Independence Day: Resurgence (Emmerlich; 2016)

Roland Emmerlich is the director who previously brought us films in which people outrun cold and the subject of global climate change is handled in such hilarious fashion it may as well be broadcast on FOX News (The Day After Tomorrow) and which teach us that the Mayans were better scientists than we are and that the best way to survive Armageddon is to stay a few feet in front of John Cusack (2012).  Twenty years ago he brought us a movie that shows Americans are the greatest thing in the entire universe and that all technology is so universal you can use a Macintosh to destroy the systems that operate an entire advanced fleet of alien ships. Independence Day: Resurgence did nothing to improve my opinion of Emmerlich’s filmography, but I do have to admit there is fun to be had in just how utterly ludicrous his movies can be.

Independence Day: Resurgence picks up twenty years after the events of the first movie which is now known as the War of 1996. The people of Earth are united because of the alien invasion with no armed conflict having occurred on Earth in that time (though there are still lots of heavily armed people for some reason) and have incorporated the technology the aliens left behind into their own. The people of Earth know that the aliens are going to return one day, and have used their new technology to set up defense perimeters throughout our solar system as far away as Saturn. We are introduced too quickly to our returning characters as well as the new, though there are so many that it still takes too long, and get into the action around 30 minutes in when our moon defense base is confronted by a spherical alien vessel.

The very first lines you hear in the film are dull, forced exposition explaining much of what I said in the paragraph above, and nearly verbatim. You then find out these lines are being read by the current President of the United States  (President Lanford played by Sela Ward) who is practicing a speech for the 20th anniversary of the War of 1996 and she turns to her speech writer and remarks on what a good speech it is. This largely sums up the dialogue for the film – dull, obvious, and there purely because someone has to say something when there aren’t lasers firing and ships zooming by but still somehow thinking itself clever.

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We’re wearing labcoats and have gray hair and everything, so we are clever.  Q.E.D.

Those lasers firing and ships zooming by, though, are the movie’s major saving grace. The sense of scale seen in the first Independence Day is on steroids here. If the first film would be described as big, this one is bombastic. Things are so large in this film, in fact, that real world laws of physics are constantly being broken and the movie can’t even keep its own rules straight, but it is a ton of fun to watch the spectacle. The technology on display in the movie is also one of the very few things that actually makes sense, as well. The inside of the mothership, without giving too much away, explains a lot about what the alien motivations are, and the Earth adapted technology also seems quite practical and something we would honestly put to use were this a realistic scenario.

The characters in the movie, for the most part, have an odd inverse relationship between strength of performace and character’s importance to the plot. Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson), Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson), Bill Pullman (President Whitmore), and Brent Spiner (Dr. Brakish Okun) all return, and give the best perfomances in the film (though, that really isn’t saying an awful lot) but two of these characters could have been cut from the move entirely and not a bit of the narrative would have changed. On the other hand, the new characters played by Liam Hemsworth (Jake Morrison), Jessie T. Usher (Dylan Hiller), Maika Monroe (Patricia Whitmore), and Angelababy (Rain Lao, and yes, that really is the actresses name) are, while absolutely integral to the plot such that it is, are portrayed so woodenly and blandly that it would be complimentary to call them stereotypes.

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Performances schmerformances. We’re hot!

If you thought the first movie was the greatest science fiction epic of the ’90s, and I know there are a few of you out there, then I most definitely recommend Independence Day: Resurgence to you as this really is just a lot more of the same on a grander scale. If you’re a fan of movies that are so phenomenally corny that you have to watch the screen at an angle since you’re rolling your eyes constantly, then I also recommend it. If however, you need any degree of realism and competent acting and writing in your entertainment then this is one to skip.

Rating: 4.2 out of 10

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If we just had lots of this with no talking, the movie would have been better. Not good. But, better.

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