When a studio declines to screen a film for critics before its opening day, you can bet that the film stinks and the studio knows it. Such is the case with Independence Day: Resurgence—Roland Emmerich's long-awaited sequel to his 1996 summer blockbuster Independence Day—which 20th Century Fox ushered into theaters last Friday before word of its ineptitude could leak to the paying masses. Resurgence is a poorly written, sloppily edited, and altogether boring regurgitation of the original, devoid of any real tension, surprises, or compelling characters. Keep in mind, however, that Independence Day is only slightly better; if and when the nostalgia-induced sheen wears off, you might be dismayed to discover that it doesn't hold up.
Resurgence is the inferior film because it doesn't improve upon the first in any meaningful way except for enhancing the CGI and upgrading the weaponry. "We had 20 years to prepare," reads the movie's tag line. "So did they." Yet Earth's forces remain unprepared for the alien vessels' deflector shields, which frustrated them so badly in the War of '96. So the aliens easily invade again, this time with a giant "queen" and her "hive" hell-bent on sucking out the Earth's core. Various characters mutter about how humanity "won't survive this one," but the stakes seem smaller and sillier this time around. Emmerich—second only to Michael Bay in his skill at eroticizing explosions and jingoizing happy endings— returns to the modus operandi he established in Independence Day and fortified in a subsequent string of disaster movies (Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012): humanity prevails, no matter how long the odds or how asinine the premise.
What elevated Independence Day is what torpedoes Resurgence: the actors. Will Smith, who played the heroic fighter pilot in the first film, opted out of the second; replacing him are Liam Hemsworth and Jessie T. Usher as frenemy pilots, without a drop of chemistry or charisma, who repeat some of Smith's old catchphrases. The actors who have returned (including Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Bill Pullman) look lost and at times embarrassed, and the new additions are insipid (especially Maika Monroe, who seems to have been cast for no reason other than her fashion-model proportions). But the two films are not really that different. Both ooze American exceptionalism, oversimplify the invaders, and infantilize the audience. That Resurgence makes Independence Day seem seminal by comparison is a testament to the studio's marketing strategy and the Hollywood status quo. Remake a '90s blockbuster, and the millennials will come. v