A film review by Craig J. Koban July 1, 2016



2016, PG-13, 127 mins.


Liam Hemsworth as Jake Morrison  /  Bill Pullman as President Whitmore  /  Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson  /  Patrick St. Esprit as Secretary of Defense  /  Joey King as Sam  /  Jessie Usher as Dylan Hiller  /  Chin Han as Commander Jiang Lao  /  Charlotte Gainsbourg as Dr. Catherine Marceaux  /  Maika Monroe as Patricia Whitmore  /  William Fichtner as General Adams  /  Vivica A. Fox as Jasmine  /  Sela Ward as President Lanford

Directed by Roland Emmerich  /  Written by Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and James Vanderbilt




Coming twenty frustratingly long years after the release of its incredibly popular original, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE is an excruciatingly bad work of soul crushing disappointment and might be one of the most tediously written, ineptly acted, and aggressively moronic big budget Hollywood summer sequels in an awfully long time.  It's an embarrassing alien mother ship sized waste of talent and financial resources.  

I say this with absolute regret, seeing as the original 1996 effort was indeed silly, overblown, and cornball-riddled sci-fi/action melodrama at its very foundations, but it was also the epitome of “dumb fun” escapism that had affection for marrying the disaster film genre aesthetic of the 1970’s with the flying saucer alien invasion sci-fi thrillers of the 1950’s.  I enjoyed the brainless exuberance of ID4, but RESURGENCE is such a dislikeable, dull, soulless, incompetent, and ultimately unnecessary follow-up entry that you have to severely doubt the collective energies of its makers over the last two decades.  We waited this long…for this? 

Yes, INDEPENDENCE DAY 1 wallowed in ludicrousness and contained multiple soap opera worthy dramatic arcs that easily rolled many eyes of audience members, but there was an inherent heart to that film with its characters: they were all relatively agreeable and brought ample charm to the proceedings.  You wanted to root them all on to band together to thwart the seemingly unstoppable alien menace.  RESURGENCE populates its antagonistically flimsy story with far too many characters – some returning from the first film, some not, and with many other new ones introduced to the mix – all of which are delineated with an unpardonable blandness and insipid broadness that makes the personas that populate a Michael Bay film feel positively Shakespearean by direct comparison.   That, and the limitless destruction porn contained with RESURGENCE simply has no lasting impact whatsoever; when the first film was released it was frighteningly awe-inspiring.  There have been so many disaster pictures made in its wake (many from director Roland Emmerich) that it all but renders and reduces the calamity of the mayhem in RESURGENCE to something cold, antiseptic, and tension-free.  I felt startlingly little for anyone or anything in this film...and I simply felt emotionally empty when I left the cinema. 



This sequel takes place two decades after the “War of 1996” between humanity and the alien menace, which left most of the cities utterly decimated and claimed the lives of 3 billion souls.  With vast crash landed alien vessels at their disposal post-war, the Earth’s countries came together to not only live in peace and harmony, but they also pooled their resources together to forge alien technology with their own, leaving a 2016 world that has echoes of our own, but is built up on hybrid inventions.  Astoundingly, many of the planet’s cities have been fully rebuilt into futuristic metropolises, but considering how long and problematic it takes for single buildings to be rebuilt in the aftermath of incalculable tragedy in the real world, the spotless – yet paradoxically utopian/militaristic  – society of RESURGENCE seems laughably implausible.  Yet, we learn that every country settled their petty social, political, and religious differences with each other and successfully restored their urban livelihoods and formed the ESD (Earth Space Defense) to globally protect the planet.  This is explained...with a single line of expository voiceover narration.  Yup.  Sure.  Uh huh. 

Humanity even built defensive colonies on the moon and Mars, which does make strategic sense.  They engineered improbably gigantic Death Star-like laser cannons on the lunar surface to thwart any potential future extra-terrestrial threat.  One of the moon’s military men is a Han Solo-esque hot shot pilot, Jake (Liam Hemsworth, a charisma black hole compared to his brother), that hates being away from his main squeeze Patricia Whitmore (IT FOLLOWS’s wonderful Maika Monroe, so depressingly vacant and monotone here).  Now, her daddy is President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), the same man that led the U.S. and world to beat the aliens years ago, but now he’s sick, mentally unstable, and has frequent visions that the aliens…will be back.  Of course, the gravel voiced Whitmore was right, and a vaster alien fleet (led by a massive queen beastie) has launched a whole new retaliatory attack on Earth.  The moon’s defenses prove useless, leaving the planet completely vulnerable.  Returning to join the fight is scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum, the only cast member with an agreeable pulse) that tries to make sense of what’s happening with fellow scientist Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner), who has awoken from, I kid you not, a 7000-plus day coma with remarkably no muscle atrophy and astoundingly good physical dexterity and cognitive functioning.  Pilots like Dylan (Jessie T. Usher) take to the air to defend the Earth, much like his dearly deceased dad (Will Smith) did in the first film. 

