Like many of Roland Emmerich’s disaster epics, Independence Day: Resurgence assembles a variety of thin character sketches, pitting several pairs of unconnected stereotypes against an apocalypse, busily cross-cutting between them and fashioning an endless series of redundant starts and stops. In a characteristically reductive contrast, a white American nerd (Nicolas Wright) teams with a black tribesman (Deobia Oparei) who stands in for all of Central Africa because that part of the world is, per standard American blockbuster implication, a singular, undifferentiated mass of unfamiliar customs. Rounding out the 1990s-era blockbuster nostalgia package, there’s also a plucky love interest, several imperiled children, a lovable dog, and Judd Hirsch doing his obnoxious “old Jewish man” routine, which reaches its nadir when his character says something along the lines of “What? It takes an alien invasion to get you to visit your father?”
It’s amazing, considering the partisan war gripping the United States in real life, considering the mass shootings and terrorist incidents dotting the news on an almost minute-by-minute basis, that Emmerich does nothing satiric or fleetingly parodic with the poignantly absurd notion of a world finally united, even if in retaliation to an alien annihilation. Instead, a character will walk into the frame, utter exposition designed to telegraph their relationship to the first Independence Day, and their screen partner will respond in kind, following up with a joke so lame that it could nearly pass as postmodern commentary on inept blockbuster-movie screenwriting.
After several scenes interminably alternating between the various pairs, with a few Independence Day alums bandied about so as to espouse an illusion of continuity, Emmerich rewards our patience with an impersonally massive set piece involving the usual generic stew of mass CGI-imagined demolition. The insensitivity displayed toward human life in these sequences would be galling even by Emmerich’s standards, if this pitiful albatross of corporate capitalism could work up enough energy to be offensive.