Independence Day was released to quite the willing audience back in 1996. Director Roland Emmerich took a B-grade concept from yesteryear and brought to the screens a big-budget, special-effects extravaganza that succeeded thanks to one thing: It was damn entertaining.
It’s twenty years later, and while VFX possibilities are now almost infinite, Emmerich and co. simply haven’t been able to deliver a repeat performance. Independence Day: Resurgence, a redo without any of the urgency that made the first film a fun popcorn flick.
The sequel follows on from the events in the original. It’s twenty years later and the world has changed from the alien attacks in 1996. Countries now stand at peace with one another, and technology has gone on to incorporate alien tech, sourced from those spaceships that came down when Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson and Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller took on what they assumed was the mothership. Of course, it turns out the aliens have just been biding their time. They’re back, stronger than ever, and they’re decidedly peeved.
It’s hard to pinpoint one element that makes this sequel unimpressive, mostly due to the fact there are so many faults to point at. On paper, Resurgence must certainly appear to offer a good time, potentially giddily entertaining action and destruction backed by a mindless yet hopefully joyful screenplay. The issue, unfortunately, is that the action and destruction is made up of mostly been-there-before sequences of dull mayhem, and the screenplay is simply mindless, period. The bigger-is-better ideas on display here should provide a nice extension of what we received in ’96, but the oh-so basic script goes for the obvious, asserting that audiences will embrace a similar premise if the threats are made visually larger.
Five – FIVE! – writers tackled this screenplay, which mostly involves following the narrative template introduced in the first film, providing some nods for fans, throwing around sequences of destruction for our run-of-the-mill characters to gawk at, and ensuring there’s a set up for a third film. You can sense a certain disjointed laziness here, as though each writer went off on their own, sparked up some basic tropes and ideas, then came together to slide them all into some sort of screenplay.
The entertainment value brought in the original was in part thanks to the cast, which included Will Smith in a star-making role. And we simply don’t have anyone with Smith’s appeal or level of charisma for us to follow throughout the silly proceedings here. An argument can certainly be made for Jeff Goldblum’s return, and he is one of this film’s most positive factors, but when you’re surround by such poorly written, severely bland characters, brought to life by unfortunately mediocre performances, all one is left to do is reminisce on how Smith managed to boost a juvenile screenplay twenty years ago.
Liam Hemsworth may be easy on the eyes, but, and I’m putting it nicely, he doesn’t have the sort of skills or gravitas needed to carry us through this kind of picture. Although, this is ultimately an ensemble piece, so the lacklustre performances are also shared by Jessie T. Usher as the son of Will Smith’s original character (*sigh*), Hong Kong model/actress Angelababy as the painful Rain Leo, and even Bill Pullman, who’s frustratingly dull as the now somewhat emotionally incapacitated ex-President Whitmore.
Admittedly, strong performances aren’t the primary reason people head towards this fare. It’s the bang that often deserves the buck with these pics, and yes, there are a number of moments that will raise the odd eyebrow, including a decent finale involving a creature and a bus, but in an era where blockbusters come filled with CG visuals, there’s nothing here that stands out. Perhaps revisiting the type of model-focused visual effects seen in the first film may have helped to provide visual inventiveness.
While there are many, many complaints to be made, this isn’t a complete bomb of a film. Thankfully, the quick pace ensures the film doesn’t bog down in any one eye-rolling development for too long, plus Goldblum does his thing, saving countless moments from going totally down the drain. Nevertheless, Independence Day: Resurgence fizzles away, a highly forgettable sci-fi outing that crumbles under the weight of carelessness and the absence of that one thing you need in films like this: Fun.