Independence Day: Resurgence

Directed By: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Travis Tope, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Jessie Usher, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox, and Angelababy

LinkedIn has a way of reminding us all of certain milestones in our lives.  This week for me, it's been the fact that my pride and joy Sobriety Test Movie Reviews has been around for five long years serving up film critiques and drink selections.  I'll certainly get nostalgic about that later in the year with a more formal reflection on all that's taken place over the first half a decade for STMR.  This weekend, I'm reflecting on something very different, my youth.  Twenty years ago in the summer of 1996, I was going to theaters like the rest of the free world to see Independence Day.  It's the movie where the White House was blown up, Will Smith was coronated as the movie star of a generation, and Bill Pullman delivered the best presidential speech on the big screen of the 90s.  Seeing it three times in theaters, I can fondly say that those were the good old days.  Having seen the sequel twenty years in the making, I can now sadly say that the feeling is not the same this time around.

It's been twenty years since the War of 1996.   Unified with no conflict, the United Nations has launched a planetary defense system known as Earth Space Defense (ESD) to fend off potential alien attacks.  A new generation of heroes has grown up in a very different world.  Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher), stepson of the famous pilot who led mankind to victory in the first attack, is working to live up to his father's legacy as one of the premier pilots in the Air Force.  Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) was orphaned by the aliens and serves as a pilot with a chip on his shoulder.  Former pilot and First Daughter Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) works in the administration of President Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward) by day and takes care of her ailing father former President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) by night.  

Though Steven Hiller passed away in an unfortunate accident, some of the old heroes are still around as well.  The onetime Commander in Chief, former President Whitmore seems to believe that the aliens are coming back and spends his days drawing alien symbols of which he has had visions.  Scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) has moved on from his lowly corporate job at a cable television company to actually serve as the director of ESD.  With Dr. Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg), he goes to an African nation to meet with warlord Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei).  The warlord's homeland was torn asunder by the first alien attack.  In fact, there's an alien ship that remains fully intact there that Levinson and Marceaux have come to explore.  Soon, all these heroes will need to come together again to face a resurgent alien enemy bent on destroying the earth.

Independence Day: Resurgence
unfortunately doesn't live up to its title.  Director Roland Emmerich, the man behind a crop of disaster movies that have pervaded pop culture over the last several decades, really drops the ball in his return to what may just be his signature franchise.  While I like everyone else certainly enjoy the spectacular visuals of the Earth getting ripped a new one all over the Atlantic Ocean, there's no emotional heft or grandeur to the apocalypse befalling mankind once again.  There's no panic or awe after twenty years of peace.  An extinction-level event just happens.  It's a failure Fox also made in its recent X-Men: Apocalypse in a slightly different way.  The other gaping shortcoming of Independence Day: Resurgence is the lack of development, of both the plot and the characters.  There's too much introduced with too little focus on anything except creating the possibility of more sequels.  These two failures combined don't make me feel warm and fuzzy about this Independence Day follow-up.

The film plays on the charms of its heroes, both new and old alike.  With no Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman take center stage.  While I certainly enjoy these two picking up where they left off with these characters, it feels a bit derivative at times.  It's as if their characters have been stuck in a time capsule and haven't evolved over the past two decades.  Fresh from her success in It Follows last year, Maika Monroe takes on the role of Patricia Whitmore.  Just as determined as her father, she's a born fighter and a breath of fresh air in the film.  I can't say the same for her on-screen fiancĂ© Jake Morrison, portrayed by Liam Hemsworth.  The Hunger Games star tries to fill the void left by a much bigger movie star, and he's not quite ready or charismatic enough to wear those shoes.  Finally, we have Jessie Usher as Dylan Dubrow-Hiller.  It's safe to say that his character is a pretty bland.  There's no mystery or intrigue to this character.  Given his heritage, there should really be a chip on his shoulder.

Unlike Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Independence Day: Resurgence won't benefit from the nostalgia factor.  Hollywood studios are learning the hard way that quality matters.  As their competitive landscape evolves and expands, studios are still putting out sequel upon sequel for no good reason other than the almighty dollar.  This follow-up to the 1996 blockbuster is just another one of these sequels.  Independence Day: Resurgence gets a 0.09% rating.  Have a few rounds of gin and tonic with this one.