Independence Day: Resurgence

Posted: July 2, 2016 in Film reviews
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Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman.

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Jeff and Liam were regretting the big curry they had last night…

Twenty years have passed since the war of 1996, and humanity is now united, and benefiting from technology retrofitted from the crashed alien ships. So we have helicopters without rotor blades, futuristic space fighters, a chain of defence satellites and even a base on the moon where Jake Morrison (Hemsworth) has been relegated to being a tug pilot after an accident during training that almost killed his friend, Dylan Hiller (Jessie Usher) the son of Will Smith’s character from the first film. When Hiller arrives on the Moon leading the Legacy Squadron (a multinational fleet of fighter pilots) their reunion gets off to a shaky start when Hiller punches Morrison out.

Meanwhile down on Earth former President Whitmore (Pullman) keeps having recurring dreams about a curious symbol. These dreams are not unique to him,  Dr Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg who I can’t believe is in this kind of film) has been investigating this phenomena. She has travelled to Africa where she meets up with David Levinson (Goldblum). Both have finally been granted access to an intact alien saucer by African warlord Umbutu. Levinson doesn’t hold with her studies into these recurring dreams, but when a wormhole appears near the Moon and a spherical spaceship comes out of it he sees a similarity with the visions. Despite Levinson arguing that the ship doesn’t resemble those that attacked twenty years ago, and may be benevolent, the American President orders it destroyed.

Disobeying orders Morrison takes a tug and collects Levinson and others before ferrying them to the crash site of the new alien ship on the Moon. Whist they are retrieving some alien technology a huge alien mothership three thousand miles wide arrives in lunar orbit. It makes short work of the moon base and Earth’s orbital defences and then lands in the Atlantic.

As the mothership starts drilling to Earth’s core the human race must once again rise to the challenge of defeating a superior foe, and must once again celebrate their independence!

There are some films that don’t really need a sequel, and then there are some films crying out for a follow up. 1996’s Independence Day falls somewhere between these two stools. On the one hand it works perfectly well as standalone film, but on the other there always was something intriguing about how humanity might rebuild itself and make use of alien technology.

Watching Independence Day Resurgence you might be left thinking that they shouldn’t have bothered. Which isn’t to say it’s terrible. It’s quite bad in places, but actually quite fun in others, but overall it’s the very definition of meh!

It starts well enough. It’s interesting to see the melding of human and alien technology, and to catch up with those characters still around from the first film, although many of them seem to have died off camera (Will Smith, Levinson’s original love interest etc.) which always feels like a cheap way to explain why they’re not in the film—although given some of the contrivances to ensure some original cast members play their part this might not be such a terrible thing. The prime example being Judd Hirsch as Levinson’s cantankerous dad. He was fun in the first film, but he really is pointless this time around. Also Vivica A. Fox returns, no longer a stripper now she’s a medical professional, but she’s given very little to do aside from giving Dylan someone to care about.

Still, at least to begin with the films is interesting. Incongruously where it all starts to go wrong is when the aliens show up. For starters the pacing goes awry. The film seems to be in a huge rush to get the aliens down on the ground. Where the original film took its time to set things up, Resurgence just seems in a big hurry, which leaves characters underdeveloped and also serves to make the threat less, well threatening. This is odd given that the aliens’ drilling down to the Earth’s core is going to destroy the Earth, but the situation never comes as close to feeling as dire as it did in the first film.

In some respects it’s good that they didn’t go for the succession of city destroying scenes we had first time around, but it just comes off feeling smaller scale, like a lower budget TV movie sequel to an original blockbuster (which is odd given its budget appears to dwarf that of the original).

For all I know Goldblum and Pullman might be dialling in their performances, but both are such good actors that I doubt you’d realise it, in particularly Goldblum is very good—but he does have more to do. Interestingly I thought the best thing—character wise—about the film was Next Gen’s Data himself, Brent Spiner who incongruously returns as Doctor Okun (who pretty much seemed to die in the first film as I recall!) and who is quite obviously having a ball playing the exceptionally mad scientist. Frankly I wouldn’t have enjoyed the film half as much without him.

Of the newcomers Hemsworth probably makes the biggest impression, although his character is pretty thin as he’s just playing your standard hotshot fighter pilot. It Follows’ Maika Monroe takes over the role of Whitmore’s daughter Patti (and becomes Morrison’s love interest) and does a good job, even if she seems a trifle young—I don’t want to get into why the original actress wasn’t used, but I hope it wasn’t a ‘babe’ issue—and whilst I can fault the film on several levels it does at least give us two female fighter pilots, and whilst neither Patti or Rain, the Chinese ace, are Rey by any stretch of the imagination, they’re at least not helpless damsels in distress. Usher has the most thankless task because he has to play the straight shooter, and he comes off poorly compared to Hemsworth.

Really it’s in the smaller roles that the film succeeds. Alongside Spiner I liked Deobia Oparei’s eloquent warlord, Nicolas Wright’s comedy accountant/Rambo and Travis Tope who basically seems to be playing Dak from Empire Strikes Back…

It doesn’t succeed as a whole, even though the final third is quite exciting, for a variety of reasons. Independence Day worked in part because as much as it was an alien invasion film, it was a disaster movie, and it gave us characters we cared about in peril. Resurgence jettisons this aspect, aside from a few poorly executed scenes involving Judd Hirsch leading the worst group of child actors ever assembled and Fox trying to escape a collapsing hospital, and the film is poorer for it. I would normally argue that films are too long but really this could have done with being longer—though only if that added length added character rather than more explosions.

The effects are great but even here the film isn’t as good as the first, the dogfights are ok but lack the visceral thrill of those in the first film. The dialogue is, at times, cringe worthy (“Don’t let us die for nothing!”) and whilst you could say the same about the first film that was, again, offset by the greater characterisation. Resurgence is a film that mainly reminds you of other films (Aliens, Empire Strikes Back-even Jurassic Park) and tries—and fails—to riff on its own predecessor with its own “Welcome to Earth” and “Hello boys, I’m back!” style moments that just remind you how cool the first film was. It’s also shamelessly and chunkily skewed towards the Chinese market.

It’s a perfectly serviceable, yet perfectly forgettable film that does not improve on Independence Day in any way (except in having more Dr Okun) and offers nothing you haven’t seen before in better films. Characters are constantly saying things like “That’s definitely bigger than the last time” but overall this film’s much smaller than the last one.

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Don’t shut up, Data!

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Comments
  1. Hmm. Never seen the original, so there’s probably even less reason for me to watch this one!

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