[Screen It]


(2016) (Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi: Twenty years after the first such occurrence, earthlings must again contend with an extraterrestrial attack on the planet.
Twenty years after a plucky group of individuals managed to defeat an alien invasion, those on Earth have created the Earth Space Defense (ESD), headquartered at the Area 51 military base and designed to serve as Earth's early warning system for any such future attacks. The former President of the United States, Thomas J. Whitmore (BILL PULLMAN), is now retired but suffering painful visions about the alien invasion, something that concerns his daughter, Patricia (MAIKA MONROE), who's a speechwriter for President Elizabeth Lanford (SELA WARD).

She's also the girlfriend to Jake Morrison (LIAM HEMSWORTH), a military pilot who's been relegated -- along with his partner, Charlie (TRAVIS TOPE) -- to flying a tug ship on the moon due to a training mishap involving Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (JESSIE USHER) that nearly left him dead. Dylan -- son of hospital administrator Jasmine (VIVICA A. FOX) -- is a revered pilot, much like Rain Lao (ANGELBABY) whose uncle runs the command post on the moon.

Suffering painful visions like Thomas is African warlord Dikembe Umbutu (DEOBIA OPAREI) who's allowed ESD scientist David Levinson (JEFF GOLDBLUM) to enter his territory -- as has his government tag-along Floyd (JAMES A. WOODS) and fellow alien researcher Dr. Catherine Marceaux (CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG) -- after a long-wrecked alien spaceship has suddenly regained power. Jake ends up transporting them back to Area 51 where General Joshua Adams (WILLIAM FICHTNER) is monitoring the appearance of a massive alien ship that's arrived near the moon, all while scientist Dr. Brakish Okun (BRENT SPINER) has suddenly emerged from a 20-year-long coma.

That's followed by the alien ship landing across much of the Atlantic Ocean and causing all sorts of damage and death, while also putting others in jeopardy. That includes David's father, Julius (JUDD HIRSCH), who's ultimately rescued by teenager Sam (JOEY KING) and her younger siblings who are trying to flee to safety. From that point on, and as the alien ship uses a massive laser to drill toward the Earth's core, the survivors of the initial attack do what they can to figure out a plan to stop the aliens and kill their queen before it's too late

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Back during Super Bowl XXX, 20th Century Fox debuted their TV commercial for a film about American independence. No, it wasn't a historical costume drama or period action flick about plucky Americans taking on the Brits in the 18th century. Instead, its signature moment -- a laser beam hitting and blowing up the White House from above -- signaled that the sci-fi action flick "Independence Day" was headed our way that following summer.

While nothing notable from an artistic standpoint, the film delivered what it promised and that was lots of epic destruction, a big cast with multiple storylines worthy of an Irwin Allen disaster film from the 1970s, and plenty of American bravado and resolve. Not to mention a TV actor turned budding movie star who was propelled into super-stardom by appearing in that film.

That actor, of course, was none other than Will Smith and his character helped save the day in that over-the-top, special effects laden spectacle that grossed more than $800 million worldwide (not accounting for inflation or the lack of any real foreign movie-going market in the likes of China and elsewhere at that time). Somewhat surprisingly, the sequel has taken two decades to make it to the big screen.

And while certain cast members reprise their roles, Smith is nowhere to be seen. Will that affect box office returns? Only time will tell, but if audiences are more interested in "watching things get blown up real good" than in seeing the former Fresh Prince or any sort of engaging storytelling, Fox could have another hit on their hands.

In keeping with the time between the films, the same number of years have transpired between the story settings. Despite lots of tech and global and space enhancements and security, the pesky aliens are back along with some original cast members (Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner and a barely used Vivica A. Fox) and others new to the fold (Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher, Angelbaby, Sela Ward and James A. Wood, among others).

As is original director Roland Emmerich, and despite lots of money put into the special effects and a much shorter running time of around two hours, he and his quintet of scribes deliver a dog of a movie.

I don't remember much about the first flick (it's been 20 years since I last saw it) so comparisons in quality or viewer engagement are moot. Regardless of that, there's plenty wrong with the flick from having too many characters (leaving many not developed or used enough to justify their presence) to bad editing and overall poor filmmaking and storytelling.

It feels off from the get-go and no amount of sci-fi spectacle, disaster movie destruction and goofy comic relief can right this ship. Had it crossed over into camp, that might have worked to some degree, but it never makes that bold (or smart) move and thus feels like lukewarm, reheated recycling.

Should audiences not mind, an obvious second sequel is teed up, but I can only hope that the announcement for that is made on April 1st to save us from another installment of such busy but boring dreck. "Independence Day: Resurgence" rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed June 23, 2016 / Posted June 24, 2016

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