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.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts about this film…
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.