Movie Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

Belated sequel brings back much of the original cast but lacks in its own originality

Independence Day: Resurgence
Directed by Roland Emmerich
With Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Jessie Usher, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, William Fichtner

Some 20 years ago, hostile aliens tried to invade the earth and were repelled by Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Will Smith.

Two of those three are back for Independence Day: Resurgence, an action packed if slightly unnecessary sequel to 1996's Independence Day.

Will Smith opted out of being in the sequel, as it would have been a father/son role in a sci-fi film. He tried that in After Earth, which was not a success. Just so he can't change his mind and pop in for the next sequel, the plot makes it clear he died in a flying accident shortly after the events of the first film.

While the original film took place in a world that closely resembled the reality of 1996, the sequel takes place on an alternative earth that bears almost no resemblance to the earth of 2016. Alien technology has been adapted so that people from earth can fly to the moon in minutes. New weapons exist and a satellite defense system circles the planet. All countries now live in peace together after having jointly fended off an extraterrestrial invasion. Chinese pilots fly side-by-side with American ones in a force called Earth Space Defense (ESD).

Many sequels take a bigger is better approach, and Independence Day: Resurgence leaves little breathing space between the giant action scenes.

Former President Thomas J. Whitmore (played again by Bill Pullman) is plagued by nightmares and visions, and has grown a long scruffy beard. He crashes the official 20th anniversary celebration of victory over the aliens to warn people the end is nigh.

It is an embarrassing scene for a moment, as nobody wants to be disrespectful to the president who saved the world but lost his mind. Luckily for him, his crazy sounding prediction quickly comes true and the crowd has to go running for cover.

While the ESD now has better weapons, as always when it comes to war, the army is prepared to fight the last war but not the next one.

The alien ship in the sequel is orders of magnitude bigger, and the fighters are fiercer. The same old tricks won't work a second time and the earthlings have to find a new weakness quickly.

Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson, and he has dedicated the past 20 years to researching the aliens. His work has taken him to Africa, where at the start of the film he is meeting with a warlord whose people have extensive experience fighting the aliens.

Another major character from the original is Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okun. He has been in a coma since the last film, and suddenly wakes up as the aliens approach. Both he and ex-president Whitmore have a telepathic link with the aliens. Spiner provides a lot of the film's comic relief, as he is an absent minded professor but at the same times manages to provide some much needed insight.

Judd Hirsch also is back as as Julius Levinson, David Levinson's father. He provides the sort of embarrassment that only a well-meaning father can.

Robert Loggia, who died in December 2015, is back for one scene as former general William Grey. And the film is dedicated to his memory.

The sequel introduces several new character, the younger generation who will have to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting. Liam Hemsworth, star of the Hunger Games series, takes on the egotistical hotshot pilot role. He is in a conflict with another pilot, played by Jessie Usher. It is one of those paint-by-numbers subplots. The pilots can't just all get along in the face of an alien attack. They need to squabble.

And we need some love stories. Ex-president Whtimore's daughter, played by horror film star Maika Monroe is also a pilot. For international audiences, Hong Kong pseudo-model and singer Angelbaby turns up as a Chinese pilot in the ESD, and has her own romantic subplot.

Overall, the film delivers as expected, but not much more than that.

Director Roland Emmerich gives us massive battles with the aliens on earth and in space. The pae is fast, with a fair blend of drama and comedy, and the scenes switch rapidly so there is never much chance to get bored with any one character.

But there are no real surprises. The originality of the first film is gone, and this seems to be people just going through the paces to save the world one more time.

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