Independence Day: Resurgence is one of those films that critics were not allowed to screen before its official release. In other words, the studio seems to have no faith in the picture so the feeling is that banning press screenings is an attempt to unleash the thing on an unsuspecting public with as few reviews as possible in an effort to cash in before the bad word gets out.  In the case of this film—a sequel that was, by the way, twenty years in the making—it helps to remember that the initial Independence Day outing back in 1996 was not the great film that our nostalgia tinged memories may have us believe. It was basically just an updated 50s sci-fi film that was as derivative as the worst films that came out of that era, but mainly got a pass due its special effects that looked pretty good back then. The characters were all stock but filled with good performances from great actors who were trying to do their best with the hackneyed material. Even though it had its flaws, it was easy enough to take.

So now we have the long gestating sequel, a film that brings back pretty much every actor from the original’s cast with the exception of the MIA Will Smith, who presumably was busy working on the forthcoming DC comics film Suicide Squad. Or maybe Smith just felt the material was beneath him. Who can truly say but the writers do make it a point to let the audience know that his character is as dead as disco.

The plot involves the aliens perpetrating another attack on mankind after gestating for twenty some years. Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Judd Hirsch and Viveca A. Fox all return from the first film and are joined by fresh faces such as Liam Hemsworth. With such a great cast it’s too bad that the film chooses to focus on the generic action set pieces rather than the human drama. The first film managed to successfully balance the action stuff with the character driven scenes but the balance is much farther off target and it hurts the film in the long run. It doesn’t help that the film has five credited screenwriters either, which is never a good sign.

The humans do their duty and I guess I don’t have to tell you how it all ends up except to say that, yes, the door is left wide open for a another sequel possibility wherein we take on the aliens on their home turf. Come to think of it, perhaps they should have used that idea for this film and maybe things would have gone a lot more in the film’s favor.

Photo: William Fitchner, Jeff Goldblum & Brent Spiner in ID: Resurgence