REVIEW: ‘Independence Day’ Sequel Doesn’t Capture First Film’s Magic

Talk about jumping the shark.

“Resurgence,” the follow-up to the 1996 mega-blockbuster, takes place 20 years after the events of the first film. By reverse-engineering alien technology, the human race has created new defensive machinery and the nations of the world have united to defend against another attack.

The story picks up around the time of the 20 year anniversary of the first war and audiences are immediately introduced to a new cast of fighter pilots who help Earth’s defenses. At the same time, though, characters from the previous film are featured, like David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), the tech genius who helped upload a virus on the mother ship and now serves as the expert on all things aliens.

Together, the old and new characters have to combine their efforts to overcome another alien invasion.

As a major fan of the original picture, it pained me to see how much of a train-wreck “Resurgence” was. Take the storytelling, for example. Much of what happens on screen feels extremely rushed and the audience barely has a moment to let a sequence sink in before another plot point starts. Case in point, there’s a moment where the alien ship lands, causing a ton of destruction, and the movie just moves on without deeply exploring the impact.

On top of that, there are a few meaningless subplots featured that could have been completely cut from the movie. The prime example is subplot revolving around Judd Hirsch’s character who returns from the first one and this time is helping a group of kids survive. The whole side-story adds nothing to the overall picture and in the end is worthless.

Then there’s the third act plot development where the entire franchise goes off the rails. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say there’s a development taking up the film’s finale that just serves to set up a third movie. The entire thing felt absurd, created more questions than answers and probably could have worked better as an after credits scene rather than the catalyst for the movie’s climax.

Another problem this sequel has is it can’t find the right balance in tone. One of the best things the first movie had going for it was its balance in tone, featuring some drama mixed with the right amount of lighthearted cheesy moments. “Resurgence” isn’t able to pull this off. Its attempts at humor are week, many scenes feel too over the top and the movie fails to have any meaningful dramatics.

Despite saying all that, though, this movie could have been alright had it featured engaging characters with energetic performances. That’s not the case here.

While this film does feature a return of Goldblum’s character, there are times when it just feels like he’s phoning it in. Unlike the first picture, there are many times that he just lacks a sense of urgency. The film also forces a pointless romance with David and a new character while leaving his relationship from the previous picture completely unresolved.

The new actors brought on board aren’t that much better. In the “Hunger Games” franchise, I found Liam Hemsworth to be dull and lacking in any charisma, and he’s pretty much the same here. Simply put, I never care about him when he’s out flying around against the aliens.

The same can be said about Jessie T. Usher, who plays Dylan Hiller, the step-son of Will Smith’s character in the original. Usher was mediocre at best and awful at worst. One scene in particular has him reacting to a major character death and he barely shows any emotion at all.

These two were supposed to be the grand new heroes of the franchise, yet the characters weren’t very interesting and the actors didn’t work well off each other.

The rest of the young cast is hit or miss, Maika Monroe is pretty good as Patricia Whitmore, the president’s daughter from the first, but another one of the younger cast members, Travis Tope, gives a weak performance as the comic-relief character Charlie.

It’s a real poor attempt at creating a new young core of characters when compared to other franchises like “Star Wars” with “The Force Awakens” or the “Star Trek” reboot films.

I guess it’s wrong to say the movie was completely void of energetic characters, though. However, the characters that were energetic went a bit too far. Brent Spiner who plays Dr. Okun, a scientist from Area 51 is just way too over the top, almost being a parody of his character from the first and there’s another comic relief character named Floyd, played by Nicolas Wright, who reaches Jar Jar Binks levels of annoyance.

One would at least hope the movie, being the sequel to one of the biggest blockbusters in the last few decades, would at least be exciting. Not even the case really on that front. There are some cool moments here and there, but they feel too few and far in between. During the scenes with the dog fights, for example, all the ships look really similar and it’s almost difficult to tell who’s fighting for which side.

“Resurgence” was a movie I was looking forward to. I wanted this to be the “Jurassic World,” of 2016. Because of the weak acting, uninteresting characters, bad pacing, dumb plot developments and just average action compared to other summer movies, the “Independence Day” sequel doesn’t hold up. 1 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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