|UK Release Date||23rd June 2016|
|Reviewed||3rd July 2016|
1996 was a very different time. Most distressingly, it was also a very long time ago. It’s weird how your view of dates changes as you age. When I was a kid, the 1970’s seemed like a lifetime away. Now, the 1990’s seem like a few years ago, rather than a whole twenty. Back in 1996 Bill Clinton was in the White House having beaten Bob Dole (exactly), John Major was in No. 10 having… er… been elected by 14 million people. Easy to forget that bit isn’t it. Major’s government also took us out of the ERM… maybe things haven’t changed that much since the 1990’s. In movieland, Jan De Bont was massive (yup), Brian De Palmer launched Tom Cruise’s hair in the first Mission Impossible movie and Michael Bay wasn’t yet a total cretin. It was also, of course, the year that Roland Emmerich stepped up (?) from Universal Soldier and Stargate to launch a thousand disaster movies. And not forgetting a certain Fresh Prince’s arrival on the big screen….
So, a big, fat twenty years later, we find ourselves with a sequel that had pretty much everybody lead with “They’re making a sequel to Independence Day. Wait, what?” That’s right folks, another sequel that pretty much nobody was expecting nor requesting, Independence Day: Resurgence arrives with pretty much only one recommendation, nearly everyone from the original has managed to pitch up for it. Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox all feature to varying degrees. Hell, I’m sure I even saw Robert Loggia in there somewhere but I may have been hallucinating from too many sweets.
The original crew are joined by a whole new bunch of cut out and keep wafer thin characters. Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher and Travis Tope form a weird bromance triangle as Ace Pilot Who Doesn’t Follow Orders but Gets Things Done, Son of Fresh Prince now Poster Boy for the Independence after Daddy Died in a Test Pilot Crash and Geeky Fellow Orphan Who isn’t Brave but then Is Very Brave respectively. Maika Monroe appears as President’s Daughter Who Gave it All Up to Look After Daddy and Charlotte Gainsbourg sleepwalks through the role as Token Physiologist Who Has Something with Jeff Goldblum.
If you’ve seen the original, and on checking, the internet tells me that 97% of the population of planet Earth have, you’ll remember that Jeff is the Scientist / Guy with THAT Interface for his Apple Mac, Bill is the President / Pilot Hero, Judd is Jeff’s Dad / Can’t Remember What Else he Did, Brent Spiner is the Mad Scientist / Data off of Star Trek and er…. Vivicia A. Fox is The Fresh Prince’s Wife / Jessie T. Usher’s Mum.
Throw that lot together with a rather odd side plot about some warlords in Africa (I’m presuming Africa, I can’t remember if it’s explicitly stated) - odd that Warlords are still a thing as we’re told in sombre tones that the planet has been at peace since Coming Together to beat the bad guys in 1996 and we’re heading into waters neck deep in mysterious rumblings that signal SOMETHING BAD is going to happen.
When a mysterious sphere is belched out of the void and onto the moon - which is now a base for extra special weapons created using the alien’s technology - everyone gets a bit tetchy and the decision is made to shoot it down. Everyone then inexplicably turns their collective attentions to the celebrations for the upcoming Independence Day. Everyone except of course the renegades in the character roster. And so Hemsworth’s flyboy nicks a spaceship and pops down to pick up Goldblum’s David Levinson (hanging out in Africa attempting to work out just what these SYMBOLS mean) so they can go take a look at the downed alien craft.
There’s a whole bunch of contrivances, plot holes, unbelievable coincidences and weird goings on that rumble on in the background whilst we await the big, bad alien’s arrival and the inevitable destruction of large swathes of the planet.
And, to be fair, when the aliens do arrive, they manage to reach new heights of planet smashing destruction. Though they show the usual reverence for a large, convenient part of the USA, leaving it with only a light dusting of destruction that stops just short of the White House. And I mean that literally. I’m not sure if the film makers are having a little josh at the alien’s previous destruction of the White House or not but it made me chuckle. Cities are raised into the air and flung down on other cities as the 3,000 mile wide alien craft’s gravity causes all kinds of problems across the eastern half of the planet before coming to rest in the Atlantic - “All of it!”.
And that’s about your lot really. Overarching themes abound - We’re All in This Together! Everyone Has Lost Someone! Humanity Will Prevail! And not a great deal makes any sense. Millions die in an orgy of planet level destruction and the plucky few, mostly American, face down the bad guys with a mixture of luck, moxy, inspired thinking and and a deluge of “Wait, what?!?!?” moments, mostly based around decidedly odd decisions taken by an alien race with astonishing technology matched, presumably, by equally astonishing intelligence.
To be completely honest, I didn’t hate Independence Day: Resurgence, it’s certainly no worse than its predecessor and the new team manage to cover for the lack of Fresh Prince (even shoehorning in a decent alien punching gag) but my patience with this kind of planet level destruction movie is wearing distinctly thin. Great effects, some decent intentional gags and some even better unintentional ones (Bill Pullman’s shave!) don’t cover for the fact that calling this a battle for the Universe doesn’t make it any more exciting or coherent than a battle for the planet. Bigger doesn’t equal better and the attempts at dragging the whole team back together are both a blessing and a curse - great to see Spiner’s lunatic scientist running around in his surgical gown, arse flapping in the breeze but the sequence of events somehow culminating in Jeff’s dad driving a school bus full of abandoned kids into ground zero is just eyeball rolling. Without spoiling anything, the door is left wide open for a sequel… sigh.