THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE"
I still remember the feeling I had seeing Independence Day back in 1996. The film showed massive alien ships hovering in the sky, their shadows blanketing entire cities. It was eerie, indicating a threat so humongous that there would seem to be no way of defeating it. Of course, 1996 was still the relative dawn of the CGI era, when the computer-animated destruction of landmarks still seemed fresh, new, and awe-inspiring. A lot has changed since then. We've seen hundreds of action pictures that have been CGI'ed to within an inch of their lives. Movies can't coast on that anymore. They need solid stories and interesting characters the audience can become involved with things Independence Day: Resurgence doesn't even begin to offer. This pitiful sequel is destined to go down as one of the most epic cinematic disasters of modern times.
Twenty years after the events of the original, the remaining alien artifacts start showing signs of activity. It quickly becomes clear that they are forecasting another invasion. Before long, even bigger ships appear in the sky. All hell breaks loose. That's really all there is, in a nutshell. Yes, the film has too many little story arcs for its ensemble of characters. What it doesn't have, however, is a sense of drama. One of the most frustrating things about Independence Day: Resurgence is that most things that happen in it feel random. Seemingly important developments arrive out of nowhere, with no set-up or justification. The movie jumps from one event to another with an almost reckless lack of concern for continuity. In the original, tension built as the threat grew. We followed the characters as they took the time to learn about the aliens, then devise a way to stop them. This time, the aliens arrive, a countermeasure is conceived and carried out almost immediately, and the credits roll. If you want to see a textbook definition of jumbled storytelling, here it is.
A related issue is that Resurgence has too many characters, none of whom are especially well-developed. A number of them return from the original, including Area 51 wacko Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner), computer expert David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), and President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who is now inexplicably a feeble old man. (Twenty years has not been that hard on Pullman in real life.) The movie does a poor job explaining what these folks have been up to for the last two decades, which makes it almost impossible to re-connect with them in any sort of meaningful way.
New characters don't fare much better. They're little more than generic action movie templates. There's the hotshot pilot (Liam Hemsworth), his rival (Jessie T. Usher, playing the son of Will Smith's character), and the president's daughter (Maika Monroe from It Follows), who is engaged to be married to the pilot. A bunch of other new characters are here, too. It's annoying how some of them simply materialize, with no attempt whatsoever to provide context for who they are. About halfway through the film, for instance, Levinson's father (Judd Hirsch) picks up a bunch of kids driving around in a station wagon. They are then with the film for its duration, despite us knowing zero about where they came from. We don't even learn their names. Same goes for the oil riggers on a boat in the ocean.
With an overly simplistic plot and bland, paper-thin heroes, there is little else to do while watching Independence Day: Resurgence than to notice all the gaps in logic, like how the pilots get into alien vehicles with unfamiliar technology and instantly figure out how to fly them. When that gets old, you start to notice how many times Goldblum's character gazes into the distance and exclaims, Oh, my God! (It's pretty much all the actor gets to do here.) When that gets old, you start to laugh at how utterly stupid parts of the movie are, such as the moment when Hemsworth's character, trapped inside an alien spacecraft, urinates on the floor while flipping off his extraterrestrial captors. We won't even get into the fact that it apparently takes mere minutes for people to fly from the Earth to the moon.
Independence Day: Resurgence is so inept and so sloppily assembled that one has to wonder whether director Roland Emmerich has completely forgotten how to make a movie. This doesn't feel like the work of a filmmaker with a dozen credits to his name; it feels like the work of someone who has never directed before being given a huge budget and a mandate to do your best. And even with five screenwriters, the script can't gel into anything remotely coherent. How is that possible?
The original Independence Day was no masterpiece, but it was fun and exciting in the exact right way a summer movie should be. Resurgence, on the other hand, is a colossal blunder that virtually encourages the audience to root for the aliens, just so the stupid thing can be over already.
( out of four)
Independence Day: Resurgence is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci - fi action and destruction, and for some language. The running time is 1 hour and 59 minutes.
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