Directed by Roland Emmerich
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Jessie Usher & Maika Monroe
Film Review by Jack Bottomley
“Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Boom”
In a world where reboots reign, remakes arrive and unnecessary sequels are green lit more than a set of traffic lights, we often approach any ‘long time in the making’ follow-up with a degree of hesitation. This is, after all, the year that the already controversial Ghostbusters reboot is being released. We don’t know what is more shocking; the fact that in 2016 we are getting a sequel to Roland Emmerich’s own 1996 box office busting Sci-Fi action hit Independence Day, or that it has been 20 years since the tentacled invaders infamously blew up the White House and in the process Emmerich set a new standard for big screen destruction. In the years that have followed, excepting a few more restrained works, Emmerich has heightened his eye for carnage with such movies as The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, and now he returns back to the film that arguably planted his name in the disaster movie genre. But is Independence Day still worth celebrating?
Set 20 years, pretty much to the day, after the events of 1996, this sequel takes place in an alternate version of our modern world, a world where we have used the alien technology to advance our knowledge and have become a united world of people (well, this is Science Fiction after all folks!). The plot picks up as the pilots, particularly the defiant Jake (Liam Hemsworth), of the ESD (Earth Space Defense) moon base prepare for Independence Day festivities. Meanwhile, down on Earth, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is visiting a warlord’s clan- who over the years have taken refuge among an old alien ship that landed back in ’96- and comes across worrying signs that the aliens may not be done with us. No quicker than he makes this starling revelation is mankind flung into round two of this war, as the aliens return and with far more ferocity.
Throw out of the cockpit any expectations of sophistication or depth; this digital slice of cheesy pizza is messy, cinematic junk food that is easily digested, fun and tasty. The five (that’s right we said five) screenwriters (one of whom is also Emmerich) for this well set up sequel, know precisely what this film is and from the ludicrously large scaled annihilation of the aliens’ arrival, to the climatic battle with the movie’s big (like, freaking huge) baddie, this blockbusting ball is a near B-Movie blast of pure entertainment. Setting up a series mythology (expanding on the aliens’ backstory and species) and leaving things open for a sequel, this ridiculous movie takes pleasure in going as big and absurd as physically possible, while Harald Kloser and Thomas Wanker’s (poor guy) occasionally Star Wars-y score blasts out proudly.
Clichés fly around like alien fighters and the film is chock full of simple characters and purely effects driven spectacle but the movie embraces all the flaws, as it seeks only to entertain and that is precisely what it does. Some may see it as tarnishing the original but just like the first, Independence Day: Resurgence is big and popcorn munching fun through and through, taken to the fullest extent of over the top. With the exception of Will Smith, the film gathers up the major players from the last film from a beard brandishing Bill Pullman to a now trained nurse Vivica A. Fox, as well as some others we won’t mention. However, in addition to the many returning faces, the film features some fresh blood and while some characters are merely here to get thrown into the skyscraper smashing, tidal wave splashing, desert dancing fracas, the cast bring a deal of appeal to their characters.
Yes it is an overcrowded film, with lots of madly scientific jargon and gobbledygook but the cast all approach with a smile and a willingness to get stuck into the barminess. Liam Hemsworth is charming as the more interesting hero of the film Jake, and is a definite attempt to fill the Will Smith gap, and rather successfully actually. Meanwhile Jessie Usher and Maika Monroe do the best they can in equally heroic but less charismatic roles as Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (the now grown up stepson of Smith’s Steven Hiller) and Patricia Whitmore (daughter of former president Thomas J. Whitmore (Pullman). While Travis Trope and the always-reliable William Fichtner also make effective appearances. However the undeniable stars of the whole shebang are a wonderfully droll Jeff Goldblum, whose at one point says, “they love to get the landmarks” which is practically all you need to know to sell this film. Also a scene-stealer is Brent Spiner’s funny return as haphazard haired Dr. Brakish Okun, whose presence is (in case you were wondering) explained in the most stupidly satisfying way.
So for all its faults and well-worn genre tropes, Emmerich’s film rises above the likes of his misfires like 10,000BC and Godzilla by embracing its own preposterousness. This is a pure and simple experience which, save for some genuinely brilliant modern comments on society (a female president, a homosexual male relationship (only suggested but it is still a step in the right direction for an often behind the times mainstream cinematic market)), is made entirely to let the audience switch off their overly critical minds and just enjoy the end of the world as we know it. Everyone involved knows what film this is and has clearly had a ball making it, just as many of you will by watching it. It is refreshing to see a big budget sequel deliver early and often by just embracing what it is and having good ol’ fun! “Welcome to Earth” indeed.