Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

id4-resOne thing you can always count on with aliens, that no matter how advanced or sentient they are, their primary form of security is always two huge closing doors that slide together and seal as gradually as possible. You assume in their world they’d have laser doors that seal up in a matter of milliseconds, but no. It’s always very slow closing doors that never quite close fast to stop our heroes. But of course they always murder the alien pilots because–they’re obviously not trained to zip through the doors I assume. “Independence Day: Resurgence” is a sequel with such an obvious mission to launch an “ID4” cinematic universe that it’s almost not really worth watching “Resurgence” at all, when you get down to it.

Roland Emmerich and FOX Studios apparently approached this movie as a bridge from the crummy 1996 original to the planned third movie with big ambitions to advance the narrative and mythology. I’m not sure how they planned that when much of what we see in the way of world building in “Resurgence” feels so utterly limited and tacked on. But based on the closing scene, and goofy macguffin of a sentient spear with immense information about the alien foes intent on attacking planet Earth, Emmerich and his group had something in mind. It’s a shame that “Resurgence” offers nothing new. Now it’s not the worst movie I’ve seen all year, but it doesn’t re-invent the wheel or offer up something with a new idea or a brand new angle.

Instead it just makes things bigger. The mother ship is bigger, the alien army is bigger, the dog fights are bigger, the destruction is bigger, and yes, even the alien queen is humongous. “Embiggen everything” is apparently the only grand idea they could come up with over the last twenty years of working with the original movie. When it’s not simply adding size to the equation, “Resurgence” (sans Will Smith) repeats the same beats from the original film over and over, even rehashing some of the one-liners and most memorable moments. In one scene when pilot Jake Morrison (Hemsworth) takes a sock at an alien, he realizes the punch has no effect, and declares “I probably should have kept running.” In a movie with better pacing, better writing, and a much better narrative, that moment just might have landed as hilarious callback to Will Smith’s sucker punch from the first film.

Everything in the movie lands with a thud quite often, and the writers are very eager to kill off the legacy characters from the first film. The characters that don’t die are given some truly goofy sub-plots. Brent Spiner is brought back for the sake of sci-fi cred, Jeff Goldblum returns as David inexplicably without the presence of love interest Connie. There’s even Judd Hirsch’s character Julius who, after absurdly surviving an attack, is handed a silly sitcom sub-plot with him a group of orphans that have either been abandoned or lost their parents during the second alien invasion. He is tasked with driving with them across country in a broken down school bus. Hell, there’s even a spunky dog accompanying them. At two hours long, “Resurgence” just has too many characters in it to care about most of what’s happening.

When the cast is significantly shrunken, the movie is still much too crowded, pandering to as much of a broad audience as it can, right down to creating two Asian heroes for the sake of the Asian film market. I would love to approach “Resurgence” much more as a movie, but it feels so much like the attempted beginning of a potential massive “ID4” franchise, that it’s all a lot of propping up of potential sub-plots and side tales, and less about unfolding a fluid and engaging science fiction adventure. “Independence Day: Resurgence” is really not that bad a movie when you get down to it, it’s just so painfully inept and never wants to think outside the box.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll buy it when it’s on sale for five bucks on blu-ray paired with its predecessor in a few years.