It would be fun to think that “Independence Day: Resurgence” is as godawful as a lot of people want to say it is — that it’s the “John Carter” of bombastically overscaled paramilitary ’90s-nostalgia alien disaster flicks. But seriously, it ain’t that bad. (And let’s be honest: The 1996 original isn’t that good.) It’s a greasy high-cheese blockbuster served up by people who know (mostly) what they’re doing — which is to say, director Roland Emmerich, in the 20 years since “ID4,” has not lost his touch for shamelessly grandiose and derivative sci-fi schlock spectacle. That said, a movie like this one wouldn’t be a movie like this one if it didn’t offer at least a few invitations to giggle at it. Viewers, of course, are free to choose their own, but just to get you started, here are the 5 most ridiculous things about “ID4: Resurgence.”
The Most Ridiculous Character. His name is Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei), but then, what’s in a name? You will know him simply as “the warlord” (we meet him in the Central African desert where the carcass of the old alien spaceship is docked), and he has his own special technique for combating the deadly extraterrestrial menace. The other characters use machine guns, military jet fighters, cold-fusion bombs, and other stuff like that, but not our warlord: He’s sticking with what he knows best — the two machetes he carries around, criss-crossed on his back, for the entire film. (I don’t even think he takes them off to go to the bathroom.) Don’t get in the way of his blades, alien people! “You kill them from behind,” he gruntingly explains, and he means it, literally. There’s a great moment when a science nerd places his hands on an alien sphere, and suddenly he’s glued to it, and it’s sucking him in — and as everyone in the room rises up in alarm, you can glimpse the warlord in the background…reaching for that machete! He’s the closest thing the movie has to a character out of “Airplane!”
The Most Ridiculously Timely Political Allusion. The “ID4” films are not exactly big on topical relevance. How could they be, when the original film was so busy raiding the 1970s with its mash-up of “Close Encounters” and a two-dozen-characters-you-could-hardly-care-less-about disaster film? But in “Resurgence,” there’s one character who rings an unmistakably timely bell, and that’s the President of the United States — played by Sela Ward with a steely grin and a studiously tenacious “I am woman, hear me project my strong-on-defense military bona fides” resolve that’s a little too reminiscent of a certain presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to be coincidence. As much as the film would like to pretend that the casting is gender neutral, it’s not: Moments after she issues a terse command like “Take ’em out, commander!” the president then says, “Let’s hope to God we did the right thing!” in a way that no Morgan Freeman president would ever need to do. And the surest (unconscious) sign that the filmmakers may be a little nervous about the prospect of a Hillary presidency is the fact that…well, let’s just say that no one stays president forever. (But really, William Fichtner?)
The Most Ridiculously Sincere Bromantic Line. “ID4,” of course, had Will Smith, and it made him a megaplex ultrastar, just as he made the movie an ultrasmash. In lieu of the late great Capt. Hiller, “Resurgence” has two joystick fighter jocks: Hiller’s military-hero son, Dylan (Jessie T. Usher), and his rival, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), who was nearly responsible for Dylan’s death. Attempting to mend fences, Jake says (in reference to the loss of Dylan’s parents), “I’ve been where you are. And I know how deep it hurts.” It takes about 20 minutes for the movie to recover from that line and regain its proper attitude of folks-gettin’-blowed-up-real-good nonchalance. What the movie never quite defeats is the cruise-control innocuousness of this “Top Gun Lite” pair, with Hemsworth and Usher as such smooth, bland, unruffled bros that even their dive-bombing scenes feel like they’re happening on autopilot.
The Most Ridiculous Person Carried Over From “ID4.” If the new movie — theoretically — is built around nostalgia for 1996, and the “Top Gun”-vs.-alien dogfights take us back to 1986, then what can you say about a character who makes us feel like it’s 1976? That would be Judd Hirsch’s Julius Levinson, who in the film’s deadliest scenes drives a school bus full of children across the desert, all so that he can drop words like “schmuck” and “putz” (are you laughing yet?) and then rendezvous with his son David (Jeff Goldblum), which allows him to deliver the rim-shot line, “We had to wait until the end of the world to get together?” (Okay, you can laugh now.) That Hirsch says all of this in a showbiz-Yiddish accent makes you think that he isn’t so much playing the leftover knish in an alien tentpole movie as auditioning for his very own Normal Lear sitcom.
The Ridiculous One-Size-Fits-All Design of Every Damn Alien Since “Alien.” Even if you haven’t seen “Resurgence” yet, you already know exactly what they look like: the jaws, the H.R. Giger skull head, the rasta tentacles that seem to have come out of a “Predator” sequel. Just as every description of an alien by anyone who was ever “abducted” used to have to look exactly like that slit-eyed, Charm Pop-headed prototype immortalized in 1977 by “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” there’s an unstated law in Hollywood that every hostile alien invader has to be a direct variation on the ones in the “Alien” films. Admittedly, the queen alien in “Resurgence” does make for an impressive image, mostly through the sheer size of the thing. Which makes you realize that it may be about time to put this creature into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.