Independence Day: Resurgence feels more like Independence Day: Rehash as it covers a lot of the same ground the first film did, back in 1996. I also thought of a lot of other similar-style words, but I’ll come to those later.
The first thing you want to know is: Is this film worth going to see on the big screen? Yes is the answer. The plot may feel about as well-structured as a Channel 5 TV Movie of the Week, and there’s an overall lack of passion to the proceedings, with it being played too much for laughs, but some of those laughs are big ones and I was glad to catch it sooner rather than later. And catch it you should.
The last film I saw on the day of release – so the day you’d expect it to be at its most busy, was X-Men Apocalypse. I was the first one in, and was eventually joined by about 20 others. This one? Well, I took my seat next to Nigel Farage. He just wouldn’t shut up, moaning: “Bloody immigrants, coming over here, blowing up our landmarks! They always go for the landmarks!”
No, of course he wasn’t there. Unfortunately, so was nobody else. Yes, I was in there on my own. On opening day, at 3pm. I know there’d been a few earlier screenings including a midnight one, but the last time I was in a cinema on my own was in 1994, watching Geena Davis and James Gandolfini in the much-underrated Angie. That was an indie film with a small budget, while this is the sequel to one of the biggest hits towards the end of the last century, and with a budget of $165m. Independence Day: Resurgence deserves better than that. It’s certainly more fun than the overlong and ponderous Captain America: Civil War, the way-too-serious Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and the overhyped and mostly humourless Jurassic World.
That makes me realise that when I said earlier that Resurgence is played too much for laughs, I shouldn’t complain for being too silly, since compared to what’s gone before, some levity is required. And brevity, too. Roland Emmerich let 2012 bang on for over two-and-a-half-hours. Okay, there was a lot of ground to cover with that one, literally as it showed events round the world, but the first Independence Day film also passed a similar amount of time. This one? A straight two hours. It didn’t need more. Please can more film-makers take note. I can’t think of a single blockbuster from the last few years, running over two hours, that didn’t need anywhere from 20-40 minutes taking out of it. This one? Very little. Some cast members, yes, but for the running time, very little. Michael Bay, especially, take note.
So, what’s the plot? Taking place on the 20th anniversary of the first attack, over the intervening time, the world has become a better place. The alien tech left behind has helped boost the military’s weaponry, and there’s been no more wars anywhere on the planet as a result of the world putting aside their differences after what was declared “The Great War of ’96”. Blimey, who’d have thought there was a solution to the loonies in ISIS?
Giving a nod to the possible outcome later this year, the US has a female President, President Lanford (Sela Ward), but for the rest of the cast who have more of an impact, those who return are led by Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, his character now some great leading expert in all things world-friendly-after-alien-butt-kicked, but it just feels like he’s another character along for the ride, given how sloppily it has been written. After NASA loses contact with their base on Saturn and they suspect something’s going on, Bill Pullman‘s former President, Whitmore, knows the aliens are coming back because they’re still in his head, and it also looks like he’s suffered at least one stroke along the way which makes at least one of the film’s later events completely preposterous during a film where the events do come across as quite plausible if we ever did suffer an alien invasion.
Maika Monroe (The Guest, It Follows) is Whitmore’s daughter, Patricia, a former fighter pilot, but gave it up to look after pops after he went dolally. She’s also the girlfriend of Jake (Liam Hemsworth, who’s acted off the screen by the fact I couldn’t help noticing he’s a bit boss-eyed. Yes, his performance is that gripping). He’s partnered with Dylan Hiller (Jessie T Usher), son of Will Smith’s character from the first film. Will Smith isn’t here. Why? I’ll come to that later.
Cast aside the deadweight and get back to the best person in this film – Brent Spiner returning as Dr Okun. Yes, he didn’t die in the first film, but then they never said he did. He’s been in a coma for the past 20 years, and just as Whitmore’s affected by the aliens’ return, so they’ve also made Okun spring back to life. Spiner also gets a lot more screen time this time round, providing most of the laughs, and all the better for it. Also back is Judd Hirsch as David’s father, Julius, the actor being just 18 years Goldblum’s senior, so that’s just about possible (certainly moreso than Sean Connery was to Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, as there’s just under 12 years difference between them). There’s no time to play chess, this time, but before he gets more involved in the goings-on, we first see him eeking out his 15 minutes of fame from 1996 by giving talks to promote his book, “How I Saved The World”, despite being reduced to only getting bored audiences in care homes.
William Fichtner deviates not at all from his usual acting path as army bod General Adams, while Charlotte Gainsbourg continues to prove she can’t act her way out of a paper bag, and her character, Catherine Marceaux, is entirely redundant and also offscreen a lot of the time, so when she returns, you’d forgot she was ever in it. I can’t understand why anyone ever hires her. Every character she ever plays is a wishy-washy airhead who looks like she couldn’t care whether the world prospered or exploded.
Robert Loggia is also back. Very briefly. He sadly died last year but has as brief a cameo as possible. In fact, his character looked CGI’d in, and badly. Like Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker when the remastered Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was released, but his character was meant to be shimmering. Loggia wasn’t.
Vivica A Fox also returns as mother to a fighter pilot son, and wife to an offscreen other fighter pilot, but my favourite cast member on screen is the beyond-gorgeous Angelababy, another fighter pilot looking for retribution against the alien hoardes.
Her character is Rain Lao. I misread the end credits scrolling up the screen, partly down to Vue’s insistence at switching the lights back on when the end credits begin, and up to full brightness, so you can barely read what’s being said. I thought her character was “Rain Lad”, which is normally what you’d expect a Geordie farmer to insist upon after a rare heatwave in the North East.
