At a time where classic movie franchises are being cynically re-purposed, rebooted and re-imagined, it’s somewhat refreshing that a 20-years-after-the-fact-sequel to 1996’s monstrous worldwide hit Independence Day is exactly that – a sequel. There are no sneaky retoolings in Independence Day: Resurgence, just more of the same effects-driven cheeseball nonsense, albeit with somewhat less charm, coherence and general interest.
Two decades after humanity successfully repelled a catastrophic alien attack, another extra-terrestrial force terrorises Earth, resulting in two of the original event’s heroes (Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman) teaming with a new brand of soldiers and scientists to fend off yet another apocalypse.
That’s the only set-up you need, because there’s not much here that amounts to more than the basic alien invasion premise we’ve seen in literally dozens of blockbusters over the last decade alone. Written by a committee of five scribes (including director Roland Emmerich himself), Resurgence eagerly cribs plot beats from effortlessly superior films while doubling down on melodramatic interludes both sappy and dull, in turn failing to do much with the likes of new cast members Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher (playing the step-son of Will Smith’s character from the first movie, who is conveniently offed here) and the lovely Maika Monroe (as the daughter of Bill Pullman’s ex-President Whitmore).
It falls, then, to Goldblum, Pullman and a surprisingly returning Brent Spiner (whose Dr. Brackish Okun was presumed dead at the end of the original by most fans) to launch a charm offensive that makes the film’s first-act lulls in particular slightly less wearisome. They’re aware of the nostalgia for the original more than anyone, and play up to it accordingly, even if more could probably have been made of Goldblum’s wise-cracking eccentricities overall.
So, the script is a mess of sci-fi tropes and half-baked (at best) excuses for “character development”, but what about the action? It’s what everyone came to see after all, and for the most part it duly delivers on expectations; the frequently jaw-dropping visual effects are the real MVP here, creating a palpable world both on and off-Earth, and boasting a real sharpness that even far superior blockbusters (such as the Marvel movies) lack. Action is plentiful and, naturally, Emmerich’s forte, cranking the destruction porn up to 11 for scenes of wanton carnage that should satisfy the target audience just fine.
And that’s really why Resurgence isn’t a total disaster (pardon the pun); when it hunkers down into a chaotic set-piece, it’s tremendously enjoyable, but most anytime a character who isn’t one of the oldies is required to speak, the pic lurches into boredom. It is absolutely a film best watched with a crate of beers (or your libation of choice) and as many friends as you can find, because while it’s unrepentant trash, it’s also not without its perversely enjoyable pleasures. This isn’t good cinema by any stretch, and yet I maniacally cackled to myself while watching it on at least half a dozen occasions.
Independence Day: Resurgence is in UK cinemas now and US cinemas tomorrow