Independence Day: Resurgence
The good news with Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence is, it is an enjoyable ride, solid popcorn fare. The bad news is I spent most of this sequel just laughing – laughing at this film and its script which mostly bordered on ludicrous. Truth be told, the bad news needn’t actually bad news. There should be some joy in entertaining nonsense and I choose to take advantage of what Emmerich serves up especially since he demonstrates some degree of self-awareness.
I want to say there are some things to look out for but this film is as subtle as Fireman Songo is subdued. Some of the moments are blasting fireworks like the portrait of Will Smith’s Captain Hiller early on setting the tone for the reunion this film intends to be. Emmerich could not get the Smith to return so killing off Hiller and picture of him had to do. For those longing for their fix of black fighter pilots, his son, Dylan (Jessie Usher) puts in work but really isn’t written to fill his father’s charismatic shoes. That job went to Jake (Liam Hemsworth), a maverick pilot who has a checked history with Dylan. Hemsworth's is actually good here considering he isn't working with much. The rest of the characters are the standard 2-d.
Back to my roll call from the first film, Jeff Goldblum shows up for the sequel pay day. He returns as the brilliant David Levinson and reminds us that this film had some intention of being taken seriously. Also reprising their roles from the first film are Bill Pullman as the now torched ex-President Whitmore, Judd Hirsch as Levinson’s father, Vivica A. Fox as the upgraded Jasmine Dubrow-Hiller and Brent Spiner as Dr Brackish Okun who I honestly thought died in the first film. It turns out he was only in a 20-year coma with his medical care team was apparently keeping his pair of glasses at his side for the two decades.
The returning characters are probably given more time they deserve especially with Dr Okun’s and his comic relief and Whitmore’s “winter is coming” persona. Winter is coming though and as always, the world is never really prepared. Following the alien invasion 20 years ago, the world has kind of reengineered the leftover alien technology to prep for any potential retaliation from the aliens. No cure for cancer was sought after but hey, more guns. We see a defence base on the moon with a ballistic laser thingy, an orbital version of the Maginot line and generally high tech weaponry based on the alien schematics. Does it count? Nope.
The aliens bust in with the biggest mothership in the history of cinema and latch onto Earth in order to drill into its core for coveted molten. In the process, the carnage is turned up to 11 as we served with mass destruction that makes X-Men Apocalypse seem reasonable. The destruction is woefully empty and not impressive enough to assume the humble tag of plain spectacle. There were certainly no pooches prancing past exploding cars. The worst part is, as lives were being lost, my tummy was in stitches from laughter. There is a callousness and weightlessness to even the deaths that mattered to key characters in this film.
Emmerich has been an agent cinematic destruction over the past two decades and I imagine he is hard-pressed to find more inventive ways of destroying the word. I guess an argument could be made for forgiving him for the empty spectacle he presents as earths doomsday scenario. At least I can point to the fact the gratuitous destruction is almost worth it for two reasons, one of them being Levinson’s line: “Why do they always go for the landmarks?” and the other, involving the White House which has gotten a massive and faithful makeover following its destruction in the previous film.
Now I could try to milk a paragraph out of the fact there were people still fighting aliens after the mothership went down 20 years ago – the only interesting bit in this film’s world – but I won’t. Instead I want to give a shout out to the pro-America propaganda this film wields; limp and hilarious in equal measure. Of course it has American Independence Day in mind and kudos but my independence day is March 6 so I passed on all that and laughed some more as well. We get another meant-to-be-rousing speech here, from Whitmore again and it is quite unfortunately damn near a parody of 1996's, damn near.
Independence Day: Resurgence is a money grab, we all knew that going in although the pandering to the Chinese market is couldn’t have been more obvious if it tried. I will admit Ghanaians would trip to the cinema to see the Black Star Square and the Flagstaff House destroyed in a film so pandering to the biggest market in the world makes sense. That said, I bet the Chinese were expecting some thrills in addition to seeing their countrymen crushed to death. I also bet the Chinese left their cinema chains without any thrills. Their brethren would have appeared to have died in vain.
There is no story to latch onto here and no semblance of craft. Emmerich’s idea of storytelling involves poorly paced cuts from a bunker with people staring at screens to another bunker with more people staring at screens till the aliens bust in. The dialogue is drab, humour lacking wit and action set pieces lacking stakes. There is a great deal to laugh at though which is why I don’t mind recommending this film. The punchline to this two hour joke is: it thinks it is getting a sequel.