Twenty years since the 1996 heroics of Will Smith, the aliens have returned to Earth responding to a distress beacon. And this time *dramatic pause* it’s personal. The plot is near identical to the original Independence Day, but with a bigger ship this time. While it appears the hostile extraterrestrials travel much faster than the speed of light, they lack the finances to get Will Smith back on board for the sequel. So what’s different now without the fresh prince? Well, in the alternate 2016 we have a female president, world harmony, hovering vehicles and a moon colony defense system.
At the helm of this is writer/director Roland Emmerich who specialises in global disaster blockbusters, not limited to Godzilla, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and of course the original Independence Day. Emmerich hits all the right technical notes. The pacing is excellent, save a twenty minute CGI drenched segment of the mothership landing on earth mid-film which bogs the movie down. The story is straightforward, easy to digest, and the stakes are exponentially high. The scale of the film is beyond global and all introductory characters have a back story fleshed out concisely for palpable tension. Is it a perfect blockbuster? The answer is no. The production feels altogether contrived for Resurgence. While the relationships are set up well, it feels overly constructed. While the stakes are high the conclusion is long forgone to anyone who has seen at least two action blockbusters before this.
Besides Will Smith we see a return of most of the original cast. Jeff Goldblum returns as scientist David Levinson, and even with giant CGI aliens the focus rarely deviates from him and his amusing off kilter mannerisms. Bill Pullman, returning as former president Whitmore, has dialogue consisting of entertaining gobbledygook and over the top humorous one-liners. Newcomer Liam Hemsworth is cocky pilot Jake, whose rival Dylan (Jessie Usher) is Will Smith’s son and squadron leader. Jessie does a decent job with his material, though his character is fairly obviously a last minute character compensation for Smith. Maika Monroe as Patricia Whitmore is the former president’s daughter. For the large proportion of screen time she receives her role in the film is fairly limited, and really she just serves as a network between characters – the childhood friend of Dylan, love interest of Jake, daughter of President Whitmore and staffer of the current president (Sela Ward). Beyond worrying about her loved ones she doesn’t really do much until a significant gesture to the end of the film. Also included in the cast is the continually mesmerising Charlotte Gainsbourg who is criminally underused as a human-alien psychologist and Goldblum’s romantic interest.
The good news for blockbuster fans is your next sequel won’t take another twenty years. The closing Hemsworth line makes it painfully obvious the next one is around the corner contingent on a good box office return. It seems all but assured in this slick production, particularly with the amount of blatant Chinese elements shoehorned in for the cinema world’s second biggest market. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly as it helps deviate from the American global executors theme.
Resurgence is enjoyable popcorn entertainment for the brain but with a strong artificial tone to its construction. Not unlike a meticulously produced pop song with seven song writers, Resurgence is enjoyable and will no doubt be a hit, but there’s nothing in it to challenge a viewer. The themes don’t run deeper than cursory explorations and no actor needs to bring in any depth. It is also disappointing that every interesting female character is presented as a symbolic trophy once the story is wrapped up. Patriarchy and politics aside it has huge spaceships and Jeff Goldblum.
Independence Day: Resurgence is in cinemas from 23rd June through 20th Century Fox.