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