There was a point about 20-30 minutes into this movie when I realised Roland Emmerich had achieved the apex of his destructo-vision:
As the alien ship crosses the planet for touchdown on the Atlantic ("Where?" "All of it!"), its gravitational field tears up the skyline of Shanghai. When the ship finally lands, all of the debris and buildings its collected are shown dropping onto famous London landmarks.
Emmerich just destroyed one iconic skyline with another iconic skyline.
Independence Day Resurgence is exactly the movie you think it is. You want a hundred different subplots featuring thin characters all trying to deal with a part of the disaster? Done. You want every character to have a comedic sidekick? You got it.
Roland Emmerich hasn't changed. He's exactly the same guy he was back in 1996. He's like the AC/DC of movie directors -- he knows how to do one thing, and he's going to keep doing that one thing for as long as he can. Unlike Michael Bay, he doesn't chop everything up -- you can tell what's going on -- and he has a very vague understanding of dramatic build-up. Plus, unlike Bay, he doesn't make you feel like walking in front of a bus after you leave the theatre.
The plot here is basically the same as before, with the slight caveat that in the twenty years since the 'war of '96', the world has become more unified and used the aliens' technology to rebuild society. With the input of David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), humanity has weaponised the moon, Saturn and other weapon systems based off of the alien tech, just in case they come back. Area 51 has become a prison for all the downed aliens left over from last time.
We get other glimpses of how the world changed after the invasion -- Levine goes to Africa, where one of the alien ships had landed and begun to drill into the earth. When the mothership blew up, the ship deactivated like the others. The locals then had to fight a ten year war against the surviving aliens. No offence to Emmerich, but that backstory already sounds better than the movie we got.
Scene set. And then there's lots of fighting. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) gives a speech. More explosions. And then we win.
The movie has the same issues as before -- too many characters without much in the way of character. No one changes. Everyone is right. And not enough of them die.
Liam Hemsworth is not that great an actor, but I enjoyed him in this (power of lowered expectations I guess?). Maika Monroe replaces Mae Whitman as Whitmore's daughter, and gets nothing really interesting to do -- apart from nearly shooting Hemsworth dead, which would have been great.
Jessie Usher plays Steven Hiller's (Will Smith) grown-up stepson. He gets nothing to do, except punch Hemsworth. Angelababy turns up to make sure the movie becomes a global hit. And Charlotte Gainsborough is also in this movie. Sela Ward plays the new president -- whose consistent strategy is to shoot first.
Most of the regulars pop in. Goldblum is a one man show here, which is sad -- he needs someone to bounce off. Pullman gets a chance to play crazy PTSD guy and have a Howard Hughes beard. Brent Spiner comes out of a coma to play Professor Okun again, and is exactly the same as before.
They do try to throw in some variations -- at one point, a couple of our heroes get trapped inside the mothership and have to evade alien patrols. President Whitmore allows himself to be taken over by the aliens so that the rest of the cast can find out what's going on. Judd Hirsch gets picked up by a bunch of teens led by Joey King from White House Down, and a mysterious alien arrives who looks like Marvin the robot's head from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (2005), but who can help them defeat the bad aliens.
The third act features a showdown at Area 51 (again) except that instead of just an alien ship, we get a giant rampaging queen alien as well. It's like Emmerich got bored writing the same movie and decided to watch a double bill of Aliens and Tarantula for ideas.
And then it all climaxes with the most gloriously blatant sequel baiting ending I've seen since Flash Gordon (1980).
In closing, it's a silly movie which I will probably forget by the weekend. But it knows it's silly, and it doesn't care. It has plot holes, too much CGI (even the aliens -- I really wished they stuck with the puppetry from the last movie), too much bad comedy, and too much of everything else really. But if you get a bunch of mates and some beer, it's a good time.