Independence Day: Resurgence

Directed by Roland Emmerich 

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman 

Rated PG-13

View the trailer here.

And now, another sequel nobody wanted.  Independence Day: Resurgence is a more-of-the-same, bigger-must-be-better follow-up to the first installment of 20 years ago.  Several of the original’s cast members return—Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, and Judd Hirsch among them—and for the most part, they phone it in, looking 20 years older and tired, like the movie itself.  Significantly absent is Will Smith, whose jaunty character Steve Hiller, a jet fighter pilot, provided so much of the fun of the original.  Here Jesse T. Usher essays the role of Steve’s son Dylan Hiller, another jet fighter pilot and a bit of an empty flight suit, who gets to participate in more of those aerial battles that have become so humdrum in the post–Star Wars era.

Here it is: the hostile alien hordes of the first movie are back.  They intend to finish the job of draining the earth of its energy, which means the end of all of us.  They land in a craft so huge it touches down on both sides of the Atlantic—so vast that the special effects trying to depict its size are actually quite confusing to the eye, since scale is difficult to depict in something that large.  Humanity unites, with some of our heroes having to overcome past antipathies, none of which are particularly interesting, in order to work together.  After considerable mayhem, the aliens are defeated and destroyed.  The world is saved.  Feel-goods all around, and don’t dare call this a spoiler, because you knew this was going to happen. 

This is yet another of those movies that makes me wonder who its target audience was meant to be.  Millennials are too young, or almost too young, to remember the 1996 movie.  We fanboys of a certain age have long since come to regard the original, not as a classic, but as a movie-movie, an OK homage to earlier alien-peril science fiction movies.  In that sense, it worked well enough; but if I want to see a truly classic alien-invasion movie, I go to the source and watch something like War of the Worlds (the 1953 original, of course) or Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (which is as unpretentious as its title).  Having already borrowed from these ’50s gems, Independence Day: Resurgence serves up an enormous alien “mother” ripped off from Aliens (1986), a sequel that did work, and another movie I’d just as soon watch again.

In retrospect, the original Independence Day reminds me of one of those pandering latter-day Movies They Don’t Make Any More, like 1995’s Cutthroat Island.  (Do yourself a favor and watch the real thing instead—say, Captain Blood, a 1935 Errol Flynn swashbuckler.)  The 1996 Independence Day isn’t forgotten, but it isn’t really missed, either.  And if the box office for Independence Day: Resurgence is any indication, not many people were hankering for a sequel.  As far as slam-bang action movies go, superheroes rule the box office lately, like it or not; and if people want to see effects-laden, action-packed science fiction movies, well, Star Wars is still with us, and Star Trek will never go away.

To my mind-bending horror, the end of Independence Day: Resurgence hints very strongly at yet another sequel.  Fortunately, it looks like the box office is saying hell, no.  Catch this one on cable, if you must, but keep the remote handy.

Lyndon Joslin