As the honest trailer for Roland Emmerich’s latest diaster-thon perhaps should have said, “we knew they’d come back, but nothing could prepare us for the mind-numbing stupidity of Independence Day: Resurgence“.
No-one was probably expecting the belated sequel to the 1996 monster hit to be a high water mark in cerebral filmmaking, but Emmerich and his four co-screenwriters could have at least tried to pen a script that had ambitions beyond head-bangingly terrible.
There’s something to be said for a good old mindless night at the cinema. Independence Day remains a quintessential blockbuster that strikes a balance between cheese, exhilarating (and occasionally unnerving) spectacle and charismatic acting led by the peerless Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith in a star-making turn.
Goldblum, thankfully, returns as David Levinson, the former science geek turned saviour of humanity (thanks to an uploaded computer virus that put the “universal” into universal serial bus (USB)), who is now heading up Earth Space Defense (ESD) at Area 51. He’s joined by fellow ID4 veterans Bill Pullman as former President Whitmore, plagued by the psychic alien link he experienced first time around, and Brent Spiner’s colourfully eccentric Dr Okun, who awakens from a 20-year coma just in time for ET’s return and, like numerous others, starts drawing what looks like a power symbol.
Smith, however, decided to opt out of this particular sequel (this from the guy who signed up for Men In Black 2 and Bad Boys II) and on wise-cracking duty this time around is Liam Hemsworth, who plays a maverick ESD pilot stuck in a dead-end detail on the Moon.
In spite of every major city and military base on the planet having been wiped out along with the majority of mankind following the last invasion, the human race has, with the help of alien tech (it’s not explained how we’ve been able not only to understand but also so successfully exploit ET’s technology in such a relatively short timescale) set aside its differences and rebuilt itself, even setting up bases on Mars and Saturn’s moon Rhea as well as on the Moon.
Another invasion is expected although the scale of their return when it finally comes suggests the aliens are no longer messing around, having sent a 3,000-mile wide spaceship that’s intent on finishing the job. With the odds once again firmly stacked against humanity, it’s up to our plucky bunch of heroes to save the day, including Jessie Usher as the son of Smith’s super-pilot, Maika Monroe as President Whitmore’s daughter and Angelababy as a crack Chinese pilot with ESD.
Whilst ID: Resurgence (or should that be Regurgitation?) is far from the worst summer blockbuster to have landed on our big screens, its paint-by-numbers plotting, laughable script and uninspired acting (even the normally solid William Fichtner looks dead-eyed, while Goldblum does his best with material that’s beneath him) make the 129 minute running time feel twice as long.
Even the special effects, so solid in the first movie, look largely unconvincing. A gravity-defying attack that flings all manner of giant man-made stuff in the air inspires nothing more than a resigned shrug. Maybe it’s overblown action set piece fatigue finally setting in, but watching London or some other city get flattened just doesn’t have the wow factor it once did.
Robert Loggia (rest in peace) and Vivica A. Fox, both fellow ID4 vets, are criminally wasted, while poor DeObia Oparei’s African warlord is given the worst dialogue of all (he praises somehow for “having the heart of a warrior” and reveals at one point that the aliens’ immodest ambitions encompass “the entire universe”) and is decked out by a costume department that had seemingly just watched Beasts Of No Nation.
The unoriginality also seeps into the soundtrack by Harald Kloser and the unfortunately named Thomas Wanker, who drown every scene with ‘music for dummies’ compositions that only serve to cheapen the film yet further.
The film ends with an depressingly unapologetic sequel pitch that promises destruction on an intergalactic scale. If it’s anything like as bad as Independence Day: Resurgence I’ll be rooting for the aliens.