If aliens had the ability to watch our films, they’d certainly be up in arms (or tentacles) after a galactic screening of Independence Day: Resurgence. Their representation is stereotypical. Their portrayal here is hackneyed. Their unchanging intent of universal domination is oh such a cliché. Resurgence offers them no redemption. But who’re we kidding? Roland Emmerich is no Spielberg interested in offering up some cherubic ET. The director of films such as Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 has a vision that is unapologetically apocalyptic. Emmerich likes to see the world destroyed. The only trouble is that this, his latest disaster film, is itself a monumental disaster.
The film’s cast often reminds us that all of twenty years ago, we had seen that original Independence Day. The nostalgia they whip up, however, is more detrimental than comforting. The 1996 film had helped me believe that in the event extraterrestrial freaks threatened to obliterate my world, the United States would rescue me in the end with its firepower. Its President would know what to do. (Of course he would.) Some aging pilot would sacrifice his life by carrying a bomb-laden plane into the heart of an alien mother ship. Better still, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum would coolly smoke cigars after winning the day. Minus the cigars, all that happens in Resurgence. Again. Unfortunately, again.
The responsibility of smart-assery in the film falls on the shoulders of Liam Hemsworth
Sequels that don’t update an original story often rely heavily on the plot that had helped its makers taste success the first time. The result is often a film that seems entirely formulaic. Emmerich again gives us a cocky pilot. Will Smith’s Captain Steven Heller is dead, so the responsibility of smart-assery falls squarely on the shoulders of Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth). His rivalry with Dylan (Jessie T Usher), Heller’s son, brings to mind the confrontations between Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun. This uninventive track does predictably feel very 1986, and sadly, Cruise was a better maverick.
Jeff Goldblum’s Levinson’s nonconformity in Resurgence is compromised and forced
Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as David Levinson. You need a scientist-type to figure what those evil aliens will be up to next. But twenty years ago, Levinson’s distrust of governmental systems seemed charming. His nonconformity in Resurgence is compromised and forced. Throughout the length of the film, Goldblum has an expression on his face that asks, “What are these creepy crawlies again doing here?” You only feel like reversing the question. “Jeff, what are you really doing here again? Really? Like, really.” Actors as talented as Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist, Nymphomaniac) are reduced to mouthing vapid dialogues about the subconscious of aliens. Things could not get worse.
The whole of Resurgence can be reduced to three sentences. Aliens came. They saw. Man conquered. This whole ordeal costs people their lives. Protagonists lose members of their family. The world loses its most iconic monuments, but none of this loss is allowed to register. For Emmerich and all his characters, it is the aliens who matter. The final inevitability of their vulnerability is a mystery that everyone’s trying to solve, but the clues are only perfunctory. Everyone does what they did twenty years ago, and we’re none the better entertained. Emmerich, though, does one thing well. He casts as the US President a person who reflects the zeitgeist. In Independence Day, Bill Pullman played Thomas J Whitmore. His statesmanship reminded you of Bill Clinton. In Resurgence, we see a woman president. So, this one’s for Hilary. Like her, this sequel is impenetrable and boring.