By Kyle G. King. On Independence Day 1996, the world finally learned it was not alone in the universe. You know. Fictionally.
Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day amassed an audience with its powerful gravitational pull while broadening the scope of what a summer blockbuster could be. Watching The White House get blown to smithereens was only about half as fun as watching Will Smith barrel through the Grand Canyon in a fighter jet, only moments before punching an alien square in the face. Emmerich’s ambition was 15 miles wide — as big as those alien spaceships themselves. Now, twenty years later, another intergalactic battle is waged between humans and aliens in Independence Day: Resurgence. Though the real battle may be between audience thresholds and Roland’s mettle.
United in fear against a common enemy, an international peace is upheld as the human race carries on after “The War of 1996.” With leftover alien technology, humans have advanced astonishingly in military weaponry (yet, alarmingly enough, hardly anywhere else). Solar bases, “moon milk,” and casual space travel are all made possible thanks to the heroic actions of the brave who decided not to “go quietly into the night.” (Also Randy Quaid.) But that peace is brought to a screeching halt when Earth’s enemies return to finish what they started, and they don’t seem keen on going quietly anywhere.
Though the sequel has a giant Will Smith-shaped hole poked through it, Independence Day: Resurgence flies on — latching onto the shoulders of a returning Jeff Goldblum as Director of Earth-Space Defense David Levinson, and Bill Pullman as gone-crazy soothsayer, ex-President Thomas Whitmore. There is plenty of young blood injected into the film’s second coming however, found in super astro-pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), his bride to be, former First Daughter, and also super astro-pilot Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), as well as yet another hot shot astro-pilot Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher, attempting to fill that Smith void). In addition to Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Fichtner, and a returning Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner, it’s safe to say Roland Emmerich ambition for ID4’s long awaited sequel boils down to ‘more is more.’
Resurgence’s action is appropriately epic — dragging an immense alien spacecraft with a gravitational pull all its own across the cityscape of Tokyo, only to have it drop its wreckage onto the streets of London, is Emmerich at his most audacious — but the mad scientist antics at play here go largely unchecked by an aloof screenplay. There’s no room for suspense when filmmakers simply opt to plaster as many alien beings onto the screen as they might be able to conjure — seething teeth, slimy tentacles, creepy upright posture and all. It’s too much, too fast, and too big for us to ever fully appreciate the film’s scope. And it’s all without any of the Will Smith bravado that properly tamped down on the ridiculousness of the original. (Jessie T. Usher scarcely registers, and Liam Hemsworth, though appropriately slick, doesn’t have the wisecracking swagger to navigate a script this absurd.)
With space stations, laser cannons, and roaming queen bee aliens, Independence Day: Resurgence is a huge step forward for Roland Emmerich’s oeuvre (we can forget about White House Down now), but a huge step backwards within the realm of comprehensible cinema. We may not be alone in the universe, but Emmerich’s decades-late sequel will leave you wondering what else is out there.
Directed by Roland Emmerich.
Produced by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser.
Written by Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicholas Wright, James A. Woods and James Vanderbilt.
Story by Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicholas Wright, James A. Woods.
Starring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Travis Tope, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Jessie Usher, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox and Angelababy.
Rated PG-13 because ‘splosions.
2 out of 10