Twenty years have passed since the events of the original Independence Day (termed the “War of 96”). Since repelling the alien invasion, humanity has worked to rebuild the Earth. The nations of the world have put aside their differences, and have formed an international military organization called Earth Space Defense to act as the first line of defense against any further alien attacks. Reverse-engineered alien technology has led to startlingly advancement in weapons technology and enabled the creation of defense stations on the Moon and elsewhere in the solar system. With the exception of a few remnant alien guerilla fighters in Africa, the world is peace. But on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the invasion, humanity’s greatest fear is realized: the aliens return.
Independence Day: Resurgence features most of the cast of the original film, most notably Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson (now head of Earth Space Defense), Bill Pullman as (former) President Thomas Whitmore, Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson, and Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okum. Joining them are a number of brand new characters, such as pilots Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher, the son of Will Smith’s now-deceased character), and Patricia Whitmore (the once-First Daughter, played by Maika Monroe), 45th President of the United States Elizabeth Landford (Sela Ward), and a psychologist and xeno-linguistics expert Dr. Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsborough). And if you think this is a lot of characters, just wait until you see all the ones I didn’t mention. The huge number of characters in the film sometimes work to its advantage, acting as a Game of Thrones-style round-robin where there is no ‘main character’, but more often makes the film seem cluttered and with too many side-plots. Characterization also suffers as so many actors fight for the precious 120 minutes of total screen time.
But the real problem with Independence Day: Resurgence is that in the twenty intervening years between the original and now, the spark of fun and comedy that makes the first one such an entertaining blockbuster has been lost. Although Resurgence is just as over-the-top as its predecessor, it takes itself far more seriously and ditches most of the charm and humor of the original. But once you take that element out of Independence Day, all you’re left with is a generic sci-fi action/Roland Emmerich disaster flick, which is exactly what the sequel is.
Independence Day: Resurgence is not completely devoid of value, for even if it is a generic sci-fi action movie, it’s a fairly competent sci-fi action movie, complete with all the aerial dogfights, technobabble, Roland Emmerich disaster porn you could ever ask for. But without that spark that made the original film a classic, the one-liners ring hollow, the plot holes are glaringly obvious, and the rousing speeches just aren’t that inspiring. If you want nothing more than a typical sci-fi action popcorn flick, then you’ll be satisfied, but if you’re hoping for a repeat of the original than you’ll go home disappointed.