We always knew they were coming back, and I sincerely wish they didn’t. I rarely, if ever listen to the critics before a movie that I’m interested in comes out. Negative reviews are no deterrent for me, but as far as Independence Day: Resurgence is concerned, this is one time when they should have been. This is the year in which the world declared in one voice that this was a sequel that was not only twenty years too late, but was also stripped of everything that made the original 1996 blockbuster so great.
When the human race figured out how to take down the invading alien ships at the end of Independence Day, the celebration was naive and immature. The alien civilization that came here and killed untold millions was always going to return in full force to harvest our planet. Two decades later in Resurgence, we learn that humans have adopted the alien technology they were able to study ever since, and have developed a seemingly foolproof defense system comprised of satellites, missiles and remote military bases throughout the galaxy.
What made me hopeful for the success of this sequel was the return of some of the original cast, including Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, Bill Pullman as former President Thomas J. Whitmore, Judd Hirsch as David’s father Julius, Vivica A. Fox as Jasmine, and even Brent Spiner as Dr. Okin (who we thought was dead but was actually in a coma for two decades). I was excited to see these characters reprising their roles in this movie, but here’s the rub. Goldblum clearly phoned in his performance. Washed of all his charm, stuttering and one-liners that made his character in the original film so lovable, he seemed like he’d rather just be playing Brad Bellflower on those Apartments.com commercials.
Pullman, who was fantastic as the President in the first movie is now heavily bearded, partially crippled, and dancing on the fringes of lunacy as the alien attack from twenty years back still haunts him. At one point, he did attempt a half-assed speech that could never hold a candle to the one he delivered to the fighter pilots before the end battle scene in Independence Day. Judd Hirsch, who was also thoroughly enjoyable in the 1996 blockbuster, made me chuckle a few times here, but his goofy presence was not nearly enough to make this film worth watching. On another note, he hasn’t aged a bit. Fox meets a fairly early demise, so her return was without much of a point, save for the fact that her now grown son Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), has now lost both of his parents. A brief mention is made about Steven Hiller, played by Will Smith (who did not appear here) in the original movie, dying in a test flight.
The film showcases a new crop of fighter pilots who are the children of some of the heroes from the first attack, including Liam Hemsworth, who struggles as usual to hide his Australian accent while playing an American, the aforementioned Usher, who holds a grudge against Hemsworth’s character for nearly getting him killed, and Maika Monroe, who was tapped to play President Whitmore’s daughter. The latter choice brings me to my next gripe. Mae Whitman, who started her acting career with that role in the first Independence Day, and was more than interested in returning to the role, but was not even considered, and by all accounts it was because of her looks. Whitman is a funny and talented actress (who you may know from Arrested Development, Parenthood, and more recently The DUFF), and if you ask me, she’s gorgeous. The decision to pass her over so easily goes to show you where Hollywood’s priorities lie, and I’m not down with it.
Sela Ward appears as the President of the United States, who tells us early on that there has been peace on Earth ever since that first attack, which is a nice thought. William Fichtner appears as a military general, and while I always like him, he very visibly struggled with the script. The film was rife with overdramatics and overacting, which happens when talented actors don’t have much to work with.
As far as the plot is concerned, we learn the reason that the aliens are returning, aside from the desire for wanton destruction of an entire race and the ravenous consumption of our planet’s natural resources, is to locate and destroy a talking AI sphere that contains all the information needed for the humans to annihilate this alien race all along. The alien queen comes along this time just to let us know that the returning space creatures are not messing around. We also come to find that during the first attack, one of the alien ships actually landed in Africa, and local tribes were engaged in a civil war on the ground with the aliens for an entire decade. That would be an interesting plot to develop, even though it came completely out of left field and blew away everything you believed at the end of the first movie.
In fairness, the CGI was well-done, there were some enjoyable references to the inaugural attack, and if this movie weren’t compared to its far superior predecessor, it might not be the worst popcorn flick. Unfortunately, though much of its runtime, I could not wait for this movie to end. That never happens to me when I go to the movies. Ever. For the most part here at The No Seatbelt Blog, I write about things that I like – you’ll seldom see a negative review on anything here – but I had to give it to you straight about this movie, especially since I was so excited to see it. I wanted to like it, and I wanted better for this film that was so long in the making. There was just too much wrong with it, from a casting flub, to cringe-worthy acting, to writing that had to atone for two decades worth of time lapse and characters that did not return. Major disappointment all around.