Independence Day: Resurgence

Year: 2016
Production Co: Centropolis Entertainment
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Roland Emmerich
Producer: Dean Devlin
Writer: Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Jessie T Usher, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, William Fitchner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vivica Fox

There are two problems with Independence Day, one that stands out as soon as you leave the cinema, the other occurs to you later. The first one is that Roland Emmerich's return to disaster porn (after his ill-fated foray into historical drama with Anonymous and his disastrous take on the birth of the gay rights movement in Stonewall) is a victim of its own success.

Like or hate the 1996 original film, it did something different. The kind of big screen CGI spectacle that now comes out every week was in short supply back then. Sure there were blockbusters, but few films whipped up such fervour and then delivered with such breathtaking scope.

It was not only inspired by Star Wars (as writer/producer Dean Devlin said at the time), it was a direct successor to it, resetting our expectations of blockbuster cinema and ushering in a new age that's ridden the power of computer animation to near-mediocrity again.

So Independence Day has done the same thing as the Star Wars saga. The original films arrived in very different movie-going climates from the ones their sequels did, and by the time of both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Independence Day: Resurgence they were just two of many big screen smash-em-ups full of thrills and special effects.

The second problem is that despite the set dressing, it follows a very overused path in sci-fi. It might not have started with Alien / Aliens, but that franchise set the gold standard. Where any film pits the heroes against horrible non-human creatures (especially if they have even vaguely insectoid features or behaviour), it will occur to some screenwriter or producer that those monsters were just the worker bees – this time around we'll meet the far more terrifying queen.

The scenes of the alien queen galloping across the desert chasing a school bus (don't ask) full of people the size of a toy are visually arresting and very cool, but does nobody in these pitch meetings ever realise the 'queen of the hive' thing has been done to death?

It's 20 years after the first war with the giant space-shipped aliens, and as the trailer says, they've had as much time to prepare as we have. A united humanity now has a vastly advanced fighting force built on what we learned from the alien technology after the last war – including giant ray gun cannons, fleets of jets and a forward defence base on the moon.

David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is the director of the vast planetary agency in charge of it all, and while investigating strange sightings and stories by a warlord in Africa (accompanied by Charlotte Gainsbourg in cheque-collecting mode), he fears the worst – humanity's tentacled enemies are coming back, and they mean to finish the job.

When they do, Emmerich drinks a huge gulp of Michael Bay's Kool-aid by doing everything Bigger! Louder! and Smashier! When the new alien mothership arrives and lands in the Atlantic Ocean it takes up the whole ocean, clinging to the Earth like a limpet on a rock. You've also seen the destruction that rains down when entire cities are sucked upwards because it has its own gravity (the continuity is as wobbly as the science in the sequence – we see the skyscrapers and bridges of Kuala Lumpur drawn into the sky, but then they seem to shower back down on top of London).

Old friends and foes come out of the woodwork including former President James Whitmore (Bill Pullman) to fight back, but just like Star Wars couldn't be about a bunch of arthritic sixtysomethings anymore, it introduces a new cadre of hot young-uns in the form of cocky pilots (Liam Hemsworth and Jessie T Usher) who'll go on to the do the Top Gun -ey stuff to save the day.

There are plenty of eye-rolling moments and a final scene ending that's completely tacked on like someone thought of it right before shooting, and everyone present (with the exception of Goldblum and his signature verbal tics) thinks they're in a much more serious film than they really are.

The thrills and spills are there to be had on the big screen, but the last film didn't need to be smart or avoid its many cliches (yes, there's another dog rescue) because the awesome sense of size was the unique selling point.

Now that such scope can be wrangled by a fanboy director on his home PC, it needed something else to stand out. Unfortunately, feel-good nostalgia isn't it.

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