Independence Day: Resurgence – Film Review

When the first Independence Day came out in 1996 it was seen – eventually – as a revelation. Roland Emmerich’s alien invasion disaster flick reinvented the summer blockbuster, upping the ante as he obliterated entire cities. A new wave of sci-fi actioners has followed, all competing to wipe out bustling metropolises. But that poses what turns out to be an insurmountable challenge for Emmerich with this sequel. When destroying major population centres is the norm, how to raise the stakes?

Emmerich gives it his best shot, coming up with an intriguing angle for his belated follow-up. Picking up 20 years after the first invasion, Earth is enjoying an unprecedented period of harmony, harvesting crashed alien technology to re-build a better world and bolster the planet’s defences ready for any potential retaliation. The trauma of our near-annihilation is still sharply felt by the survivors with children growing up without families, older generations scarred by memories of the battle, and an underlying fear the invaders will one day return.

Such retribution inevitably comes to pass when an alien spaceship, 3,000 miles wide and with the power to generate its own gravity, breezes past Earth’s defences and threatens to hoover up the very core of the planet. With time running out for humanity, the planet’s remaining forces band together to find a way to defeat this seemingly unstoppable foe.

While a continent-guzzling spacecraft the size of the Atlantic undoubtedly qualifies as ‘upping the ante’, such gargantuan scale is actually the movie’s biggest flaw. There’s simply too much action and far too many characters to absorb in just two hours.

Liam Hemsworth’s hot-shot fighter pilot and Maika Monroe’s stubborn former First Daughter have potential as new additions, but they become lost in a sea of undeveloped supporting characters who serve little purpose in the plot. It’s telling that the two most compelling players – Jeff Goldblum’s alien buff and Bill Pullman’s retired President – are ones with which we’re already familiar, the latter being handed a particularly meaty arc as the PTSD suffering Whitmore.

There’s still something undeniably thrilling about Resurgence, though. Emmerich’s title as the Master of Disaster is well-earned, as he proves here with a series of spectacular skirmishes which fizz with tension. And his knack for creating an arresting image remains unparalleled – who else could dream up a giant spaceship squatting atop our planet?

But while the visual thrills are incredibly entertaining, there’s no denying this sequel lacks the playful sense of humour of its predecessor. Aside from a scene-stealing turn from Brent Spiner’s mad scientist and some choice lines from Goldblum, most of the one-liners feel clunky and overworked. For a movie as utterly ludicrous as this one, it really doesn’t pay to take itself so seriously. As Goldblum exclaims in one of his more knowing remarks: “That’s definitely bigger than the last one.” Sadly, that doesn’t mean it’s better.

Runtime: 120 mins; Genre: Sci-fi; Released: 23 June 2016;

Director: Roland Emmerich; Writers: Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt;

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe

Click here to watch a trailer for Independence Day: Resurgence

Warcraft: The Beginning – Film Review

Duncan Jones is certainly not one to shirk a challenge. The director’s previous efforts, Moon and Source Code, both had complex narratives that required weaving together. Still, the overwhelming feeling is that, in attempting to adapt this gargantuan video game franchise, this time he has taken on more than he can handle.

The universe of World of Warcraft, a game adored by millions but completely alien to millions more, is a sprawling one. It’s packed with a vast number of lands which are populated by all manner of fantastical creatures – humans, orcs, dwarves and elves. And while Jones just about manages to herd all these elements into a coherent narrative, it’s one that lacks heart and a crucial sense of fun.

Those familiar with fantasy epics like Avatar and The Hobbit will not be surprised by this routine clash of worlds tale. There’s even a magical McGuffin to drive the plot in the form of a giant portal which helps an orc horde, led by the patently evil sorcerer Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), escape their dying world. They wash up in the kingdom of Azeroth intent on ridding the land of its human settlers in preparation for the arrival of the rest of their population.

With the humans rapidly losing ground, noble King Llane (Dominic Cooper) calls upon his most trusted warrior Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and magical guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) to face the threat. They find an unlikely ally in Durotan (Toby Kebbell), the noble leader of an orc clan who has come to doubt Gul’dan’s methods.

Visually, the film is breathtaking. Both the orc world and Azeroth are expertly detailed and boast many stunning vistas. The battle scenes also impress, matching exhilarating spectacle with important character beats without become a tangled mess of CGI.

The design of the orcs is even more impressive. Using ILM to bring the creatures to life in all their hulking, phlegmy glory, the orcs are gigantic enough to pose a crushing threat yet they remain sufficiently human that you still empathise with their struggles.

There are far too many lead characters, though. The likes of Kebbell, Fimmel and Foster put everything into giving their characters real depth but without enough time to fully explore their roles, they are little more than clichéd archetypes. So much so, when it comes to killing off the main players, which Jones does with alacrity, it’s hard to care that they’ve gone.

Perhaps Warcraft might have benefited from the long form structure of TV, where there’s more time to explore characters and develop a story. As a film, though, events are simply too rushed and overcrowded to do the story justice. It doesn’t help that many of the plot strands are purposefully left unresolved ready for a sequel that might never arrive. It’s a frustratingly incomplete end to a film that promised so much but ultimately fell short precisely because it dreamed too big.

Runtime: 123 mins; Genre: Fantasy; Released: 30 May 2016;

Director: Duncan Jones; Writers: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt, Chris Metzen

Cast: Toby Kebbell, Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper, Ben Foster

Click here to watch a trailer for Warcraft: The Beginning