Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Maika Monroe, Jessie Usher, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Brent Spiner, Angelababy
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Date: June 24th
It’s here! 20 years following the rampant success of iconic blockbuster Independence Day comes a sequel that nobody really needed shorn of its most charismatic presence. This time out, the battle is unavoidably uphill.
Independence Day: Resurgence exists because director Roland Emmerich has a hard-on for massive scale destruction, itself a tired trope of equally jaded modern summer popcorn multiplex fare. Who better, then, to lead the latest assault on skyscrapers and landmarks than the man behind Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 and the opening chapters of this particular tale? Also back for the ride; cult favourite Jeff Goldblum and hey-it’s-nice-to-see-him-again Bill Pullman, both of whom the film require in order to function with any sense of narrative fluidity.
Alas, telling a compelling and coherent story isn’t the order of the day here and so practically every scene is bogged down with exposition dumps, lifeless archetypes, odd stereotypes (the African warlord with dual machete action should make for a decent action figure, I guess) and connect-the-dots plotting in which the actions and dialogue of every single character are as easy to predict as the villain in an episode of Scooby Doo.
Plot-wise, you should know the drill. United by the previous conflict, the world has been living in perfect harmony for two decades until a distress signal announces the return of evil aliens intent on another invasion. Will Smith wasn’t interested in returning and so a casually-revealed off-screen demise puts his son (Jessie Usher) in the picture as a similarly heroic captain but the focus disappointingly shifts to reliably bland and hunky Liam Hemsworth and his fiancée Maika Monroe, who replaces Mae Whitman’s original role because Hollywood. The three are fighter pilots with a nothing backstory that goes nowhere because nobody in this film has any real agency or arc. Monroe, terrific in The Guest and It Follows, is wasted as both the hero’s love interest and the stressed-out daughter of Bill Pullman’s PTSD-scarred former president.
Like everyone around them, they are mere pawns pushed into place so that pyrotechnics may fly about the screen, and yes, that includes Goldblum, who dials his signature tics down and does the bare minimum . Elsewhere, Resurgence flirts so aggressively with the lucrative Chinese market that the transparency becomes rather uncomfortable. While it’s great to see increasingly diverse casts in tentpole big studio efforts, knowing the cold corporate reasons behind it rather skews the goodwill. And, as with pretty much everyone else, the Asian contingent get little to nothing to do.
Resurgence is a remarkably inert picture, lumbering about with no grace or charm as we move from one drab set piece to another. Attempts at humour fall flat, most notably encapsulated by one character whose entire raison d’être is to be deliberately useless and irritating until an inevitable hero moment arrives. Emmerich’s bore-fest is ostensibly a re-tread, playing it safe with familiar beats including alien/human ventriloquism, noble suicide bombings (a concept that feels especially uncomfortable in 2016) and a bit with a dog.
Independence Day: Resurgence hits its B-movie pastiche marks with lashings of nonsense, acting that would struggle to convince in your average porn film and a wholesale lack of subtlety but the entire affair is so frustratingly joyless that you’ll greet the gleeful cut-to-credits promise of a third entry like a more alarming threat than that of another intergalactic breach. If you’re still awake, that is.