Review, Hollywood

Jun 30, 2016 Review, Hollywood

If you’ve seen one movie apocalypse, you have seen them all, at least if it was directed by Roland Emmerich. For the last two decades, Mr. Emmerich has carved out his own perverse subgenre with mega-movies about mega-calamities in which a happy few fight, joke and triumph despite alien invasion, a radioactive lizard, the Mayan calendar, melting polar ice and scene after scene of computer-generated mayhem. Even when he scales down, narrowing his cinematic gun sights on smaller stories (“White House Down”), Mr. Emmerich goes big and then bigger.

So, here he is again, going once more unto the blockbuster breach with “Independence Day: Resurgence,” a sequel to “Independence Day,” his amusing 1996 box-office behemoth. The earlier movie is best remembered for its shocker of a sales pitch: a shot of the White House being blown up by a shaft of alien light, an image that was as giddily funny as it was horrific to contemplate. Needless to say, thinking deeply if at all has never been something that Mr. Emmerich encourages. For the most part, his movies are engineered to generate autonomic responses, with frenetic visuals and booming noises that activate the fight-or-flight response, which in turn produces arousal.

That’s the hope, although “Resurgence” is likely to spur more eye-drooping than popping. All you really need to know about the story is that it took multiple men to cook up this pottage, which hinges on another extraterrestrial invasion and humanity battling aliens as other familiar struggles erupt: technological determinism versus technophobia, secular universalism versus heroic individualism. Five writers actually put their names on the script, including Mr. Emmerich and his longtime collaborator Dean Devlin, and the results are predictably predictable if rarely entertainingly risible, with swaths of exposition and dialogue that sounds like ads (“one people, one world”).

The lackluster, at times abysmal writing wouldn’t much matter if “Resurgence” popped visually or featured a charismatic star who could lift a movie as effortlessly as Will Smith did in the first feature. Mr. Smith, unfortunately, declined to appear in the sequel, leaving his two co-stars from “Independence Day,” Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum, to give it that old school try alongside veterans like Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner, far and away the movie’s most valuable player. All deliver professional, winking performances, but they’re also stranded in an overly crowded cast that gives too much time to younger performers who, for the most part, slide right off the screen.

r. Emmerich does manage to personalize this industrial production here and there, largely in funny little asides that sprinkle the action, like the cutaway to a character using his wipers to clean alien goo off a windshield. But too often, he seems to be trying to summon up energy and dredge up feeling in this movie by glancing back at the first “Independence Day,” as when Liam Hemsworth (as a flyboy) punches an alien, an echo of Mr. Smith’s “welcome to Earth” triumphalism. Except that Mr. Hemsworth, a stolid, pleasant actor, isn’t Mr. Smith, and this isn’t “Independence Day.” Somehow selling screen death by the millions with a quip and a teardrop just doesn’t cut it.

“Independence Day: Resurgence” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Bloodless apocalyptic death. Running time: 1 hour 59 minutes.

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