‘Independence Day: Resurgence’
Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum
2 (out of 5) Globes
A sequel that plays like a remake that’s also a preview for a threequel, “Independence Day: Resurgence” lugs the super-blockbuster that started them all into the multiplex dystopia it helped create. Twenty years ago it was kosher to make a one-off spectacle. Now the original has been reworked so it’s a mere installment without a real ending. Logic is even thinner on the ground than in a predecessor in which an alien superspecies was defeated with a computer virus uploaded over AOL. And naturally there’s a lot of gratuitous, quizzical sops to China, who Hollywood now realizes like our craptaculars more than we do.
It also plays it safe before threatening a very different next movie that this one should have been in the first place. But before “Independence Day: Nonsense” or whatever, we check back in with the world post-aborted alien attack. To viewers in grim 2016 — particularly in the wake of Brexit and our nation’s thousandth gun massacre — it’s ceaselessly depressing: having canceled the apocalypse, this alternate paradise is a world with no armed conflicted, no fighting between nations. They have flying pods and future guns. The only thing to make us, the audience seeking two hours of escape from our swelling hellworld, feel better is this: Their almost-oppressors could always come back. And when they do, humanity’s powers react as stupidly as any of ours would.
The first is a dumb movie, but it seems almost classical now, with its clean action, steady pacing and painfully simple story. “Resurgence” offers the occasional genuinely awe-inspiring money shot: an alien mother ship scraping through the moon; a towering alien queen surrounded by swirling fighter ships; cities not being incinerated but rolled up into balls of concrete and metal, like an extreme round of Katamari Damacy.
But it also fits right in with the times. The storytelling is sloppy and it's a bear trying to juggle its vast ensemble cast. It’s hard to remember everyone, even though most of them are either related, dating each other or former besties. Aside from returning vets like Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner and, quite awkwardly, the late Robert Loggia, most of the next generation roster are spawn of the original heroes. That includes “It Follows”’ Maika Monroe as the daughter of Bill Pullman’s former president and Jessie Usher filling in for an AWOL Will Smith as his son.
Actually, Smith’s Capt. Hiller apparently died, appearing only as a very amusing portrait hanging in the White House. His absence a whole bigger than any advanced alien species could create. “Independence Day” may have seemed fresh in 1996 because it was the first real super-super-super-sized summer movie, but it was Smith — in the movie that made him all-caps Will Smith — whose charm really pushed it over. So naturally, the role of the brash, wisecracking maverick out to prove himself goes to the powerfully bland Abercrombie bro Liam Hemsworth. To his credit, Hemsworth is unusually awake and lively, at least for someone whose performances usually play like he was perpetually posing for fashion shoots selling flannel.
The inclusion of the Other Hemsworth still betrays the epic stepdown that is “Resurgence” — a feeling that also creates the illusion that the original was a stone-cold classic, not just a fad that made all of 1996’s money. Not even the addition of a delightfully badass African war lord (Deobia Oparei) who likes to take out humanity’s squiddy enemies with twin kintaros — nor the presence of no less than Charlotte Gainsbourg, because America loves Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac,” we guess — can save it.
Its headaches pile up like the cities destroyed by the villainous squids with guns. It attempts to be progressive and 2016 by making the president a she (Sela Ward), only to make her a terrible world leader who winds up fighting a hissable master alien who’s also a girl. It brings back Judd Hirsch, as Goldblum’s dad and resident broad Jewish stereotype, but mostly to get in the way and make things worse. It features nonsensical dialogue like, “I’m not saving the world, I’m saving you.” It takes a movie that pioneered a terrible movie trend and only winds up crapping out another anonymous, forgettable summer movie that will be forgotten after its opening weekend. Then again, given our rotten times, it may be the “Independence Day” we deserve.