Sci-fi blockbuster sequel in which aliens attack the Earth on the twentieth anniversary of their previous invasion
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe
Genre: Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Release date: June 23, 2016
Running time: 119 mins
There’s no getting around it: 2016 has been a terrible year for sequels, whether it’s under-performers like The Divergent Series: Allegiant, X-Men: Apocalypse and Bad Neighbours 2, or out-and-out disasters no-one wanted in the first place like The Huntsman: Winter’s War and Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Happily, Independence Day: Resurgence just about manages to buck that trend. It may lack the emotional impact of its predecessor, but it delivers comfortably in terms of spectacle and channels a pleasing amount of respectful nostalgia for the 1996 original.
Goldblum steals the show
That said, there is one crucial difference: the first film took place on an Earth that was recognisably our own, yet the sequel is set in a parallel universe where victory over the aliens in 1996 has lead to twenty years of peace, thanks to the adoption of alien technology.
Said aliens clearly have a sense of occasion, because they choose the twentieth anniversary of their previous invasion to attack the Earth again, with save-the-world duties falling to a mixture of familiar faces from the first film – Jeff Goldblum’s scientist, Bill Pullman’s ex-President Whitmore – and a bunch of youthful new recruits (Liam Hemsworth and Jessie T. Usher as pilots, Maika Monroe as Whitmore’s daughter).
Predictably enough, it’s Goldblum who steals the show (the best line in the trailer – “They like to get the landmarks!” – is also the best line in the movie). But there’s solidly heroic work from top-billed Hemsworth and Monroe gets plenty to do in the alien ass-kicking department, though Usher makes a disappointing substitute for Will Smith in the role of his character’s son.
Happily, Emmerich knows his stuff when it comes to destructo-porn and the city-trashing scenes are suitably spectacular, particularly when half the planet gets rained down on the other half, with Dubai’s Burj Khalifa stabbing down into London (although it does miss the disaster movie aesthetic of the first film by removing any sense of crowd reaction to the destruction).
Creature feature thrills
There’s also an exciting finale involving a giant monster chasing a bus in the desert that delivers some welcome creature feature thrills.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its fair share of problems. For example, the script sticks a little too closely to the first film at times and the pacing drags considerably in the middle section, while Emmerich seriously bungles at least two supposedly big emotional moments and the editing often feels choppy, giving the feeling that the film has been cut down from a much longer version.
Despite its flaws, Independence Day: Resurgence ticks all the right boxes in terms of character, spectacle and alien ass-kicking action, and fans of the original are unlikely to be too disappointed.