Say what you will about “Independence Day,” but at least that film had a personality to it. It was a personality defined by copious explosions and screechingly annoying humor, but energetically so. The sequel is the opposite, despite trying to recapture that energy. It’s a dull amalgamation of every blockbuster from the past twenty years. The tagline reads “We had twenty years to prepare. So did they.” Apparently, that preparation was in watching popcorn flicks and copying their formulas.
It comes as a surprise to see Roland Emmerich is behind the director’s chair again. The direction of the film feels like another person’s interpretation of what made the first film popular. The humor is there, but delivered without caution and confidence. The ebullient tone is replaced with grimness that had become the norm for a while. This is why the humor falters, as it doesn’t complement the tone. Remember how off-putting the humor was in “Batman v Superman?” It’s the same here.
The returning characters are as follows: David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), who investigates the aliens’ return and figures out how to defeat them in mumbling fashion; David’s father, Julius (Judd Hirsch), who survives the attack and navigates a bunch of precocious kids and their dog around for no apparent reason; Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner), who’s awoken from a 7,800-day coma just in time to combat the aliens with science, and he’s just as annoying after the coma as he was before it; Jasmine Hiller (Vivica A. Fox), who gives a speech to her son and saves a woman and her newborn child; General Grey (Robert Loggia), proving he’s still alive; and former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who has premonitions about the incoming alien invasion and tries to warn everyone.
The new characters are as follows: Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), the brash pilot with a heart of gold ala Will Smith’s Steven Hiller from the first film; Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), the son of Steven who you’d think would be the main protagonist, but is a mere footnote; Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), the former President’s daughter and Jake’s fiancé, a pilot in her own right; General Adams (William Fichtner), who shouts out orders; Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei), who kills aliens; Floyd Rosenberg (Nicolas Wright), who is annoying; Charlie Miller (Travis Tope), who is also annoying, but is Jake’s annoying best friend, so he’s more important; Rain Lao (Angelababy), annoying best friend’s love interest who kills aliens; and President Lanford (Sela Ward), who gets to give the patriotic speeches this time…well, until Whitmore trumps her with his later.
I’m sure there are characters I forgot, but that’s because none of them matter. They all exist to fit a stereotype and kill some aliens. None of the performances are bad, just incredibly limited. Any attempt to develop them is incredibly strained. For instance, Jake and Dylan hate each other, but we only know that because of an off-hand remark by Patricia. Dylan punches Jake at one point, he apologizes for nearly getting them killed while in the Academy, then they kill some aliens. Their entire turmoil takes up approximately three entire minutes when combined. Hell, I forgot Dylan even existed halfway through the film!
At least with the returning characters, they have built-in drama. Mind you, that drama wasn’t well built in the first film either, so not much improvement is made here. David and Julius are still estranged, but in a cheeky sitcom way. President Whitmore wants to protect his daughter, who in turn wants to protect him, and it never rises about that one-dimensional approach. Jasmine doesn’t want to lose her son like she did her husband (as we hear in an off-hand remark), but Dylan gets lost in the shuffle, so Emmerich failed her.
As for the aliens, they return with one goal in mind: destroy Earth. The Queen’s plan is to drill to the Earth’s core. She brings along with her a mothership ten times larger than the last one, which destroys numerous landmarks upon its arrival. This sequence goes so quick, with the film being so dimly lit, that the landmark destruction doesn’t leave a mark. That and Roland’s fetish with destroying landmarks has grown so very tired. At least the final battle is brightly lit, though it’s still only middling in enjoyment.
The Queen, who looks like a mixture of the “Cloverfield” monster and the Mutos from “Godzilla”, is indestructible, except for the parts that make her destructible. David deducts that cold fusion bombs will kill her, with the leftover alien shields the government has been utilizing encasing the blast. He’s able to determine this by communicating with aliens they’ve been keeping prisoners in Area 51, as well as conveniently communicating with the alien race’s other foes. This is only briefly touched upon as to build towards another sequel.
The sole purpose of “Independence Day: Resurgence” is to be mindless entertainment and there’s nothing wrong with that. I enjoy mindless entertainment just as much as the next person. The problem is they got the mindless part down, but not the entertainment.
Final Rating: D+
P.S. This is the second time this week a creature in a film has reminded me of the “Cloverfield” monster. The first being the far superior “Tale of Tales.” Check that film out! Also, check out “Cloverfield” if you haven’t, as that’s also superior to this, as is “10 Cloverfield Lane.”