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'Resurgence' is a weak payoff for fans of 1996's 'Independence Day'
Fighter pilots Dylan Hiller (Jessie Usher, left) and Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) have contrasting reactions to orders from a superior in Independence Day: Resurgence. - photo by Josh Terry
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE 2 stars Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward; PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language); in general release

Independence Day: Resurgence feels like a reunion concert for a classic rock band thats missing its lead singer. Its fun to hear some of the old songs, but you know you are getting an inferior product.

Still, its hard to believe that adding Will Smith to the Resurgence cast would have fixed all its problems. Even for a B-movie masquerading behind a blockbuster budget, Resurgence is just too lazy for its own good.

The story picks up 20 years after the events of the 1996 original, in a world that has enjoyed the fruits of peaceful unity and alien technology. Which is to say they have flying cars and a moon base.

Along the way, the heroes of the 96 encounter have passed the torch to the next generation. Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher) is a fighter pilot living in the shadow of his famous deceased father (Smiths character). Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) was also a pilot until a field mishap involving Dylan landed him grunt duty on the moon. Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), another ex-pilot, is President Whitmores daughter and Jakes fiance, and has recently taken a position on the new POTUSs staff.

A few familiar faces are still around, too. Dr. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is researching strange happenings in Africa, where a ground war between the aliens and the local humans raged for years after the greater invasion failed. Jasmine Hiller (Vivica A. Fox) has left her stripper career behind to become a doctor. Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) has been in a coma for the last 20 years, and a white-bearded President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) looks about ready to join him. Levinsons father Julius (Judd Hirsch, who doesnt seem to have aged in 20 years) is out pushing a book that gives him credit for inspiring the victory in 1996.

The peace was fun while it lasted, but after encountering a strange probe on the moon, the people of Earth get some bad news: The aliens have returned for vengeance, this time in a 3,000-mile-long mothership that lands on the Atlantic Ocean and starts drilling for the Earths core.

President Lanford (Sela Ward) spearheads the resistance efforts of the other world leaders, mostly by giving passionate stares and solemnly delivering lines like, lets do this, and permission granted. The strategy eventually boils down to another offensive on the alien ship, and in spite of a few modest variations, Resurgence quickly begins to feel like more of a re-hash than a sequel.

Theres nothing wrong with a B-movie, even a B-movie with a multi-million dollar budget. But Resurgence pairs miles-wide scope with about 6 inches of depth, trafficking in melodramatic moments that fail to connect, clichd dialogue that feels like it was selected at random, and plot holes wide enough to fly a 3,000-mile wide spaceship through.

It isnt a total failure, but anyone hoping Resurgence would deliver on 20 years worth of buildup will leave disappointed. Director Roland Emmerich (who also helmed the original) puts his emphasis on the visuals, and they do look pretty good. But good enough to justify a full price 2016 movie ticket? That may be a stretch.

The original Independence Day wasnt exactly contending for Best Picture, but it had a sense of fun and a charm that Resurgence fails to deliver. Blame it on the absence of Smith or any number of other culprits, but the result is the same: outside of some fun effects and a couple of hours of escapism, Independence Day: Resurgence just doesnt have that much to offer.

Independence Day: Resurgence is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction and for some language; running time: 120 minutes.