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Independence Day: Resurgence
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Or As Mae Whitman Might Say, "Phew!"
1 stars

Truth be told, the 1996 sci-fi blockbuster “Independence Day” was not a particularly great movie by any stretch of the imagination and while it has been years since I have revisited it, I have a sneaky suspicion that it probably has not exactly withstood the test of time either. That said, the alien invasion/disaster movie hybrid did strike a chord with audiences around the world back in the day thanks to the quirky performances from Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum as two of humanity’s more unlikely saviors, elaborate action sequences that saw such familiar locales as the White House being destroyed in an orgy of noisy visual effects and an undeniably effective ad campaign that made it the must-see film of that summer. However, I can’t say that there was anything about the film that suggested the need for a sequel (I would have much preferred a continuation of “Mars Attacks,” the wildly underrated Tim Burton alien invasion goof that came out a few months later and served as an unintentional spoof of everything that the earlier film held sacred) to anyone other than NewsCorp stockholders. Of course, a little thing like being patently unnecessary has never stopped most sequels from being made but upon seeing “Independence Day: Resurgence,” even the loyal fans of the original are liable to be outraged by the sheer shoddiness of the goods that they have been served this time around. Hell, there are SyFy Channel movies that have been put together with more care and concern than this one even tries to muster.

Set twenty years after the events of the first film, “Resurgence” offers up an alternate universe in which the entire world, having banded together to repel the alien invaders, has chosen to put aside all petty differences in order to work together as one (which makes its release on the same day that England voted to leave the EU even more inadvertently amusing) and have used technology taken from their former attackers to make grand advances that include moon bases, high-powered fighter jets and laser rifles. However, not everything is as peaceful and bucolic as it seems, especially among the characters from the first film. Now in charge of a government program regarding alien investigation, David Levinson (Goldblum) ventures off to Africa to investigate mysterious rumblings at the crash site of one of the old alien ships and runs into an old flame psychiatrist (Charlotte Gainsbourg. . .yes, Charlotte Gainsbourg) who is investigating some mysterious symbols. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is now plagued by terrifying visions that involve those very same symbols. Daffy scientist Brackish Okum (Brett Spiner) awakens from a 20-year-coma (which is odd since I seem to recall him flat-out dying in the previous film) with all sorts of weird ideas and theories in his head. Most frighteningly, at least from the standpoint of the producers, Will Smith evidently refused to sign on for this film and his once-central character is revealed to have been killed sometime during the last two decades, possibly as the result of suicide-by-jellyfish. (Fret not—the producers were somehow able to get Vivica Fox to return for a brief appearance instead.)

Perhaps realizing that these returning faces were not exactly box-office guarantees, the producers have otherwise filled the cast with a bunch of newer, younger and presumably cheaper names who could serve as the basis for future films, assuming that the 20-year-gap can be reduced somewhat. Instead of Smith’s character, we get his son, Dylan (Jesse T. Usher), who has become a hotshot fighter pilot in the footsteps of his old man. His main rival for the title of heroic heartthrob is Jake (Liam Hemsworth), who was orphaned as a child as the result of the earlier alien attack and whose hot dog ways have landed him in a menial job on the moon base as punishment. Tying many of the storylines together is Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe, replacing the original’s Mae Whitman) who is, as I recall, President Whitmore’s daughter, an aide to the current president (Sela Ward), a best friend and former flying colleague of Dylan’s and Jake’s fiancee—one more plot point and I think she gets a free sub. There are also a carload of siblings whose parents left them alone to go to Florida—troubling since the eldest (Joey King) is not even old enough for a driver’s license—who wind up joining together with David’s still-irascible dad (Judd Hirsch) once all hell breaks loose.

That hell finally arrives, after any number of ominous signs and portentous blasts of music, in the form of a 3000-mile-long spaceship—big enough to exert its own gravitational pull—that suddenly begins hovering over the moon. Overruling the advice of David, who pleads for caution, the President opts to attack the ship, which immediately retaliates by destroying the moonbase and everyone on it (Thanks, President Sela) except for such key players as Jake, Dylan, David and a pretty Chinese fighter pilot (Angelababy) who is there to ensure that the film makes a lot of money in China. From there, Earth is once again attacked with the Eastern seaboard, a freeway in Asia and London (seriously—did the filmmakers know how that Brexit thing was going to turn out?) and once again, the forces of the world—especially those billed above the title—have to pull themselves together and even make the occasional “shocking” sacrifice in the hopes of saving the planet from the exceptionally icky invaders.

At one point in the film, a character bemoans that we had twenty years to prepare for the inevitable return of the aliens but even so, we wound up being woefully unprepared when the time finally arrived. Alas, that film clearly seems to have suffered from the exact same problem as well because despite all the time at their disposal to come up with a few decent ideas for a continuation, director Roland Emmerich (who made the first one as well as such apocalyptic gumdrops as “Godzilla,” ‘The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012”) and his four fellow co-writers have instead come up with a screenplay that is little more than a bunch of uninteresting and poorly developed plot threads that keep bumping against each other that are occasionally punctuated by lots of things being blown to bits. Granted, one does not expect a level of Charlie Kaufman-like complexity from a film of this sort but this screenplay is astounding in its awfulness—the plot threads are so disjointed that the film as a whole feels endless despite clocking in more than a half-hour shorter than the original, the characters, new and old, are singularly uninteresting and there is not a single line of dialogue that one would want to recall with any feeling other than that of pure contempt. As for the big effects set pieces, the presumed raison d’ĂȘtre for the film in the first place, not one of them sticks in the mind in the way that the White House being vaporized in the original did and the decision to put it out in 3-D only adds an extra layer of murkiness to the visuals that hardly seems worth the additional surcharge. (That said, the shoddiest effects are in a bit that brings the late Robert Loggia into the proceedings in a manner that makes one long for the measured good taste that Blake Edwards demonstrated when he “paid tribute” to Peter Sellers with “Trail of the Pink Panther.”)

Likewise, the actors fails to bring much of value to the proceedings as well. I love Jeff Goldblum’s oddball line readings as much as the next guy but I don't think that I have ever seen him as bored with his surroundings as he is here—he feels more like a stand-in doing his not-that-hot Goldblum impression while the lighting guys make their adjustments. Fellow series veteran Pullman stumbles badly as well with a performance that seems to be more inspired by his cameo appearance in “The Grudge 2” than anything else. Among the newcomers to the franchise, Usher shows that he has none of the charisma of Will Smith, Hemsworth shows that he has none of the charisma of brother Chris and Monroe shows virtually none of the spark that made her performance in last year’s horror knockout “It Follows” so memorable. Audiences who enjoy watching films containing subtitles that do more than identify locations may be initially amused by the presence of art-house queen Charlotte Gainsbourg in something as silly as this (was she inspired by the equally inexplicable presence of Juliette Binoche in the non-Emmerich “Godzilla” remake from a couple of years ago?) but will quickly grown depressed at the sight of an actress as good as her wasting her time in something like this. Frankly, the only actor who manages to come out of this thing smelling like a rose is Mae Whitman, who played President Whitmore’s daughter in the original only to be dropped for this one and replaced by the more conventionally attractive Monroe, a move that probably hurt at the time but which will now seem like a blessed relief.

In the days leading up to its release, “Independence Day: Resurgence” gained some notoriety when it was announced that there would be no advanced press screenings for American critics—generally an incontrovertible sign that the film in question is a dog. As this is a move generally relegated to crappy horror films and sleazy enterprises that no one expects much from anyway, the fact that Fox would elect to utilize this approach for a film of this size took some observers aback. Having seen it, I fully understand why Fox didn’t want to show it ahead of time—whatever crowds it manages to lure in during its first weekend based either on nostalgia or a desire to see things blow up (not many, based on the extremely sparse crowd at the screening I attended) are likely to collapse quicker than much of the on-screen infrastructure once the presumably poisonous word-of-mouth kicks in. What I do not understand is how anyone involved with its production could have ever deemed that this was ever ready to go before the cameras, let along go out into thousands of theaters. This is nothing more than a total waste of time, talent and millions of dollars and when a final scene setting up a possible third installment turns up, audiences are more likely to groan than cheer. This is nothing more than a ripoff, pure and simple, and even in a summer that has seen more than its fair share of cinematic clunkers, the complete contempt that it has for viewers is far more memorable than anything seen on the screen.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=28064&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/24/16 12:44:59
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User Comments

3/13/17 morris campbell the original was overrrated trash IMO 1 stars
8/08/16 Croweater888 Awful, just awful 1 stars
6/27/16 David Green One of the worst excuses for a movie I have EVER seen. Do not waste your time, A disgrace 1 stars
6/27/16 KingNeutron They need todo WAY better for the sequel- this was loosely connected scenes with no emotion 2 stars
6/24/16 FireWithFire I'm sure Goldblum ruins it the way he ruins every movie. 2 stars
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  24-Jun-2016 (PG-13)
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