REVIEW: 'Is Independence Day: Resurgence' family friendly? (And will my kids have nightmares?)

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |

CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – We humans are really good at uniting when it counts. Consider World War II, when the Americans, British and Russians formed an alliance, or post-9/11, when Republicans and Democrats tossed aside their differences.

Or even 1996, when the countries of the world stopped bombing one another and came together to fight back an alien invasion. Well, at least that's what happened in the 20-year-old movie Independence Day.

Its sequel is out this weekend – Independence Day: Resurgence (PG-13) -- and guess what? Unlike World War II or 9/11, the countries of the world have stayed united in theirquest to fight off ugly space creatures. They've put a space defense station on the moon, manned by hundreds of representatives from various countries, and they've launched a series of laser-manned satellites around the Earth to defend our planet against another invasion.

It's a good thing, too, because we're being attacked again, and these aliens – well, actually, they're the same aliens as last time – are tougher than what we fought in 1996.

"In the last 20 years this planet has been unified in a way that's unprecedented in human history," former President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) says during the film.

It's a great lesson for families to hear in the midst of a presidential election year, even if it is coming from a quirky alien invasion flick. And, for Christian families who do go to the theater this weekend, it's also worth discussing that unity with those with whom we disagree doesn't mean that we compromise our core Bible-based beliefs.

In fact, Independence Day: Resurgence raises several topics that are worth discussing for families. That's the good news. Here's the bad news: The movie has quite a bit of language. I counted 40 instances of coarse words, including (literally) the very last word in the movie. Yep, the last thing your child will hear is how we're going to continue kicking some alien a--, and then the credits roll. It's as if the filmmakers were trying to make a "cool" movie for the so-called MTV crowd, without even worrying about families. I also counted six instances of "Jesus," "Christ" and God" being abused.

The Plot (Warning: Spoilers)

But for moviegoers who don't mind the language issue, the film is entertaining. It is set in 2016, but Earth is far more advanced than we are today. Citizens of this 2016 Earth fly in anti-gravity ships that hover in the air and then jettison to the moon in only a few minutes. Our weapons of choice are lasers, not bullets, although the former are far more destructive than the latter. Yet we are using those lasers only to protect us from aliens, and not to shoot one another.

To mark the 20th-anniversary of the victory over the aliens, the United States joins other countries at a large outdoor ceremony where the heroes of 1996 are recognized. Our new president (she's female) delivers a stirring address. But wouldn't you know it? The aliens decide to attack during the ceremony, sparking a massive panic across the globe.

Their ship is bigger this time -- 3,000 miles in diameter -- and it lands in the Atlantic Ocean, destroying most everything on the East Coast and also London, and triggering tsunamis, fires and mayhem. It looks like Earth is facing an impossible task again this time, but as former President Whitmore says, we did last time, too.

Lessons for Families

In addition to the themes of unity and peace, there are other positive aspects to Independence Day: Resurgence. There are quite a few instances of sacrifice, whereby pilots show a willingness to die for a greater cause. Teamwork is also a reoccurring theme, and the family unit is upheld. We also see family members express regret about their past ("We have to wait until the end of the world for us to get together?") There's also a moment where the current president delivers a speech to the world and says, "I ask that all of you pray for us."

The Verdict: Family Friendly or Not?

My oldest kids are 8 and 4, and I will not be taking them to see this one. There is no sexuality, but the aliens are quite scary looking, and I'm guessing that my children would have nightmares about them for weeks. There are also several scenes of disturbing peril. A woman falls to her death from a helicopter rescue. Aliens put people in chokeholds, apparently killing them. Buildings and bridges are destroyed like toothpicks. There's also just too much language. Families will make different decisions about Independence Day: Resurgence, but for parents of young children, this one is not family friendly.

Entertainment value: 3.5 out of 5. Family friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Independence Day: Resurgence is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction and for language (no f-words, but a mixture of d---, h---, bi---, s--- and a---, as well as God's name being abused in several ways.

Post-movie discussion topics: unity and peace – why can't we all just get along?; aliens – what does a Christian worldview hold?; sacrifice – which character did you most admire?

Michael Foust has covered films for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelFoust