Friday, June 24, 2016

Another alien attack. Ho Hum.

They're back. Aliens take another shot at Earth in scattershot Independence Day: Resurgence.
Independence Day: Resurgence wasn't made available to critics until its Thursday night opening. That doesn't necessarily mean that the movie was being hidden from critical view or that audiences should presume that Resurgence will be a misguided mess.

You can judge for yourself if you venture into Resurgence. My vote: The massive size of the alien craft in Resurgence -- some 3,000 miles in diameter -- is matched by an equally massive lack of imagination. If director Roland Emmerich was trying to re-capture the entertainment magic he found in the 1996 original, the trick fell flat.

Off-the-rack plotting and cliched dialogue mark what appear to be a scattershot collection of scenes. Watching Resurgence is a bit like watching a boxer throw nothing but jabs -- most of them missing their target. The movie flails.

Here's one indication of the fall-off since '96. Jeff Goldblum, an actor who knows how to create characters of cynical intelligence, seems to be imitating himself as Dr. David Levinson. He's off his game.

It may not be fair to say that Resurgence is imitating the first movie, but it has a derivative feel as earthlings battle giant creatures who arrive on a spacecraft that destroys large parts of the Earth before anyone can figure out what to do about it.

By now, everyone knows that Will Smith -- hero of the first movie -- sat this one out. Maybe he didn't want to participate in space battles that look like Star Wars knockoffs. Maybe he's tired to carrying blockbuster-sized burdens.

A screenplay credited to five writers, including Emmerich, makes room for fresh blood. Liam Hemsworth shows up as a fighter pilot as does Jesse T. Usher, who's portraying the son of the character Smith played in the first movie.

Sela Ward signs on as the new, strictly business president of the US.

Of course, some of the actors from the 1996 edition return: These include Bill Pullman, now a former president who has nightmares about another alien invasion. Brent Spiner reprises his role as Dr. Okun, a guy who has been in a coma since 1996, and who, as a result, hasn't had a haircut in two decades. Judd Hirsch drops by as Goldblum's grumpy but supposedly lovable father.

Most of the jokes implode and the story -- Earth vs. a queen-bee alien -- is just one more exercise in overkill from a movie that looks as if it had been hastily assembled under threat of alien invasion; i.e. plot elements and characters are introduced without finesse. Worse yet, Resurgence builds little tension; it just just hurtles along, leaving nothing in its wake but planetary destruction and something we already have in large enough supply, disappointment.

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