the average movie is in 3-D. But clearly, the 3-D gimmick is the only area where “Resurgence” is actually superior to “the average movie.”

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