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Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ is both impossible to take seriously or seriously dislike

‘Independence Day: Resurgence’
Jeff Goldblum and Charlotte Gainsbourg in the movie “Independence Day: Resurgence.”
(Claudette Barius / 20th Century Fox Film Corporation)

A genial diversion for the undemanding, “Independence Day: Resurgence” doesn’t hesitate to go where many films have gone before.

Less a sequel than a spiritual remake of 1996’s “Independence Day,” this preposterous new film by returning director Roland Emmerich is both impossible to take seriously or seriously dislike.

Not as feeble as 20th Century Fox’s refusal to show it to critics would lead one to fear, “IDR” not only uses many of the same stars as that alien-invasion predecessor, it basically duplicates its plotline.

But wait! Those grotesque invaders have gotten smarter and more devious in the two decades since the last incursion, and their spaceship has gotten way bigger: It’s a whopping 3,000 miles in diameter. No wonder many in power fear “this time we won’t be able to stop them.”

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Though it took five credited writers (Emmerich and his original “Independence Day” partner, Dean Devlin, along with Nicholas Wright & James A. Woods and James Vanderbilt) to come up with the “IDR” script, thudding dialogue lines like “You better come and see this,” “Make them pay” and “Oh my God” are not going to put viewers in seats.

Instead, audiences will likely be lured by the film’s razzle-dazzle visuals of destruction overseen by visual effects supervisor Volker Engel (who won an Oscar for the first film) and production designer Barry Chusid.

More than that, as edited by Adam Wolfe “IDR” moves right along at the rapid clip essential for a story whose general outline is known from the get-go. What actually happens on screen is less important than that it unfolds really, really fast.

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One of “IDR’s” lessons (yes, it has them!) is that an alien invasion can be a good thing. The nations of Earth were so freaked out by what’s now called “The War of 1996" that, in the two decades since, peace has reigned supreme on the planet. All that is about to end.

Though President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) has been replaced in the White House, he still suffers from what’s called Alien Residual Condition, meaning he’s still plugged into the alien’s invasive hive mind.

Both he and scientist Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner),  miraculously awakened after 20 years in a coma, are the first to know that those grotesque invaders (likely initially inspired by the work H.R. Giger did for the original “Alien”) are headed back to Earth.

Soon in the loop is scientist David Levinson (a returning Jeff Goldblum), now director of the Earth Space Defense Program, and a French psychiatrist, Dr. Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg of all people), who specializes in alien thought patterns.

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Though Will Smith’s character does not return, he is represented by his hotshot pilot son, Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), who is one of a group of younger folks as determined as their elders to give those aliens what-for.

Most entertaining of these is the man Hiller can’t abide, cocky fellow pilot Jake Morrison, played with a nice sense of macho nonchalance by Liam Hemsworth. No wonder Whitmore’s squared-away daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe) has fallen in love with him.

Nothing if not constructed with commercial success in mind, “IDR” carefully balances new folks with returning older types.

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Yes, David Levinson’s father, Julius, played with Yiddish-inflected foolishness by Judd Hirsch, is back, but market dynamics mandate that space be been made for not one but two actors from China, Chin Han as a tough general and model Angelababy as yet another hotshot pilot.

Intent on breaching the Earth’s core for their own nefarious purposes, the alien invaders have nothing but contempt for humanity’s puny defenders until it is too late. Good thing for us that they are such slow learners. Maybe next time ...

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Q&A with Brent Spiner on ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’


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