It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since the release of “Independence Day”. I still remember that summer of 1996. ID4 was a big deal. A fantastic marketing campaign stirred up a ton of interest and when the film was finally released audiences weren’t disappointed. ID4 was a big, silly, science fiction romp that essentially redefined the summer blockbuster. It also represented a huge leap forward in CGI technology and featured some of the most memorable scenes ever created of movie mass destruction. It opened the gates for a slew of other disaster movies that would follow and its eventual sequel some twenty years later.
ID4 worked simply because it was fun. The pure spectacle was something to behold and unlike anything of that time. Most importantly it embraced its silliness and its cheesiness was part of its charm. Now flash-forward to “Independence Day: Resurgence”, a remarkably dull sequel devoid of any of its predecessors charms. Director Roland Emmerich returns along with co-writer and co-producer Dean Devlin. Both tapped into something good back in 1996, but their follow-up is a testament to how far blockbusters have fallen in terms of quality and ambition.
“Resurgence” spends a lot of time hearkening back to the first movie and milking that connection for all it can. Minus a few fun bits of nostalgia, it doesn’t do much to help. Perhaps twenty years is too long ago. Maybe people have simply forgotten these characters. Personally speaking I had no hankering for a sequel. But problems like that can be squashed if you have good story to tell. “Resurgence” has nothing new to say and its redundancy along with a complete lack of inspiration makes it pretty tough to endure.
The cliché-riddled story is pretty basic. A now unified earth has created a global defense force to protect us from any potential alien attack. How do you think that worked? A 3,000 mile-wide alien mothership (that’s stupid in itself) crashes through our atmosphere and attaches itself to earth in order to harvest our planet’s core. Thankfully we have a team of the best fighter pilots, scientists, and ex-presidents to put up a resistance. None of them are the slightest bit interesting, but they do put up a resistance.
It’s hard to say what we get more of, scenes of CGI or horrible lines of dialogue. It’s a close race. And of course we get the obligatory destruction of cities and the killing of millions of faceless people (poor London…isn’t it always London?). Sure, some of the visual effects look really nice and that’s where a bulk of its bloated $165 million budget goes. But it’s nothing we haven’t seen a million times by now and with nothing in the story worth clinging to, the effects ring hollow.
Speaking of hollow look no further than the characters and the performances. It may be a bit unfair to slam the cast when the material is this bad. There is line after line of cringe-worthy dialogue and nearly every character is firmly rooted in one stereotype or another. The cheesiness isn’t charming because the humor is so vapid and not a single relationship feels authentic.
Then you get to the actors none of whom seem completely convinced of what they’re doing. Liam Hemsworth plays a poor man’s Maverick from “Top Gun”. Jessie Usher is shockingly bad as the fighter pilot son of Will Smith’s character from the first film (Smith wisely said “no thanks” to this one). Even the always enjoyable Jeff Golblum is handcuffed by the shoddy script. Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, and Judd Hirsch also return for a paycheck while none of the newly added twenty-somethings offer even a hint of fresh energy.
“Resurgence” flounders out of the gate, never shows an ability to build suspense, and offers up some of the most uninteresting characters I’ve seen in a while. Its CGI looks good but over time slams against your senses like a wrecking-ball. Maybe if this film went further into the “Sharknado” vein of intentional goofiness and absurdity it could have worked. As it is, “Resurgence” bored me and left me wondering if this was the best they could come up with after twenty years?
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS