DIR: Roland Emmerich • WRI: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt • PRO: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser • DOP: Markus Förderer • ED: Adam Wolfe • MUS: Harald Kloser, Thomas Wanker • DES: Barry Chusid • CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman
Next to Michael Bay, poor Roland Emmerich has always been a critic’s punching bag for the worst director in Hollywood. Independence Day’s maligned legacy as the nadir of Hollywood blockbusters derives primarily from Emmerich’s affectionate speciality for bombastic and over-the-top storytelling, but the film is undeserving of its harsher criticisms. Unlike many beloved films of the ’90s, Independence Day not only remains a well-structured and exciting spectacle, but a favourite among many for its unequivocal optimism that has disappeared from contemporary Hollywood almost entirely. Based on Emmerich’s attachment alone, its sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, is a film that many have undoubtedly made up their mind to hate and bemoan as exemplary of Hollywood’s bloated production of sequels, remakes, and franchises. Admittedly, although Independence Day: Resurgence unquestionably belongs to a long line of unnecessary sequels, the film stands out as one of the better offerings that this year has presented.
Resurgence mostly builds upon its predecessor’s conclusion. Twenty years following the planetary invasion of the last film, Earth has become a utopic and technologically advanced society where war, conflict, and prejudice have completely disappeared. However, all the progress that humanity has achieved becomes threatened when the alien invaders return for revenge with their Queen. This time, armed with a spaceship the size of the Atlantic Ocean, the aliens are determined to leave the Earth barren and humanity to waste away and die by extracting the planet’s core for fuel. Not only must the survivors of the last invasion help stop the aliens, but their children (now grown up and in the air force) must co-operate to stop the alien Queen as well.
The story is simplistic, but Roland’s films work best when they’re simple. The almost playfully innocent mood of its predecessor lingers throughout each scene (our society so advanced that we literally drink “Moon Milk” in space) that its explosions and destruction become as infectiously fun to watch as the crew probably had fun making them. Independence Day cannot be repeated, the tense uncertainty of the first film before the disaster is impossible to recreate. We know who the aliens are, as do the characters in the film, so Resurgence replaces uncertainty with grandness and scale. The explosion of the White House may have been huge, but it’s common in blockbusters to destroy even an entire city now. Well, to one-up the level of destruction that he’s renowned for, Emmerich goes all out by having the aliens literally drop the country of China onto the United Kingdom, and you get the pleasure of flying through the absolute chaos in 3D. And, unarguably, it is a pleasure to fly through the absolute chaos in 3D.
However, Resurgence struggles with its own colossal size before the film’s third act. As if to sell the movie to those most cynical about a sequel to Independence Day, the country squashing madness is just the first thing the aliens will do, and trying to destroy the Earth itself raises the stakes. But the film becomes directionless, unable to make the tension or disaster bigger without destroying the Earth itself, which results in a deflated and messy finale. The misstep in placing the queen in a spaceship from the first film only serves to remind us that, in truth, the protagonists are only fighting one alien in one spaceship, as opposed to the global invasion of its original that gave Independence Day its sense of scale.
The film manages to be a lot of fun, though. Jeff Goldblum always delivers a charismatically delightful performance with his unusual mannerisms, and you get the sense that Emmerich is channelling himself through Brent Spiner’s deliriously excited scientist who returns to Resurgence with a much more prominent role and love interest. Whether someone likes it or not, Independence Day reshaped the Hollywood blockbuster, and Resurgence makes fun of its impact in genuinely amusing ways, particularly in what happens to the White House and a certain person’s portrait which hangs in its corridors.
Independence Day: Resurgence, much like the original film, relies on a particular mind-set which enjoys goofy and extravagant storytelling. While the first film contains a stronger narrative structure and overall visual design, the primary concern of both films is to have fun, and in this respect, Resurgence provides plenty.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Independence Day: Resurgence is released 24th June 2016