Review of “Independence Day: Resurgence”

It’s been 20 years since the alien invasion was turned back with a combination of a brave military, an inspiring speech by then President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and plucky cable TV repairman and virus software writer David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum). In the two decades since, a new multi-national military force called the Earth Space Defense (ESD for short) has been established using a combination of human and alien technology. There has been peace and prosperity since the attacks and to celebrate the 20th anniversary, current President Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward) is hosting a giant celebration on the lawn of the rebuilt White House. President Whitmore is troubled by nightmares of a new alien invasion. He believes the aliens are coming back soon. Levinson is now in charge of the ESD and is brought to an African country by that nation’s leader Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) to see an alien ship that had been dormant since the attack has now come back to life. Inside, Levinson discovers the ship is sending a distress signal. On the ESD moon base, pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) and his co-pilot Charlie Ritter (Travis Tope) have just finished the installation of a massive new weapon when an alien ship appears from out of a wormhole. The new weapon is used to shoot down the spherical craft despite the objections of Levinson who says it looks nothing like the ships from the original attack. Morrison takes a spacecraft and heads to Earth to pick up Levinson so he can see the wreckage. As they are investigating, a massive alien ship that more closely resembles the vessels from 20 years ago appears and quickly destroys the ESD lunar base. Morrison and Levinson, still at the scene of the downed sphere, discover a piece of the craft that looks like it could be important. They are able to scoop it up and nearly escape the moon when they are captured by the gravitational field of the alien ship and dragged along back to Earth to face an uncertain fate.

Above is a very much abridged plot synopsis of approximately the first 20 minutes of “Independence Day: Resurgence.” I could have mentioned about a dozen more characters and several more subplots and bits of backstory that are crammed into the same amount of running time but that would make this introduction to the film about four pages long. There is a great deal going on in “Independence Day: Resurgence” and most of it doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans as the only thing anyone is interested in is when will the aliens show up and start destroying everything and when will someone give a rousing speech that brings the whole world together in the fight against the alien menace. It doesn’t take long to get to the destruction but the speeches (there are two) require sitting through most of one very dumb movie.

What makes “Independence Day: Resurgence” so dumb, dumber even than the original, is the utter implausibility of most of what happens. I’m not talking about the alien invasion parts. I’m talking about the human interactions and the amount of coincidence and head-scratching illogic on display. For instance, Umbutu, a government bean counter, a former girlfriend of Levinson’s and Levinson all wind up travelling to the moon and then to Area 51 together. The presence of three of the four of them cannot be rationally explained by anything other than they were given a ride. There is not even a reason for them to exist in the film for more than a scene or two. “Independence Day: Resurgence” is full of this kind of thing: An aide to the current president is the daughter of President Whitmore and she is a former fighter pilot and friends with Dylan Hiller (Jessie Usher), the stepson of Will Smith’s character while also being engaged to Morrison but he and Hiller hate each other because of a flight training accident but they will run into each other because Hiller is headed to the moon base where Morrison is stationed. Again, none of this has anything to do with the alien invasion and the film stuffs much of its two hour running time with meaningless trash, subplots and backstory.

The movie also doesn’t mind giving everyone abilities and knowledge from out of nowhere: President Whitmore can fly the spacecraft Morrison brings back to Earth. Human military pilots are able to operate alien fighters (just like Will Smith from the first film). Guys looking for sunken treasure are able to monitor how deep the aliens are drilling into the Earth’s crust and report back to Area 51. It all is utter lunacy.

All that being said “Independence Day: Resurgence” does have some pretty spectacular visuals including a 50 foot tall alien and the sight of buildings being uprooted by the massive mothership then being dropped on other cities thousands of miles away. There are dogfights where the sky is filled with craft from both sides yet it is fairly easy to keep track of what is happening. While it is difficult to get a real impression of the size of the mothership (said in the movie to be 3000 miles across) it is impressive nonetheless. All the various bits of merged human and alien technology have a pleasant blue/green glow to them. And of course, the film gives the audience what it really wants with heartwarming reunions and celebrations of a job well done. It panders to the base instincts of moviegoers with easy answers given out by pretty people. It may be lazy filmmaking but it does deliver a kind of dirty satisfaction.

“Independence Day: Resurgence” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action, destruction and some language. As described earlier we see buildings uprooted from one city and dropped on another. While death is talked about we see mostly dead aliens except for one onscreen human death with a small amount of blood. There are deaths of human characters but we don’t actually see the deaths, only the explosions that cause them. Foul language is widely scattered and very mild.

When “Independence Day” came out, I didn’t see it in a theatre. My first viewing of it was when if premiered on one of the pay cable channels. I really liked it on first viewing but then repeated viewings made its weaknesses stand out. It only took one viewing of “Independence Day: Resurgence” to see how much of this film is silly; far more silly than even the original. It’s like director Roland Emmerich and the four other credited writers thought it had been so long since the first film and the buzz for this movie had been going on for so long they didn’t need to try and release something with a coherent story or much in the way of logic. Emmerich has even been recently quoted as saying Marvel’s superhero movies are “silly.” Based on his latest effort, he appears to be an expert in silly.

“Independence Day: Resurgence” gets three stars out of five but only because of the special effects. Everything else in the film is a waste of time.

This week there be giants, an ape man and the wholesale murder of anyone and everyone for 12 hours.  I’ll see and review at least one of these films:

The BFG-

The Legend of Tarzan-

The Purge:  Election Year-

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and contact me via email at stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

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