“Independence Day: Resurgence” is all big effects, big explosions, epic battles rendered in state-of-the-art digital strokes.
But really bad writing, achingly bad acting, groaning scenes and a serious lack of suspense and surprise all add up to zero fun, this time around.
I saw this on a semi-crowded opening night showing, and a more joyless, silent group I could not imagine.
The plot? All you really need to know is “They’re BACK!” And Will Smith isn’t.
It’s 20 years since America’s then-president (Bill Pullman) invited the rest of the Earth to celebrate “Independence Day” by slaughtering the invading/rapacious/marauding aliens.
The bug-eyed deep space kind, not the Donald Trump whipping boys.
We’ve got all this wondrous technology thanks to our rebuilding — early warning systems, gravity-defying warbirds, the works. Remember, we have alien captives and alien tech, thanks to the last effort.
And what’s the first challenge facing the latest president (Sela Ward)? An alien intruder. Being American, she votes that Earth shoot first and ask questions later.
Turns out there’s another alien species, perhaps a friendlier one on the run from the bug-eyed monsters. They might help, if we can ever figure out what to do with their Apple-designed volleyball orbs.
Jeff Goldblum is still advising governments about science, but he’s lost the snap in his meandering, stammering revelations. His dad (Judd Hirsch, the worst he’s ever been) has devolved into an even bigger mensch — still a dull, corny Jewish papa cliche, only now he’s hustling a book about how HE saved the world, way back when.
The old pres (Pullman) is heavily medicated and has nightmares that the monsters are returning. So does the gay mad scientist (Brent Spiner).
It’ll be up to a new generation of fighter jocks, including Liam Hemsworth, the daughter of the president (Maika Monroe of “It Follows”) and Will Smith’s character’s son (TV actor Jessie T. Usher). He’s just interesting enough to make you grateful that we didn’t get Smith’s real-life son in the part.
Everybody but everybody has a love interest, it seems — Goldblum is paired up with a French one (Charlotte Gainsbourg), Spiner has a gay one (John Storey).
And a couple of the pilots are hooking up, with others thinking of hooking up.
The movie makes more of an attempt to present a United Nations, with the usual sops to the Chinese, the Russians, even an African warlord.
It’s an appeal-to-all-audiences attempt in a movie that plays as if it was written in the board room and produced in a lab.
The dialogue is endless blasts of “Don’t let us die for nothing!, “No one else dies today!” and expositional piffle such as “This old radar truck was supposed to go to the Smithsonian!”
Not every line is shouted, but way too many are. That’s to compensate for how un-alarmed, under-awed and underwhelmed the players are at these massive alien “harvester ships” and their crews.
It’s little consolation that “IDR” starts better than it finishes, with a couple of laughs in early acts, and a whizzbang moment or two. But the whole thing feels less sprawling, less epic, less chaotic and seat-of-the-pants and most importantly — less URGENT. Even the tragic moments are shrugged off.
As indeed the movie should be. It’s not like every popcorn picture coming out this summer is a better bet. But if you’re wasting your time with no Will Smith, you’re probably missing Blake Lively and the shark. And that would be a pity.
MPAA Rating:PG – 13 for sequences of sci – fi action and destruction, and for some language
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Credits: Directed by Roland Emmerich, script by Nicolas Wright, Dean Devlin, James Vanderbilt . A 20th Century Fox release.
Running time: 1:59