As the follow-up to what might well be the ruler of all alien invasion films, Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence has a lot stacked against it. The 2016 sequel comes 20 years after its predecessor, but it sticks to a similar blueprint and draws on familiar faces to float the storyline. While Will Smith is nowhere to be found, most of the original cast chips in.
The screenplay is one of those by-committee deals, with obvious designs on franchising set into the foundation. It takes place an interesting if manic future, with a fusion of human and alien technology giving Earth certain advantages with respect to fighting an intergalactic war or two.
After the events of Independence Day, the UN has set up an Earth Space Defence program. There are bases all over the place, including on the Moon, and headquarters is in Nevada at Area 51. Trouble begins when ESD Director David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) discovers an intact alien ship in Africa and finds that it sent a distress call to the home planet.
Meanwhile, former United States President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and the recently-awakened Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) have been having telepathic visions of a sphere. When the sphere arrives, the humans shoot it down and ask questions later. This leads to the onset of a massive alien mothership and widespread destruction. The humans fight back. Blah, blah, blah.
There’s an antiquated audacity to how Independence Day: Resurgence plays out its hand, with characters repeating noting how much bigger the new mothership is in comparison to the last one. There’s more wanton destruction, although Emmerich doesn’t seem quite as enthused and there isn’t the same sort of anarchic glee attached to watching landmarks bite the dust.
The ensemble cast is comprised of old favourites and new characters, most of which have some direct relationship to the old favourites. Jessie Usher features as Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, for instance. He’s the son of Smith’s character from the first movie. Vivica A. Fox is around to play his mother, albeit in an extraordinarily limited capacity.
Liam Hemsworth tackles the brash hero role. His Jake Morrison is a pilot and the fiancé of Patricia Morrison (Maika Monroe), who is the daughter of the former POTUS and a friend of Dubrow-Hiller. By the way, she can fly. That comes in handy.
Speaking of the POTUS, Independence Day: Resurgence offers Sela Ward as the 45th President and the first woman in the parallel universe to hold the Oval Office. She does a game job handling the alien threat, but her role in things is undermined and short-lived before her male replacement arrives.
The aforementioned presidential replacement is one of many moments in Independence Day: Resurgence that don’t register. There’s little resonance, even when London is torn asunder and when other global locales are pulled apart by the gravitational jerk of the mothership. Emmerich’s usual delight in widespread destruction feels subdued.
Much could be made about how the countless characters collide in this ensemble science fiction buffet and how the storylines seem forced rather than wedged together in the pursuit of basic humanity, but what’s the point? Even the crafty sentiment about the “virtual intelligence” overtaking the feeble biological realm falls by the wayside.
Nothing lands in this showcase of effects and motion and the two-hour parade floats by with surprising tedium. Emmerich fails to overwhelm and Independence Day: Resurgence accomplishes little with all its sound and fury. It does lay a path to a sequel and a franchise and the resistance is on the way, which doubtless means the protracted onset of intergalactic war. Again.