Independence Day: Resurgence
Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Jessie Usher, Maika Monroe
…an ordinary sequel…
The original Independence Day came out in 1996 and was a massive box office hit. Director, Roland Emmerich, provided an old fashioned disaster flick about aliens blowing the shit out of Earth’s postcardiest landmarks and the scrappy band of humans who fought back with punching, wisecracks, and computer viruses. Because none of us are safe from weaponised nostalgia, the clumsily-titled sequel that no one asked for, Independence Day: Resurgence, glides into cinemas this week and the result is pretty ordinary.
Since the aliens were bested 20 years ago, Earth has entered a new golden age of technology, peace, and prosperity, but you know that’s about to end. Most of the survivors of the original return, with ex-president Whitmore (Bill Pullman) plagued by hideous nightmares of the aliens’ impending revenge; David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) enjoying his celebrity status and prestige position as an expert on extraterrestrial affairs; and Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) waking up from a 20-year coma ready to chew the scenery at every turn.
Notably absent is Steven Hiller (Will Smith), who has died rather ignominiously in an off-screen alien tech test flight, possibly after reading the script. Replacing him is poor substitute, Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher), Steven’s stepson and professional scowler. Add to this Dylan’s frenemy, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), and his former first daughter fiancée, Patricia Whitmore (a horribly miscast Maika Monroe), plus countless others, and you’ve got an overstuffed and underdeveloped cast spread too thinly to provide anything other than expositional dialogue and occasional deaths of people that you’ll actually recognise.
Of course, this would all be moot if the alien invasion itself was a jaw dropping spectacle, but sadly, Emmerich’s techniques seem to have evolved very little in the last two decades. There are a couple of noteworthy moments (some of the sequences set inside the massive alien mother ship are memorable, and the Alien Queen looks kinda cool if derivative), but mostly the action feels weirdly flat and cheap, with lots of callbacks to the original without anything new to say other than, “What if we made the ship bigger?” or “Hey, let’s smash London Bridge!”
A couple of potentially interesting concepts are raised – societies living under the ships from the first invasion, the psychic link between the aliens and humans – but these are swiftly abandoned in favour of baffling subplots like Judd Hirsch driving a busload of wide-eyed orphaned kids into war zones, and various attempts at humour that fall flatter than the cities crushed by the mother ship. Most damning of all is the ending, which reveals that the whole film is essentially a soft reboot for a potential new franchise (a feat also tried and mercifully failed by 2015’s Terminator Genisys). Independence Day: Resurgence isn’t a terrible film, but for a B-movie experience that emphasises big dumb fun, it needed to be a lot less dumb or much more fun. As it stands now, it’s an ordinary sequel to a story that probably should have stayed where it belongs: back in the 90s.