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'Independence Day: Resurgence' fails to resonate

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Decades-later sci-fi sequel lacks original's spark, spirit

'Independence Day' was one of the first summer blockbusters that really captured my imagination while it was in the theaters. I saw the film a handful of times on the big screen in 1996 and was thrilled by every screening. In subsequent years, I grew more and more aware of just how big and dumb a movie it was, but I never stopped loving it.

And now, in 2016, we have a sequel. 'Independence Day: Resurgence' brings us back to director Roland Emmerich's world of alien invasion, overwrought dialogue, implausible science and monument destruction. It's a return in more ways than one, as just about every major player from the first film the most notable exception being Will Smith is back for another go-round.

It doesn't go as well as one might have hoped.

It is 20 years after the events of the first movie. Mankind has united as one, leaving disputes between nations behind. Humanity has adapted alien technology and made it their own. Basically, Earth has become a highly advanced and peaceful society.

Obviously, that can't last.

Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth, 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2') is working as a space tug operator at one of the moon's defense bases. He's also a former compatriot of Dylan Hiller (Jessie Usher, TV's 'Survivor's Remorse') son of Will Smith's Steven Hiller - and the fianc of former First Daughter and current presidential speechwriter Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe, 'The 5th Wave'). He and his buddy Charlie (Travis Tope, 'The Town That Dreaded Sundown') are on the moon when news breaks that the aliens are coming back.

As for the rest of the old guard: David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum, 'Mortdecai') is the head of Earth's alien technology team at Area 51, while his dad Julius (Judd Hirsch, TV's 'Forever') is still shilling the book he wrote about the invasion. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman, 'American Ultra') is still struggling with the mental and physical repercussions of the invasion from two decades earlier. And eccentric scientist Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner, 'The Midnight Man') has been in a coma for the past two decades.

This time, the aliens have brought much bigger guns - the biggest being a 3,000-mile wide ship that is going to bore a hole into the planet and steal its molten core to power the alien armada. It's up to this new generation Jake, Dylan, Charlie, Patricia and more to try and stop them, while the holdovers like David, Dr. Okun and President Whitmore do their best to help. They along with the rest of humanity are left to scramble for a solution before it is too late and the world comes to an abrupt end.

(There's also some business about another, different outer space doodad and a bunch of really convenient stuff about mental connections with the aliens that helps fill in the gaps left by a threadbare and occasionally ridiculous narrative.)

'Independence Day: Resurgence' doesn't really worry itself too much about the vagaries of plot. In truth, there's a lot of this story that doesn't make a ton of sense. The decisions that get made on both sides are highly suspect, resulting in some plot holes that are big enough to fly a giant spaceship through. And somehow, the movie manages to be even more egregious in its utter embrace of the nonsensical than its predecessor. Obviously, you don't go into a film like this expecting realism, but some consistency would be nice.

Make no mistake 'Resurgence' is visually impressive. Roland Emmerich has never had much of a problem blowing stuff up in an aesthetically pleasing way; it's kind of his thing. And 20 years of special effects development has allowed for a real expansion of his capabilities. His fetishizing of global catastrophe has never looked so good.

Unfortunately, where the sequel fails in comparison to the original is in the human element. The original 'Independence Day' was plenty illogical and ludicrous and it wallowed in its inconsistency, but there was a level of character engagement that made all of that more forgivable. That engagement is gone this time around, leaving viewers with a collection of people about whose fates we couldn't care less. Even the ones we liked last time feel largely expendable. Hemsworth, Usher, Monroe, Tope all the newbies, really are bland ciphers, failing to resonate with each other or with the audience. Goldblum is OK, as is Hirsch, but the inevitable moment when they try to pull another awesome speech out of Pullman falls predictably flat; not his fault, but still a swing and a miss.

This is just one more to toss on the heap of unnecessary sequels that we've been seeing in increasing numbers in recent years. Even for someone like me someone with real fondness for the original it just doesn't click.

'Independence Day: Resurgence' was never going to be good; I just hoped for something better than this.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:44

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