UK Release Date: 23rd June 2016
Runtime: 120 minutes
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt, Nicolas Wright, James A Woods, Dean Devlin
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, Jessie T Usher, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Sela Ward, Brent Spiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Fichtner
Synopsis: It’s 20 years since humanity beat back an alien invasion, but now the extra-terrestrials are back and they seem to be bigger and badder than ever before. But has humanity prepared?
People really like Independence Day for some reason. Over the last two decades, disaster master Roland Emmerich‘s rather ordinary alien invasion blockbuster has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Everyone has seen its iconic shot of the White House exploding and the beautifully defiant moment in which Will Smith punches an extra-terrestrial being in the face. The gang are now back together, minus Smith, for Independence Day: Resurgence, which is a sequel that arrives at least a decade too late with very few new ideas and considerably less destructive flair.
Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is still considered a hero after the events of 1996 and scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is leading research into how to prepare for alien threats. Whitmore’s daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe) works at the White House as an aide for new president Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward). Patricia’s boyfriend Jake (Liam Hemsworth) works as a pilot in the Earth Space Defense program, under the leadership of his estranged friend Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie T Usher), son of Will Smith’s character from the first movie. When the aliens return and start smashing up the planet, the human race must once again come together to defend the world.
Independence Day: Resurgence is a stupid, stupid movie. Emmerich and his enormous team of writers seem to have spent hours and hours jotting down ideas and brainstorming, without ever bothering to work out whether their musings could ever coalesce into something resembling a coherent narrative. It’s a film constantly trapped between its desire to appeal to the fans of the original movie, whilst also providing enough differentiation to satisfy the younger audience brought up on the kind of spectacle that felt so unique back in the late 90s.
As a result of this creative schizophrenia, Independence Day: Resurgence is a bloated mess. There are dozens of characters, but none of them are ever fleshed out enough to become fully rounded humans. New characters are given basic backstories and left to roam for themselves in the wasteland of the story, whilst returning faces from the past are reduced to a single character trait rather than a complete personality. Bill Pullman, for instance, is troubled by his past and Jeff Goldblum just delivers quips. Almost every line of Goldblum’s dialogue is an infuriating one-liner that may as well be delivered with a glance to camera and a knowing wink.
Everything about this film seems to have regressed. In 1996, practical effects gave a grotesque physicality to the marauding alien invaders but here, ropey CGI renders them entirely hopeless. That ropey grasp of computer imagery continues into the whole film, which is a shonky visual mess. It looks as if it was produced by a child using Windows Movie Maker for pocket money, rather than a Hollywood studio working with a $150m budget. By the time a final Big Bad is revealed, the film’s cheap look becomes a real problem. If the scenery had toppled over to reveal a stagehand in an all black suit, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise.
In an attempt to add complexity to the storyline, the film piles on a third act MacGuffin that should never have played a part in the movie because it is, both literally and figuratively, a total narrative blank state. It’s all the more galling given the intriguing notion in the early stages of a present that is subtly different from our own as a result of borrowed alien technology from the first invasion. All of that intrigue is squandered almost immediately by a film that is far more interested in following Brent Spiner with his arse hanging out.
Pop or Poop?
Independence Day: Resurgence is a terribly boring, badly made and entirely pitiful sequel to a movie that wasn’t that brilliant to begin with. The performances are dull and the script is a prime example of what happens when too many cooks are pottering around the kitchen, tossing ingredients at random into a pot that increasingly resembles a festering, fermented abomination of a stew.
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