Director Roland Emmerich’s conceit is simple and hilariously dumb: What would happen if 20 years after aliens invaded, they came back in a 3,000-mile-wide ship? It’s both a redux of the first film — and also not. The world has changed in the two decades since those hovering ships destroyed the White House and most major cities around the globe, and alien defense is now basically a subset of every military outfit — not just some shadowy undercover operation in an undisclosed base in the middle of the desert.
If you have any interest in a sequel to “Independence Day,” you’ll likely not be disappointed by the improbably enjoyable “Independence Day: Resurgence .” It’s silly, light-as-air popcorn entertainment.
Misunderstood genius David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is now the first guy they call, not the one knocking at the door trying to persuade everyone to listen. His dad, Julius (Judd Hirsch), wrote a memoir about the whole saving-the-Earth thing. And the generation of kiddos from the first movie have seemingly devoted themselves to their government, including the president’s daughter, Patricia (Maika Monroe), and Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), son of Vivica A. Fox’s Jasmine Hiller and stepson of Will Smith’s Steven Hiller, who died years ago and is memorialized as a national hero.
The only one not doing so hot is President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who basically has alien-induced PTSD and a bushy “I’ve lost my mind” beard and cane. Oh, and, surprise! The long-haired Area 51 scientist Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) didn’t die in ’96 (yeah right); he was in a coma and wakes up when the aliens return.
There’s a whole mess of new characters, including the U.S. president (Sela Ward, channeling Hillary Clinton); a French scientist (Charlotte Gainsbourg); an African general (Deobia Oparei); and a hunky fighter pilot (Liam Hemsworth) who’s engaged to Patricia.
The plot is a big jumble of story lines, nonsense science talk and lots of “in ’96” references. Speaking of ’96, there’s nothing even remotely as thrilling or memorable as the first here — no mom, son and pup running through an L.A. tunnel, no Will Smith complaining about missing a barbeque while dragging a comatose alien through the desert, and no set pieces likely to influence future action movies.
Twentieth Century Fox didn’t screen this film for critics in advance — usually the sign of a clunker of a movie. Instead, this is the mindless spectacle we’ve been waiting for. This ain’t much, but it knows what it is, and it’s refreshing to have a “franchise” that isn’t bogged down with source material, fan expectations and allegiance to untold numbers of future films.
So grab some popcorn, turn your brain off, and hoot and holler along with the crowd.
“Independence Day: Resurgence,” a Twentieth Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language.” Running time: 120 minutes. Two stars out of four.
MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr