INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
Earth 2 Alien scum 0
Was the follow-up worth waiting two decades for?
released OUT NOW! 12a | 120 minutes Director roland emmerich Cast Jeff Goldblum, Maika Monroe, liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman
In 2008 Roland Emmerich opened his luxury London home to the world’s media. His taste in interior decor was remarkable: a painting of Jesus in a Wham! T-shirt; a diorama of the doomed Kennedy motorcade; a life-size waxwork of Pope John Paul II, reading his own obituaries.
Did we really have Emmerich wrong all these years? Was the man behind such earnest catastrophe porn as 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow really an exponent of high-end kitsch, more art world prankster Jeff Koons than disaster movie merchant Irwin Allen? Was it too late to wrap quote marks around his schlock-studded oeuvre? Too late to regard it all with a knowing smirk?
If that’s Emmerich’s true artistic impulse then it’s buried in this tardy, disappointing sequel. While Independence Day revelled in rah-rah patriotism and thunderous bubblegum thrills – it would have played like gangbusters released in the age of Trump – Resurgence dials down the jingoism and goes easier on the cheese. It also ditches the disaster flick blueprint that made the original such a canny crowdpleaser. If Independence Day wanted to be The Towering Inferno mated with Star Wars, its encore has no higher ambition than strapping itself into a fighter jet and zapping alien ass.
Gone is the sense of an ordinary world, ordinary people, waking up to something ominous and unknowable. No giant shadows fall on everyday cities. Twenty years on we have monorails and a moonbase and all kinds of tech-candy, salvaged from alien science (there’s something strangely touching about this shiny sci-fi utopia – it looks wonderful, so uncynical).
Now our heroes are the frontline pilots defending planet Earth. Sadly they’re a stiff bunch of ciphers. You feel for Maika Monroe and Jessie Usher, tossed these slivers of character by an unforgiving screenplay, trying so hard to three-dimensionalise these blanks. The movie wants Liam Hemsworth to be the dazzling Top Gun scoundrel, filling the almighty void left by Will Smith, but he’s sold to us as a charmless jock.
It’s left to the old guard to inject some desperately needed life. Brent Spiner has contagious, outsized fun as resurrected hippy boffin Brackish Okun. Bill Pullman, once a weaponised Bill Clinton, is now a bearded loon, ravaged by visions. A seemingly ageless Judd Hirsch brings genuine warmth and humanity. And then there’s Jeff Goldblum, moving through it all like mercury,
Gone is the sense of an ordinary world
nervy and ironic, observing his own movie as if it’s some particularly fascinating thought experiment. God, he’s great.
Emmerich delivers on the visuals, naturally. Flashlights explore an eerie, skull-filled African night. A mothership squats over a shanty town, District
9-style. The palette seems darker, colder. Elsewhere the sky steals cars and boats and people. London succumbs to an apocalyptic firestorm (“They like to get the landmarks,” declares Goldblum, knowingly, as Tower Bridge falls, but there’s less of this kind of thing than you might imagine – maybe the aliens have lost their hunger, or perhaps Emmerich has). The new mothership, preposterously, kind of gloriously, is over 3,000 miles in diameter. Trailer-friendly soundbites remind us it’s “bigger than the last one!”
Ultimately it’s all so much empty shock and awe. Bad narrative choices begin to bleed through the cracks in the spectacle. Hirsch suddenly finds himself in charge of a busful of kids, as if the film has just remembered it needs to be about real people too. A throwaway line about African rebels fighting a bitter ground war with the last wave of invaders leaves you pining for that movie instead.
Resurgence feels like a franchise extension that’s 15 years too late. The last words we hear are shameless sequel-bait but it’s hard to imagine anyone caring now. Stirring music plays but this bland, oddly ephemeral film never quite earns its victory. Sometimes bad taste is better than no aftertaste at all.
Dr Okun is named in tribute to Jeffrey A Okun, digital effects supervisor on Emmerich’s 1994 hit Stargate.
Everyone was shocked by the referendum result.
“But I thought Chris Hemsworth’s brother was Loki!”