‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ – Long-awaited sequel is campy, dumb fun

Jeff Goldblum (left) as David Levinston and Bill Pullman as President Whitmore appear in a scene from Roland Emmerich's "Independence Day: Resurgence." (AP)

Humanity never gives up, even in the face of ever-dire, increasingly hopeless odds in “Independence Day: Resurgence” from director Roland Emmerich, an action follow-up to his 1996 blockbuster. Set 20 years after the defeat of an alien race bent on destroying Earth, the film follows a new invasion, as an even larger ship arrives to finish the job.

Timothy Hogg

Timothy Hogg

Two decades after narrowly stopping an alien invasion, humanity has rebuilt the Earth’s cities and used reverse-engineered alien technology to strengthen the planet. But amid preparations for the July Fourth Twentieth Anniversary, David Levinston (Jeff Goldblum) learns that surviving alien fighters have sent a distress call. And from deep space, that call has been answered. Now, facing extinction as a massive alien harvester ship arrives, it’s up to former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) to lead a new generation (Liam Hemsworth, Jesse T. Usher, Maika Monroe) to save humanity.

The summer of 1996 dazzled audiences with a sci-fi action film that defined blockbusters for years to come. “Independence Day: Resurgence” feels like it is trying to emulate that same atmosphere of adventure and excitement in a desperate bid to be compared to its predecessor. Although it does achieve this with minor success, it also appears that the filmmakers have replicated the flaws of the original film, and compounded them to make the film’s shortcomings even worse.

This does not mean that the film is overall horrid; far from it, in fact. For what it’s worth, the sequel features a heavy amount of world-building and imagination. The plot has necessitated the creation of an alternate timeline that goes back twenty years, observing a world that has joined forces in unity under a mutual threat. The technology of 2016 is present due to “scavenging” from the alien tech, and also features futuristic, advanced designs of modern vehicles.

This has allowed the filmmakers to craft a very immersive world to draw in the audience. But this only succeeds when said world is populated by interesting, engaging characters. And this is the biggest flaw in “Resurgence.” The returning cast members are fun to watch, from Goldblum and Pullman, to Brent Spiner’s quirky and outlandish Area 51 scientist. But, in line with sequels, these veterans are soon pushed aside, relegated to secondary characters by the “new” generation.

The new cast, with the exception of an African warlord (Deobia Umbutu) who has spent 20 years fighting a guerrilla campaign against surviving aliens in central Africa, feel more like cut-out caricatures than fleshed-out, engaging characters. In fact, several moments during the film’s runtime give the impression that these actors did not put enough effort into their performances. Instead they seem to stumble from scene, their acting laced with only occasional bursts of emotion.

While the film is heavily-laden with action and comedic moments, “Independence Day: Resurgence” falls short of the iconic status attained by its predecessor. With returning cast and an even bigger threat, the sequel escalates the previously established conflict but fails to properly invest in the development of its characters. The film remains campy and fun, but its saturation of stereotypes and the inherently weak cast do little to invest the audience beyond enjoying the special effects and action.

My grade: 5.5 out of 10 stars.

(Timothy Hogg is a copy editor for The Derrick./The News-Herald. He has a minor in film and media studies from Slippery Rock University. Readers may contact him by email at timothyhogg.thederrickgmail.com.)