Independence Day: Resurgence–Messy, Risible Sequel to 1996 Smash Hit

First the bad news:

independence_day_resurgence_posterIndependence Day: Resurgence, the eagerly anticipated sequel to the 1996 smash hit, is a terrible picture on any number of levels–unless you just want to see a series of big explosions and mass destruction of iconic national monuments.

Among other things, Independence Day, for better and for worse (I think the latter) redefined the nature of Hollywood’s summer action event flick, offering new meaning to what’s an acceptable and enjoyable popcorn movie. (By comparison, the previous standards for summer movies, Spielberg’s Jaws in 1975, and James Cameron’s Aliens in 1986, are masterpieces).

Our grade: C


First, Will Smith, the charismatic star of the original picture, pulled out of the sequel, and he was smart, though his presence his very much missed (see below).

independence_day_resurgence_5_hemsworthHandsome and likable as he is, at this phase of his career, Liam Hemsworth lacks the chops and gravitas to play the lead and carry the film on his shoulders.

Second, as writer and director, Roland Emmerich proves that he is a commercial director in the worst sense of this term, making mindless mass-oriented fare.

Third, and this is really bad news: No matter how good or bad Resurgence performs at the box-office, the ground work is set for yet another sequel.

Known for his ability to orchestrate big set pieces of spectacular global destruction, Emmerich does not disappoint here and delivers the basic goods—big and bigger explosions–expected of such entertainment. But he has never been an effective storyteller, or a coherent filmmaker, not even when he makes personal independent movies.

independence_day_resurgence_1The narrative such as it is feels like a senseless and messy plot, comprised of uninteresting (and extraneous) one-dimensional characters that are connected (sort of) through a series of stupid and meaningless events.

The premise should be familiar by now: The fearsome aliens are returning to wreak more destruction–their abandoned spacecraft in Africa has suddenly lit up by itself–as Earth’s inhabitants are forced to band together again in a bid for survival.  We learn that the Saturn space station has vanished and Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) has just awakened from a lengthy coma.

Meanwhile, a spaceship has begun demolishing the earth: The aliens have come back with a vengeance, destroying almost all the major monuments; both people and buildings float rapidly skyward.

Enter the hero, whose mission is to save the day and the earth. He is now played by Liam Hemsworth as a brash young and handsome (and white) pilot.

Jessie T. Usher is pilot Dylan Hiller, son of the heroic Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) from the original movie.

independence_day_resurgence_2_goldblumThen there is Hong Kong model Angelababy, as another pilot, Jeff Goldblum returns as satellite expert David Levinson, and Judd Hirsch is Julius, Levinson’s father (who at one point guides a buss full of orphaned kids).

As a side benefit, Resurgence might become famous for the dubious achievements of including in its incomprehensible scenario not one but three presidents: the current one, the previous one, and the future one.  Sela Ward is cast as the President, Bill Pullman as former President Whitmore, Maika Monroe iss Whitmore’s daughter, and William Fichtner is the future President.

The ensemble of characters is large, though none is given anything interesting to say or to do. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays a psychiatrist, and Deobia Oparei is a warlord who possesses invaluable inside knowledge.

Former President Whitmore is obviously worried, and the men on a salvage ship in the ocean are hired to observe the aliens go after the earth’s core.

Meanwhile, Brakish Okun determines what we viewers already know from countless sci-fi actioners, that not all aliens are bad, and that you cannot lump them all as our enemies. As a result, the pilots are thereupon sent to go after the alien queen.

Fox has not shown the movie in many advance press screenings and so the reviews are just coming in. As of now, Resurgence is getting mostly mixed to negative notices

Carrying a $165 million price tag, Resurgence dominated  the box office with $4 million on Thursday night, while its two competitors, the shark adventure The Shallows grossed $1.3 million, and the Matthew McConaughey Civil War drama, The Free State of Jones took in $365,000.

Fox’s actioner, which previewed at 3,200 North American theaters, is set for an opening weekend of $50 million at 4,068 locations.  This figure is well behind the second weekend of Finding Dory. Disney-Pixar’s sequel is expected in its second weekend roughly $70 million, following its record for an animated film debut at $135.1 million last weekend.

The Original 1996 Movie

The original Independence Day, starring Will Smith, was an immense success two decades ago.  It opened in July of 1996 with a then-massive $50 million domestically, grossing $306 million in the U.S. and $817 million worldwide.