For a lot of folks, especially those who (like this reviewer) were just kids when it came out, Independence Day defined the blockbuster excess of the 1990s. It was the apex of mindless summer entertainment, boasting unprecedented special effects, rousing (and knowingly cheesy) dialogue, and a hefty dose of charm. Twenty years later, Roland Emmerich's genre landmark has been copied to a numbing degree by other filmmakers, and the director's own sequel falls flat as essentially an overstuffed remake of the original.
After the "War of 1996," the nations of the world have united like never before. In the aftermath of tremendous loss, humanity has put aside petty squabbles while building a new society based on advanced technology recovered from the alien invaders. The heroes of that war are even revered as larger-than-life figures: the now deceased Captain Steven Hiller (played, of course, by Will Smith in the original), scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), and former U.S. president Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman). As the world gears up for another invasion, Levinson and Whitmore, along with plucky pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), Hiller's son Dylan (Jessie T. Usher), Whitmore's daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), and a host of other new and returning characters, must lead the fight against the extraterrestrials. Although Earth has prepared for this moment by ratcheting up its defenses, the aliens have grown more advanced as well, and they've even brought their queen along with them this time as they try to squash humanity once and for all.
Resurgence hopes to skate by on the legacy of its predecessor by offering up similar scenes of destruction with more honed special effects. But our collective obsession with seeing Earth's landmarks blasted with alien beams has either waned due to oversaturation or it was never the primary draw in the first place. Weirdly, a lot of the destruction here happens offscreen, which is quite a surprise given that spectacle is what draws audiences to flicks like this. What really made the original such a joy was an actor at the top of his game (Smith) and a cast of quirky supporting characters who were chock-full of one-liners. It was never meant to be taken seriously, but that seems to be lost on the cast this go-around.
Emmerich's sequel lacks the magnetism of a central lead -- instead, it divvies up that role between Hemsworth, Usher, Monroe, and Goldblum, none of whom can harness the campy magic of the original. Packed with industrial-size schmaltz and about six too many subplots, Resurgence becomes more of a marathon than an adventure as plans are hatched and foiled and character arcs are introduced and abandoned. It follows the exact trajectory of the first film, only devoid of the winking ridiculousness (there's nothing here on the level of "Welcome to Earth!"). Pop in the DVD at home and save your money.