However, like any new characters in this film, I only learned of their names when the end credits rolled since (a) you rarely get to hear them named during the film, and (b) it doesn’t matter one jot what they’re called. They’re defined by their actions (eg. nerdy businessman, sword-wielding angry man) and whether or not they’re boss-eyed.
Still, despite any casting issues, Emmerich plays to his strengths by getting some good and semi-regular laughs out of those who can deliver the goods.
So, the plot. Well, the aliens are coming back (but you knew that already), and the humans have to find a way to put a stop to it by making up all their plans on the hoof. In a two-hour movie, it feels like about 25 minutes in before Roland Emmerich switched on the special effects machine. Once the aliens started attacking, the mothership soon came along, and was so big it has its own gravity, sucking everything up like the simple brains of Republican members of the Senate trying to deny a vote on gun control.
However, rather than think up all new scenarios, jokes and lines, Emmerich and co have just repeated many previous ones. To ape the title of this sequel, this situation is very Independence Day: Remiss of them.
In fact, I could also apply Independence Day: Repeat. If I wanted to go for a long title, I’d say Independence Day: Regurgitation, in keeping with the long subtitle of this sequel, but that sounds a bit too tight on it. Worse still would be Independence Day: Reflux… or even, Independence Day: Acid Reflux… but overall, I’ll go for Independence Day: Rehash.
Three they couldn’t use have been taken by other sequels: Universal Soldier: The Return, Alien Resurrection and Resident Evil: Retribution.
Like I said, the plot has issue. The original Indepedence Day built up slowly, and brilliantly. This one doesn’t. It borrows too much from the first film. I’ll list the major ones below, but will hide them behind a spoiler heading so you can easily avoid them:
Something that’s not been done before… here, comes when an alien is seen in a vehicle’s rear-view mirror, with Jeff Goldblum looking at it, like Sam Neill did with the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, another big franchise in which Goldblum starred.
And when you have the good guys chasing after a certain alien, or indeed being chased *by* them, it feels like the film should be playing Stop The Pigeon from Wacky Races in the background.
Given how 3D wasn’t the in-thing when the first film was released, Roland Emmerich has put it into position with this sequel. Alas, there’s too much close-up 3D which doesn’t really work. I thought it was because I was sat too close to the screen, but as there was no-one else in the room I was able to try a few rows back. No, it was still the same. It’s little things like when we’re looking into the cockpit of a fighter plane. The main characters are in the mid-ground, while a barrier at the top of the stairs going into the cockpit is right at the front of our vision. It really jars. If you do the 3D well, it works great, a la Life of Pi with the lad pointing that stick at the tiger. However, Independence Day: Resurgence wasn’t shot in 3D, so it’s all been converted in post-production. Scenes of the alien mothership are great, but other than that, there’s not a lot that’s necessary, so if you see it in 2D, you’re missing nothing major and you’ll get the idea from basic perspective.
All that said, after about 30 minutes, Emmerich seemed to give up with that aspect, and just concentrate more on the mid-to-background stereoscopy. Oh, and the alien queen looks good in 3D when it’s briefly suiting up its ‘armour’.
Thankfully, there’s no time for a cheesy speech in this film, and one line from the trailer isn’t even in the film. The one where Liam speculates regarding the aliens’ arrival, “Should we be worried?”, with Goldblum replying, “Er… Yeah!!!”
Overall, this movie is quite an average sequel. It’s nowhere near as bad as Robocop 2 or Men In Black II, but more on a par with TRON: Legacy. It also hints at a possibility of a ‘threequel’, so will they crowbar in Revolution or something else equally uninspiring into the title? Hmmm… The Matrix and Step Up both tried that, and neither were exactly heralded as the next Citizen Kane.
What was the fate of Will Smith’s character?
Is there a post-credits sequence?
Will there be a third film in the series?
Check out my panDOMonoium vlog below: Independence Day: Resurgence… or Rehash?
Running time: 120 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Format: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Hawk Scope, Redcode RAW (4K) (6K))
Released: June 23rd 2016
Director: Roland Emmerich
Producers: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser
Screenplay: Nicolas Wright, James A Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and James Vanderbilt
Music: Harald Kloser and Thomas Wanker
David Levinson: Jeff Goldblum
President Whitmore: Bill Pullman
Dr. Brakish Okun: Brent Spiner
Jake Morrison: Liam Hemsworth
Patricia Whitmore: Maika Monroe
Dylan Hiller: Jessie T Usher
General Adams: William Fichtner
Julius Levinson: Judd Hirsch
Rain Lao: Angelababy
Voice of Sphere: Jenna Purdy
Sam: Joey King
Bobby: Garrett Wareing
Felix: Hays Wellford
Daisy: Mckenna Grace
President Lanford: Sela Ward
Secretary of Defense Tanner: Patrick St. Esprit
Catherine Marceaux: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Jasmine Hiller: Vivica A Fox
Dikembe Umbutu: Deobia Oparei
Floyd Rosenberg: Nicolas Wright
Charlie Miller: Travis Tope
Commander Jiang: Chin Han
Agent Travis: Gbenga Akinnagbe
General Grey: Robert Loggia
Dr. Isaacs: John Storey
Lt. Ritter: James Andre Woods
Captain McQuaide: Robert Neary
Armand: Joshua Mikel
Jaques: Joel Virgel
Bordeaux: Arturo del Puerto
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.