Okay, let’s talk about the bewilderingly idiotic logic of this film.  The aliens have decided to come back to drill and milk the Earth’s magnetic core for…resources.  Now, why would an alien race with their own resources that are infinitely vast enough to create vessels that are 3000 miles in diameter and are capable of interstellar travel need to re-visit Earth...to pillage its resources?  What resources do they possibly need?  And to what extent?  What does the Earth have that they don't?  Another thing, since this new ship is described as being the size of the Atlantic Ocean…how is it not visible to the naked eye from the ground?  How is it able to sneak up on the moon and the Earth?  How does it not cause solar eclipses?  Moreover, when this ship “lands” and settles on Earth how does it not split the planet in half due to its unfathomable size and weight?  How does it not affect the planet’s tectonic plates…or gravity…or its orbit…or its daily rotation…or weather patterns for that matter?  RESURGENCE was written by five people (one of them wrote the masterful ZODIAC), but the resulting screenplay feels like it was penned with the uneducated ignorance of a naïve child.  I felt dumber watching this film. 

Character dynamics fare no better and are abysmal.  It’s beyond clear from the get-go that RESURGENCE oh-so-desperately misses Will Smith’s rascally wit and rogue-like charm, but his unwillingness to participate in this final product speaks volumes to his tact and taste in projects.  None of the newcomers have any personal flavor or a scintilla of individualized charm…they’re essentially one-note stock types/props at the mercy of RESURGENCE’s wanton narrative mindlessness.  Hemsworth is a good looking, but vanilla bland replacement for Smith, and Usher is so wooden and lacking in overall screen presence as Smith’s character’s stepson that you have to remind yourself to cheer for him.  Maika Monroe fills the film’s obligatory quota for fetching eye candy…and not much else.  And what of the film’s returning characters?  Judd Hirsch is back as David’s very stereotypically Jewish father that occupies a subplot involving a novel and a car filled with orphaned children that's positively head scratching and dramatically distancing.  Pullman’s presence is nice, but he plays his president this time in such an over-the-top and broadly bipolar fashion that one wonders as to the actor’s actual mental state.  Brent Spinner seems like he’s playing an annoying parody version of his already peculiar character without any restraint or anyone apparently telling him to dial it back down a bit.  Thankfully, a little bit of Jeff Goldblum’s characteristic and idiosyncratic weirdness goes a long way in this film…but even he seems to be pathetically phoning it in this go around. 

RESURGENCE’s visual effects are undeniably remarkable…but to what ultimate point?  Yes, they’re an improvement from the first film, but Emmerich doesn’t seem to helm them with any joy or creativity, nor does he utilize them with a clarity or precision.  One particular aerial dogfight between humanity’s beefed up fighters and thousands of alien craft has so much frustrating visual density on screen and so many visible elements that it’s next to impossible to discern who’s who and what the battle's overall geography entails in the skies.  The film builds towards a climax involving the monstrous Queen (literally the size of a building) and the last pockets of resistance fighters that’s more finely handled, but wallows in stale and overused visual clichés (yet another digital countdown clock) and a rather impervious school bus.  Then there’s this haphazardly thrown in subplot about yet another alien race (whose entity comes in the form of a bright white floating orb that seems like it came off of Apple’s assembly line) that hints at possible future adventures to come…in space…for this franchise.  INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE feels like one big overproduced and ill conceived...cheat.  It's a game of lame bait and switch.  I expected a worthy follow-up to the problematic, but guiltily enjoyable original, but what we get here instead – if you ignore its massive budget and visual effects sheen - barely registers above the dubiously awful moniker of a direct-to-Syfy Channel/TV sequel.  

INDEPENDENCE DAY was an ingeniously marketed summer blockbuster/event film not to be missed.  RESURGENCE is a cataclysmically wrongheaded non-event film that’s simply to be avoided.


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