- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2016

A sci-fi disaster film sequel 20 years in the making moves from the big screen to home theaters in Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 120 minutes, 2.40:1, $39.99) and boasts the latest digital technology transfer while offering plenty of extras to offer a popcorn-munching evening.

Director Roland Emmerich quickly reveals that the aliens invading Earth back in 1996 sent a distress signal home before crafty humans nuked their mother ship.

Now, a massive queen and her horde of extraterrestrial brethren answer their call, and the bad guys return en masse, causing rampant destruction and trying to once and for all exterminate the human race.

Favorite characters from the old movie are back to strategize and stop the new attack.

They include the smartest cable TV repairman on the planet David Levinson, now in charge of Area 51 research (Jeff Goldblum), retired President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), Dr. Brakish Okun, awoken from a 20-year coma (Brent Spiner), and David’s father and famed author Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch).

New heroes also emerge and are led by late Capt. Hillard’s son Dylon (Jessie Usher), Mr. Whitmore’s daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe) and Los Angeles attack survivor and orphan, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth). They also happen to be highly trained combat pilots and add plenty of aerial action on Earth and the Moon to the adventure.

It’s a great mix of characters, but much to the dismay of fans of the original film, the quirky, corny and slight heart-tugging charm of the original “Independence Day” is missing.

Instead, it’s replaced with an underwhelming build-up of the aliens return, too much time in cockpits, not enough character development, and actors stuck in front of blue screens, competing with computer special effects while looking for motivations.

Still, the rousing final 20-minute encounter with the queen almost saves the film, at least from a blockbuster perspective. Surprisingly, but yet to be determined, the creators have the nerve to dangle another sequel at the end that is far more intriguing than the movie’s plot.

4K UHD in action: Despite fours times the resolution of current Blu-ray technology, a slightly dark and gritty digital transfer of the movie makes it a rough recommendation for the ultra high-definition experience.

Although, its hard to not appreciate moments such as the absurd clarity of orchids in a hospital room or depth of a massive Death Star-style spaceship emerging from a wormhole or an alien ship’s gleaming underbelly reflecting on the moon’s surface.

And, of course, the frenetic mid-air, mid-day combat scenes shine through the combination of life-like clarity of the ships and booming fly-bys enhanced with the Dolby Atmos sound mix.

Best extras: First, the disc offers an optional commentary track with Mr. Emmerich, who does an intermittent job of explaining the production, character motivations, story points and faux technology. Although, it would have been a much better track if his cohort in filmmaking, producer Dean Devlin, was available.

The pair’s informative and enthusiastic commentary track on the recent re-release of “Independence Day” on Blu-ray was a benchmark for that type of extra.

Next pop in the Blu-ray disc version to find the rest of the extras.

Best of the bunch is a 4-part documentary offering roughly a satisfying hour about the production, that is if one ignores the cast and staff gushing about one another.

Instead focus on the origins of the new story and realization of the moon base, the slick futuristic Earth and alien vehicles seen in the film (a Moon Tug shuttle was built full size on the set) and the digital and practical effects used to bring the queen alien chasing a bus in the Utah Salt Flats to life.

Also, five galleries of concept art features over one hundred images to peruse via the player’s controller that showcase some incredible detail ultimately realized in the production.

My favorite extra presents a 3-minute interview with author Julius Levinson and his son David on a faux Albuquerque morning show hosted by Terry Dudley (Fred Armisen). It’s mandatory viewing to appreciate the “Independence” Day” stalwarts relishing the roles while offering more playfulness and heart than they delivered in the entire movie.

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