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Review: Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Premise: A sequel to the 1996 film. Two decades after an extraterrestrial attack upon Earth, a second wave of alien ships arrive with the intent of exterminating humanity.

What Works: There is a lot wrong with Independence Day: Resurgence but the problems of this movie are not the fault of the actors. The cast do what they can with the roles they have been given and they provide the performances that the material demands.  

What Doesn’t: Independence Day: Resurgence is a lazy rehash of the original film and it neatly encapsulates everything wrong with big budget Hollywood moviemaking. For starters, there is no imagination in its story. The 1996 film concluded in such a way that a sequel could have logically followed and there were many interesting possibilities for follow up stories. But instead of exploring the repercussions of the events in the original film and developing the characters, the filmmakers of Resurgence are content to make literally the same movie over again. The sequel works through every major plot beat and action set piece of the original Independence Day and does them less well. As silly as the first film was, it succeeded in delivering entertaining sci-fi action such as the countdown to the alien attack and the final showdown at Area 51. Those same scenarios are repeated in Resurgence but the movie slogs through them with no showmanship or even competent filmmaking skill. The action scenes are a cacophony of random images. One shot does not lead to the next and a lot of the screen movement is incoherent. The action is bigger and louder and therein the Independence Day sequel embodies another of the failures of Hollywood tent pole films: set pieces that are so big and so absurd that they lose any kind of credibility. In an effort to top the destruction of the original Independence Day the filmmakers wipe out entire geographical regions. The set pieces are so large that the action and the stakes are abstract. The outsized scale combined with the incompetent assembly of images makes Resurgence boring. The fate of the world is supposedly at stake but there is nothing in the movie for the viewer to emotionally invest in. And that’s another key failure of Resurgence. There are no interesting characters in this movie. A few of the original cast members return, namely Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, and Brent Spiner, but the film doesn’t do much with them. And the cast of new characters played by Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe, and William Fichtner, are not characterized at all. They have no defining qualities and there is nothing interesting about them. One of the weaknesses of the original Independence Day was its ethnocentrism; the entire globe was under attack but only American lives seemed to matter and it fell to Americans to save the day. The filmmakers try to correct that in Resurgence but they just make the problem worse. Part of Resurgence takes place in Africa and the movie introduces a new character, a warlord-type played by Deobia Oparei. The portrayal of Oparei’s character is silly—he’s a violent, humorless African warlord stereotype—and filmmakers set up jokes that are predicated around black men being scary. That is the extent of the humor in this movie. Independence Day: Resurgence is an otherwise dour affair. There are a handful of moments of Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum but even those moments are few and far between. Resurgence has no life and that is symptomatic of the laziness at the heart of the movie. This is yet another title built solely around nostalgia and name recognition. There’s no effort to make this a fun or distinct or even a competent motion picture.  The utter lack of imagination and the listless characters reveals the cynicism that underlines the movie’s existence.

Bottom Line: Independence Day: Resurgence has not been made to expand a story or even to recreate the same experience for a new generation; this is a lazily made industrial product with the Independence Day brand name slapped onto it.

Episode: #602 (July 10, 2016)