It’s been a long wait for the sequel. Back in 1996, Independence Day got us all worked up about alien attacks and the destruction of famous monuments. White House — boom! Empire State Building — boom! boom! In the two decades since, 9/11 happened and Hollywood hit the pause button before putting its computers back to work at digitally destroying what’s left of the globe. From Avatar to War of the Worlds, we’ve seen it all. Or have we?
Independence Day: Resurgence pretends there’s fresh ground to cover. There isn’t, but director Roland Emmerich makes a good show of faking it. Bill Pullman,who played the alien-routing U.S. President last time, has been replaced in the Oval by — wait for it — a woman (Sela Ward). But the old Prez is haunted by dreams of another alien invasion. (He must have read the script by Emmerich, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, James Vanderbilt and Dean Devlin. Yes, it took five scribes to come up with a plot that a computer could have programmed with more coherence and wit.)
The alien leader is also — wait for it — a she. Luckily, the reliably droll Jeff Goldblum is back as scientist David Levinson, now a biggie in global defense. Goldblum flirts mischievously with French psychologist Dr Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg), but looks confused about why our defense base is located on the moon. Hell, we’re all confused. If you want to enjoy even a few minutes of this sorry-ass sequel, it’s best not to think.
For those audiences waiting to learn what mega-star Will Smith does in the followup, he’s a no-show. Too bad because Smith, who played a hero pilot, and Goldblum made quite the alien-torturing, comic pair in the original. (Maybe Big Willie thought the money wasn’t right or he actually read the screenplay.) Jessie T Usher plays his character’s son, Dylan, a pilot who mixes it up a lot with Jake, another flyboy embodied by Liam Hemsworth with a blank-eyed dullness that makes you wonder what the ex-President’s hottie daughter (Maika Monroe) sees in him.
But come on, you don’t buy a ticket to something like this to see a soap opera with C-list acting. You want aliens. And you get them. At first, they’re kind of cool in a creepy way. And then repetition dulls the effect. Finally, you think, is that all there is? Yup. The only thing resurgent in this humorless mess is Hollywood’s passion to charge us more and deliver less.