PrintE-mail Written by Jack Bottomley

Hard to believe it has been 20 years since aliens invaded, infamously destroying the white house, in a scene that has since become a classic cinematic snapshot. Since the sci-fi action hit Independence Day, Roland Emmerich has become known for such money shot obliteration (albeit he has helmed other more measured works too). Very much of the ethos that a simple car crash here or explosion there will not suffice, Emmerich has taken pride in devastation on the biggest possible scale, think a battle between aliens and football hooligans- actually, that’s not a bad idea for a film- and you have merely half the chaos offered by a Roland Emmerich disaster movie. So, with two decades passing and the original film being somewhat re-evaluated as a trendsetter for grand action blockbusters, we return to the war between man and the large shipped, tentacled, extraterrestrials but was it worth the wait? “Uh, Yeah”.

Set 20 years, practically to the day, after the first film, this sequel sees a united and more advanced humanity, that has integrated the alien technology into everyday life and progressed further and quicker in the process. The story picks up with ESD (Earth Space Defense) moon base pilot Jake (Liam Hemsworth) and his pal Charlie (Travis Trope), among the many other pilots and crew, preparing for independence day celebrations. As ace pilot and now grown up stepson of Steven Hiller (Will Smith in the first film), and not a big fan of Jake, Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher) leads the pilots in the festivities. However, down on Earth, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is visiting a warlord’s clan, who take refuge within an old alien ship that landed back in '96, and comes across worrying signs that the aliens may not be done with us? No sooner than he does, alarm bells start ringing as mankind finds itself under a second attack from a far larger and seemingly insurmountable wave of these alien invaders.

If you were expecting a sequel that delves into an intellectually stimulating narrative or tackles heavy subjects, then what the hell is wrong with you?! This sequel, in every possible sense, is bigger and sillier and thus impossible to resist. The story, complete with many links and references to the first film, re-assembles a good portion of the cast, alongside some fresh blood and while it goes off the rails in certain parts, it is all like one big cheesy digital pizza, occasionally messy but delicious and easy to consume. From the almost laughably large alien invasion sequence, packed to the gills with outstanding effects (the film sadly has more CGI than practical this time, though it is understandable why), to the closing assault on the movies big (and we mean BIG) baddie (riffing on Aliens slightly), Resurgence is absurdly enjoyable. In this day and age of unnecessary sequels or reboots it is gratifying to see one that surprises you, as it justifies its existence early and often and just…works.

Many are always moaning about the idiocy of blockbusters but a bit of dunderheadedness is not always a bad thing when the film is charismatic and knowing with it. And Resurgence is just that, bolting along as fast as it can, so it can get to the airborne heroism, proudly brave men and women making speeches and ass kicking alien action, with some loud n’ proud scoring (from Harald Kloser and Thomas Wanker…gee school must have been rough for him) that veers ever so near to Star Wars at points. The film expands what was a one movie deal into a mythos building Sci-Fi splurge, creating a backstory for its alien menace and, while clichés fly about here there and everywhere, Emmerich knows what he is doing, as do the co-screenwriters, all four (yes four) of whom are in tune with his direct and destructive tastes.

The characters engulf the movie, with many emerging as narrative tragedy fodder and others as just occasional faces amidst the building crumbling, base blasting, fracas. However the actors exude charm, with Liam Hemsworth clearly trying to fill the Will Smith mantle (they even make a comment on the infamous “welcome to earth” punch) and mostly succeeding, as he attempts to get back to his fiancé Patricia Whitmore (a slightly underused but still effective Maika Monroe)- daughter of former president Thomas J. Whitmore (a returning beardy Bill Pullman). While Jessie Usher is given the less interesting part as the straight-laced ace fighter pilot hero role but makes the most of it. A host of original cast members make worthwhile- if some short lived- appearances, from Pullman to Vivica A. Fox and more, in a commendable effort of gathering the crux (Smith aside) of the original cast back for more. Though the standouts are Jeff Goldblum (obviously) in full on delightfully droll mode (“they love to get the landmarks”) and a very funny Brent Spiner (bafflingly back as the messy barnetted Dr. Brakish Okun, which is explained in the most stupidly satisfying of ways). Travis Trope and the always-reliable William Fichtner offer other entertaining performances in this overcrowded big budget blast. 

The odd worthwhile social comments are offered, in a strong female president- played by Sela Ward- and a homosexual male relationship (which is only suggested but still a welcome sign of progress in the often behind the times output of mainstream cinema) but those aside, this is otherwise a straight shooting piece of dumb fun. Many characters are slight, the film is often overly grandiose, the script is jammed with well-worn tropes and often becomes a special effects loaded extravaganza. However what separates this film from being vanquished by these flaws is its smile-inducing determination to use them as positives rather than negatives. Emmerich’s film is stupid and entertaining and sometimes stupidly entertaining but unlike his misfires 10,000 BC and Godzilla, it realises this fact and embraces it as a facet of the movie’s character, taking its popcorn munching entertainment to ridiculous levels in terms of grand scale and enjoyment. 

Independence Day: Resurgence is what you expect in a follow up to Independence Day, it is a big, barmy, blockbusting ball that is nothing but sci-fi spectacle fun and that is all it ever wanted to be. “Now That’s What I call a Close Encounter”.


Expected Rating: 6/10

Actual Rating:

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