“It’s the Fourth of July,” states Independence Day: Resurgence’s Dylan Hiller on uh, the Fourth of July. “Let’s show them some fireworks!”
Independence Day: Resurgence (out now in theaters everywhere from 20th Century Fox) stars the young Hiller, grown-up son of now-deceased Col. Steven Hiller, once played with charismatic, characteristic panache by Will Smith circa 1996. When it came time for the classic UFO-embattled film to make a … wait for it … resurgence, Smith declined to join. According to the movie’s wikia page, Col. Hiller passed away on April 27, 2007 while “test piloting the Earth Space Defense’s first alien hybrid fighter.” Randomly specific but OK.
And so we find our dashing hero, expert jet fighter Dylan Hiller, on some unidentified military base, determined to beat the flying saucers at their own game—just like his fallen father did exactly two decades ago—with a mix of human-made aeronautics and advanced alien weaponry. But if this were a war of words, young Hiller would’ve already declared defeat. Because while Resurgence features some bad-ass tech (Volker Engel, the VFX genius behind both Godzilla and the original Independence Day, is back to awesomely blow up more things and destroy entire cities), Shakespeare it ain’t.
Elsewhere in the movie, when Bill Pullman’s ex-President Thomas Whitmore hops aboard a fighter plane to bring a bomb to the alien mother-ship himself—in this world of UFO-integrated technology some things still need to be done in person!—Whitmore turns to his daughter, played by actress/pro kite-boarder Maika Monroe and says, “There are a lot of reasons why I’m the best choice for this.” Then he can’t be bothered to list a single one because who needs clarity when you can have unexplained vagueness?
It’s no surprise though that the Resurgence dialogue rings tinny, considering the back-and-forth anxiety that unnecessarily brought the sequel to movie theaters 20 years after its predecessor, which grossed a whopping $817 million, destroyed the summer blockbuster game.
Speaking of destroying summer blockbusters, Hollywood isn’t finished with Independence Day: Resurgence. No, just you wait for Ghostbusters, Star Trek and Jason Bourne to fall victim to sequel treatment in the coming weeks. Yay?
As the story for this Independence Day revival goes, the first rumblings of a second coming of alien destruction took place in 2002 but German director Roland Emmerich (nicknamed Spielberg of Sindelfingen, who also directed the first Independence Day installment), nixed the idea, explaining, “Everything sounded like a repeat, and we didn’t want to do repeats.”
But actually he did and he would (see exhibit 1: Independence Day: Resurgence) when writers Nicolas Wright and James A. Woods grappled with the presumably thin script and turned it into something … better. The two writers decided the sequel should focus on the abandoned orphans whose relatives fell victim to the first alien invasion. So yes, the protagonists are all just as moody and chip-on-their-shoulderish as you’d expect.
Once the script received a little polish, stars started piling aboard. The cast sees Jeff Goldbum and Pullman reprising their roles but also new addition Liam Hemsworth (no stranger to dystopian fantasies) as well as Travis Tope, Angela Teung, Jessie Usher and Maiki Monroe. Sela Ward plays a distinctly Hilary Clintonesque Madame President.
For the most part, Resurgence has been universally panned by critics, with Robbie Collin from The Telegraph giving this acrimonious reception to its “surprisingly well-staged” final scene: “A school bus with Goldblum at the wheel is chased across the desert by what’s effectively the creature from Cloverfield with braids,” Collin writes. “It’s consummately stupid, but at that point, stupid feels like an improvement.”
Not a ringing endorsement but hey, if you want never-ending CGI explosions, scientifically incorrect plot holes, habitual cheesiness and goopy alien-deaths galore, then Independence Day: Resurgence is without question the summer movie for you.