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  1. Life & Culture

Review: 'Independence Day: Resurgence' should have never resurged

Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, left, and Bill Pullman as Thomas Whitmore in a scene from "Independence Day: Resurgence." (Claudette Barius/Twentieth Century Fox via AP)
Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, left, and Bill Pullman as Thomas Whitmore in a scene from "Independence Day: Resurgence." (Claudette Barius/Twentieth Century Fox via AP)
Published Jun. 24, 2016

With Independence Day: Resurgence, Roland Emmerich can add his own filmography to his path of destruction.

The disaster movie director has destroyed several U.S. institutions (the White House, Madison Square Garden, the legacy of Stonewall) and untold millions of lives in films like Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow. In a time when too many modern blockbusters end with entire cities being destroyed, Emmerich was a pioneer in making that his movies' first, third and second act.

His greatest success remains 1996's original Independence Day, which at the time was one of the highest-grossing movies ever alongside Jurassic Park. With the enormous box office returns of Jurassic World and a wave of '90s nostalgia, now would seem the right time to make a sequel.

Yet the first warning sign came when the sequel had no press screenings. Some would surely argue Independence Day: Resurgence wasn't made for critics. Watching it, one wonders for whom exactly it was made.

For one, Will Smith's character does not return, having died offscreen after a tragic battle of "actor turned the role down"-itis. The film also reveals itself to be setting up a new generation of protagonists altogether, who possess all the charisma of the cast of Battleship.

Since the events of the last film, Earth has entered an unprecedented peace and advanced hugely thanks to alien technology. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) has stepped down from his position, as he has started suffering from strange premonitions.

Through others' similar visions and the discovery of an alien ship in Africa by David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), it becomes apparent they are planning to return to Earth. And sure enough, there comes the arrival of a literal mothership housing the queen alien.

It will come as a shock to no one that the script (which is, rather astoundingly, the work of five screenwriters) leaves much to be desired intellectually. Nor it is surprising that the dialogue mostly consists of large deposits of exposition.

All this could perhaps be forgiven if it provided some well-crafted genre fun. Yet the film's action sequences are resoundingly tedious and dreary, like a child playing with toys it has grown too old for.

For all the special effects and spectacle, its most engaging aspect remains its cast of character actors. It serves as a reminder that for one glorious moment with Independence Day and the Jurassic Park films, Goldblum was semi-seriously slated to be the next big action hero.

Original cast members Brent Spiner and Judd Hirsch also make appearances. But their screen time is limited as the cast expands to include a new president, a French scientist (Charlotte Gainsbourg, showing she's as much of a masochist as her Nymphomaniac character), an African warlord, a ship crew, a car full of children and, oh yeah, that whole new set of heroes.

These include Whitmore's daughter (It Follows' Maika Monroe), her pilot fiance (Liam Hemsworth) and his former friend who still hasn't forgiven him for a reckless encounter (Jessie T. Usher). The improbably young, attractive cadets fighting explosively gooey enemies and soap opera drama recall Starship Troopers had all its satirical commentary been played straight.

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Independence Day: Resurgence fails both as a film and even as fan service. Indeed, the movie waits until its final moments to offer its most palpable threat — the setup for a potential franchise.

Contact Jimmy Geurts at jgeurts@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3402. Follow @JimmyGeurts.

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