Independence Day: Resurgence


Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Independence Day: Resurgence
"The new blood get to run around saving the world in a largely unremarkable fashion."

In 1996 Roland Emmerich promised to revolutionise the scale of blockbusters, with his sci-fi epic Independence Day. From the indulgence of blowing up the sacred cow of the White House, to further destruction on a scale audiences supposedly wouldn’t believe, Independence Day ended up being a camp and altogether lightweight vehicle for a young Will Smith, with a still impressive mix of practical effects and bleeding edge computer effects. I remember watching, as a child, pre-release fluff pieces on the effects, how the team managed to create the iconic rolling fire and smoke effect with models, lights and fishtanks, and being enraptured by the scenes of complicated aerial dog fights and model cars being vacuumed up by the ominous alien disks.

20 years later, the aliens are back, and they face an Earth united under Sela Ward’s icy President Lanford, with returning cast Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner all slowly converging back to Area 51 to combat yet another extinction level event. In the past two decades much has changed on and off screen: in the world of ID4, alien technology and the threat of being winked out of existence has brought Earth together. The people are unified by clean energy, advanced travel and retrofitted alien guns pointing skywards. Offscreen, the blockbuster has hit a soporfic stride, with monuments being toppled yearly, seemingly on repeat and without reason. Aliens are largely a kitsch villain these days, with Battle: Los Angeles, Skyline and Battleship all trying - and failing - to turn our post 9/11 eyes upwards rather than inwards.

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Joining the old stars are new heroes in the shape of orphans Liam Hemsworth and Travis Tope (fighter pilots resigned to piloting tug craft on the moon) as well as the son of Smith’s captain Hiller, played by Jessie T Usher. The new blood get to run around saving the world in a largely unremarkable fashion, with the typical Chekhovian nudge and wink. Less abley serviced by the film are Maika Monroe as the former President's daughter (confusingly replacing Mae Whitman despite being roughly the same age) and William Fichtner as a high ranking General. Maika gets a particularly raw deal as every scene she’s in seems to end with her facing away from the camera, as if the scriptwriters had little for her to do other than give the cinematographer a few chances to grab alternate footage for promotional posters.

With the stakes global thanks to a 3,000 mile wide UFO, the film proceeds in a way that 1996’s cinematic and business climate wasn’t interested in, nor its special effects capable of presenting. As such, rising Chinese star Angelbaby also plays a maverick pilot, with Deobia Oparei playing an African warlord plagued by alien visions, and Charlotte Gainsbourg appearing as a psychologist specialising in said extra terrestrial visions. The problem with a cast this wide and scattered is apparent in the film, as it spends most of its time shepherding them from continent to continent, with little time given to any character development. There’s no depth, little motivation beyond the obvious, and the only people that end up garnering any interest are the scatterbrained scientists, Goldbum and Spiner, doing the same schtick they did two decades ago, albeit with a larger cast of stiffs to play off.

Even the global destruction is oddly curtailed. The touchdown sequence that marks the ship's arrival is definitely impressive, ticking off with extreme prejudice a shopping list of Chinese, European and American cities with gravity defying demolition on a ludicrous scale. Ultimately though, it all feels like a hollow attempt to appease a global market before the film predictably shifts back to Area 51 for a jingoistic, boots on the ground, guns in the air take on saving the world. It’s nothing that hasn’t been seen in the last decade of blockbusters, and the laboured seeds of another sequel threaded through the plot mean that the ending suffers a loss of what little impact it managed to rouse despite essentially repeating the plot of the original. At least there’s very little chance of the next film in the series bewildering casual viewers with a demand for accountability for the scenes of catastrophe, as for once a decidedly exterior enemy is to blame for the wasteland of wreckage that remains - something that might be the only refreshingly honest thing about the film.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2016
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Two decades after Independence Day, the aliens return to have another go. Humans have prepared for this event, but so have they.
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Director: Roland Emmerich

Writer: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Deobia Oparei, Jessie T Usher, Angelbaby, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Year: 2016

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: US


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