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New Release Review - INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

Belated sequel to the 1996 blockbuster sci-fi hit.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Joey King, Vivica A Fox, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner



Independence Day: Resurgence is one of the laziest, most cynical blockbusters to arrive in a year that's had more than its share of such tiresome fare. No doubt this will be huge, and it's set up for an immediate sequel. Anyone know the Mandarin for "Save your money!"?



Lately, Hollywood seems intent on putting all its eggs into two distinct blockbuster baskets - 'Universe' building superhero epics and sequels/reboots to/of decades old hits. Hatching from the latter batch like the offspring of a Gremlin fed after midnight comes a belated follow up to the smash hit of 1996 - Roland Emmerich's Independence Day. For better or worse (*cough* worse!), Emmerich's film ushered in a new era of blockbuster sci-fi in which smart ideas and cleverly constructed set-pieces were replaced by shallow spectacle and cringe-worthy attempts at comedy. Even Clint Eastwood got in on this act with 2000's Space Cowboys, a one joke sci-fi comedy in which (wait for it) a bunch of pension aged retired astronauts have to reteam for one more mission (it actually wasn't as bad as it sounds, to be fair). Now things have come full circle, as most of the returning cast members of Independence Day: Resurgence are now just as old, if not older than Eastwood and his crew.



There's Jeff Goldblum as scientist David Levinson, the brains behind Earth's victory in defeating the aliens two decades ago, now a director of Earth Space Defense, an 'international' alliance that only seems to be comprised of employees from America and China (gotta get that sweet Yuan). There's Judd Hirsch as David's father Julius, now living on a boat and attempting to flog his autobiography in old folks' homes. There's Brent Spiner as the highly irritating scientist Brackish Okun, who conveniently wakes from a 20 year coma just in time to chip in and save the earth once again. And of course there's Bill Pullman as former president Thomas Whitmore, now driven insane and haunted by visions of another imminent attack (worryingly, his bedside locker props up a copy of 'The History of the Luftwaffe'!).

Supporting these old fogies like some hot new act opening for The Rolling Stones is a bunch of youthful faces, most of whom are related to characters from the first film; I guess nepotism rules. Maika Monroe is a former fighter pilot turned presidential speech writer and the daughter of crazy old Whitmore. Jessie Usher is the son of now dead Will Smith, but inherited none of his charisma. He's the Iceman to Liam Hemsworth's Maverick, a space-jock who flies recklessly but gets the job done when the going gets tough. There's the now obligatory token Asian (Chinese model/singer/actress Angelababy), who of course gets paired off with a white geek. And finally we have Charlotte Gainsbourg as a scientist who shares romantic history with Goldblum (will they rekindle their romance in the face of adversary and mass slaughter?).



These two groups come together to save the planet when the aliens attack on the twentieth anniversary of their initial invasion. It seems, like Al Qaeda, dates are significant with this lot. As is customary with Emmerich's epics, the action follows a handful of different groups as they all attempt to resolve their own particular crises. None of these subplots offer anything remotely original, and many feel like they've been plucked from previous Emmerich movies - there's always a makeshift band driving manically to some far off safe space, outrunning earthquakes/aliens/frostbite.

The dialogue and characterisation are atrocious, despite no less than five writers contributing to the script, with every character explaining their backstory with lines cruder than Brent oil. But you knew that would be the case, and you probably don't care, do you? This is all about epic set-pieces and adrenaline-pumping aerial dogfights, right? Sadly, Emmerich's dull action choreography can't even save the film. The action scenes consist mostly of close-ups of fighter pilots explaining the plot to each other and the audience - a complete waste of IMAX 3D - and again they offer nothing new, simply reminding us of similar sequences in superior movies, and indeed TV shows (Battlestar Galactica is a big visual influence here). The alien design is similarly lazy, with a giant alien 'Queen' that's interchangeable with the monsters from Cloverfield, Pacific Rim and Gareth Edwards' Godzilla reboot, and a friendly robot alien that bears a suspicious resemblance to WALL-E's girlfriend EVE.



The casting at first appears commendably diverse, but it's quickly exposed as no more than cynical tokenism. Here, the US has a female president, but she's completely useless, to the point where a half-senile Whitmore steps up from retirement to lead his country/planet (if Emmerich has US citizenship, it's clear where his vote is destined). Aside from Monroe's plucky speech-writer/dogfighter, the female leads serve merely as trophies to be won by the men - even Hirsch gets the granddaughter he always wanted. As though specifically designed to enrage liberal thinkpiece writers, there's a scene in which Usher and Angelababy, the film's only remotely prominent black and Asian stars, literally take a back seat to a pair of white guys.

Independence Day: Resurgence is one of the laziest, most cynical blockbusters to arrive in a year that's had more than its share of such tiresome fare. It would be easy to label it this year's Pixels, but for all its faults, that movie did at least feature set-pieces assembled by a director (Chris Columbus) who knows how to create a visually engaging sequence. In many ways, Emmerich's film resembles an Adam Sandler movie with all of the comic star's scenes left on the cutting room floor. No doubt this will be huge, and it's set up for an immediate sequel. Anyone know the Mandarin for "Save your money!"?

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