“We had twenty years to prepare. So did they.” So reads the tag line for Independence Day: Resurgence. The we, of course, refers to the human race, while the they are the aliens, but I read it a little differently. In my view, we, the audience, had 20 years to mentally prepare for this sequel, while they, the filmmakers, had 20 years to get it right. They didn’t. ID:R feels like the Chinese Democracy of film: an overcooked, bloated and completely unnecessary follow-up to a shining example of mindless ’90s spectacle at its best.
Like its predecessor, ID:R tells the story of an alien invasion from the perspective of multiple characters with interweaving storylines. Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson, jet-setting from Africa to the moon to Area 51 for no apparent reason other than he was willing to reprise his role. Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore, the man whose strength of character enabled him to make the rousing speech that saved the world back in ’96, seems to be the only survivor of the first attack stricken with PTSD. A bearded and broken man, haunted by visions and nightmares of his alien foes, the former president now inhabits the role of the crazed Cassandra, doomed to spout unheeded warnings of the dangers to come. His daughter Patricia, played by Maika Monroe (and not, controversially, Arrested Development’s Mae Whitman, who played her in the original), is a former fighter pilot who now works for the current president Lanford (Ward). Then there’s Will Smith’s character’s stepson Dylan (Usher), a fighter pilot who should arguably be the lead, but instead plays second fiddle to Patricia and her fiancé Jake Morrison (Hemsworth). Jake isn’t anybody’s son, yet somehow takes up the mantle of hero, adopting a Chris Pine-as-Captian Kirk bravado that never quite works. His best bud Charlie (Travis Tope) overshoots the quirky best-friend role, moving straight into creeper territory. Brent Spinner returns as kooky Dr. Okun, the comic relief mooning his way through the picture in an open hospital gown. Lastly (at least for this review) is the inexplicable casting of Lars Von Trier’s whipping girl, Charlotte Gainsbourg, as Jeff Goldblum’s tepid love interest.
With so many characters and 20 years of back story to cover it’s no surprise that nearly every line of dialogue is expository drivel like “you almost killed him, remember?” or lazy callbacks like “they like to get the landmarks.” What little humor the writers managed to sprinkle in between the exposition and explosions is so broad it seems more catered to an international audience than the one after whose holiday the film is named.
The campy original holds up surprisingly well as a fun, special effects-laden take on a ’50s B-movie. Rather than focus on that campy fun, Resurgence tries in vain to bridge the 20-year gap between the films, bogging down itself and the audience with too much, too late.