Independence Day: Resurgence – Bombastic but hollow

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In the Hollywood pantheon, Roland Emmerich is an established bankable talent when it comes to crafting ‘Big Dumb Movies’.

While he’s been responsible for some pretty left-of-the dial fare (including the gay-rights drama Stonewall and the Shakespearean conspiracy movie Anonymous) the German-born director’s most recognisable calling cards are movies that destroy most of the world in spectacular fashion.

Over the last two-and-a-half-decades Emmerich as had aliens (Independence Day), a giant lizard (Godzilla) a snap ice-age (The Day After Tomorrow) and an overheating planet core (2012) put paid to humankind, wreaking untold devastation to the planet’s cities. Emmerich’s movies haven’t been universally praised by critics – in fact, a lot of them have been savaged – but most of them clean up real good at the box office.

One of his highest grossing films was the original Independence Day, which earned over $800m worldwide (it was made on a budget of $75m, which seems paltry by comparison). It’s likely that 20th Century Fox is hoping to replicate that box office smash with the film’s belated sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence. If it does it won’t be due to the quality of the latter’s screenplay, story, or the performances it contains.

Set twenty years after the last film, Independence Day: Resurgence imagines a world where all the earth’s nations were united by the traumatic war with the aliens and have started using alien technology to reinforce their arsenals. Most of the earth’s defence grid is concentrated in orbit and administered to by Earth Space Defense (ESD) who are based on the moon.

Back on earth, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) the earth saviour cable guy, now turned UN ambassador, is investigating reports that some of the crashed alien spaceships have come back online. At the same time, alien captives at Area 51 have started wriggling excitedly in their cages and former US President Thomas J. Whitmore is having nightmares of an impending alien invasion.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers for Resurgence, or if you’re even vaguely aware of its existence, you can probably guess what happens next.

Resurgence, like nearly every other Emmerich blockbuster, is big on spectacle. Fans of the original film may fondly recall city-sized spaceships moving into position over the cities of the earth and obliterating them by firing a beam of white light into the nearest landmark. Rather than repeat this trick, Emmerich and co supersize it.

There’s just one invading ship in Resurgence but this bugger is roughly the same size as half of planet earth, and instead of using city-destroying lasers, it wipes out earth’s major urban centres with tidal waves cause by its landing gear. Well, those that aren’t simply picked up and then dropped on their counterparts half way across the globe.

Perhaps it’s the proliferation of destruction on a mass scale in movies of this type – thank you Michael Bay, Justin Lin and Zach Snyder – but the neighbourhood crushing in Resurgence feels more perfunctory than awe-inspiring. The original Independence Day was in a class of its own in this regard, but in modern blockbuster territory Resurgence is jockeying for position, and rather unconvincingly.

So it falls to the film’s story and characters to distinguish it and here Resurgence comes up woefully lacking. The plot’s blueprint is dictated for the most part by the original film’s, so fans can follow the beats quite easily. If you saw Independence Day way back when, you’ll know what you’re in for – although the plot spares us the groan-worthy revelation that the aliens are using software to pilot their vessels that happens to be Windows compatible while being defenceless against viruses.

When the screenplay doesn’t call for mass destruction it serves up a plethora of action movie cliches; the former friends who greet with one punching the other, the death scene in which the victim says something to make the friend cradling them laugh and cry at the same time and the vehicle that needs to escape impending doom but can’t because someone’s pet dog has run off – they’re all present and correct here.

Lord knows the actors work hard enough to sell this rubbish. Jeff Goldblum seems to have his feet half-in and half-out here, delivering the odd line with knowing exasperation when the screenplay veers into laughably obvious territory. Liam Hemsworth sells the loveable rogue stereotype, although his jubilation during dogfights undercuts his character’s internal brooding at having lost so many friends in the fires of battle. The rest of the cast acquit themselves as best they can considering the director requires them to hit comedic and dramatic notes while appearing as though they’re in the longest Dentyne commercial in the history of film.

Resurgence is not a good film, not by a long stretch. If all you ask for from your cinema-going experience is dogfights, destruction and a good-looking cast who yell ‘Hell, yeah!’ occasionally, by all means, buy a ticket. But bear in mind before you fork over your cash, Resurgence is to the original Independence Day as Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is to Tim Burton’s Batman. Both are Big Dumb Movies, but there’s a really steep drop off in quality between the two.

[Image – HD Wallpapers]