Twenty years on and Independence Day Resurgence has the bombastic size, self effacing humour, and explosive badass sci-fi that’s so fun that you don’t mind that it’s silly.
The original film, almost exclusively focused on the events unfolding in the U.S. The great thing about IDR is that after 20 years of reconstruction and alien technology launching or current defence and construction technology is light years ahead. We arrive at Earth in an enduring international peace, now looking to the stars for enemies. The cast is international, the world is large and the pivotal early scenes take place on our Moon Base, that coordinates our satellite defences, and in an unnamed African country at the sight of the only ship that landed (a nice touch because the characters limited access to communications couldn’t know that during the last film). The particles of debris in Saturn’s ring swirl, the once dormant vessel in the savanna, has reactivated; they’re baaaaaaaack.
Watching Emmerich jump back in the ID saddle, it’s hard not to start singing “Nobody does it better.” He’s the man for big dumb fun (emphasis on the dumb for flicks like The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC, and that one with John Cusack – you don’t remember the title either) and earth shattering scale. Watching the latest alien mother ship land on quarter of the Earth’s sphere and decimating entire cities where the landing gear touch down is pretty awe-inspiring. The original Independence Day had a great balance of being able to balance city wide decimation and bring it back to the real pain and injuries of the characters we were rooting for in the film. This time around though, there’s a different method of watching. As we’re familiar with what the alien invaders can do; you find yourself intently focussing on how far Emmerich is willing to take it on his second go round. When the gravitational pull of the new mothership tears cities out of the ground before eventually sending the collective debris plummeting back from whence they came; you know he’s going for broke when essentially half the population of the globe is destroyed. When you get to the climactic battle this time around, and Emmerich fuses monster movie magic and sci-fi with blinding clarity; its possibly the best moment of the film in the two-shot series.
The accomodation costs for the writers in this film may have been more than the special effects budget. Emmerich, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, and James Vanderbilt all gaining a screenplay credit begs the question; how did this unit work so cohesively? They took the Oblivion route; mining other great sci-fi and disaster film tropes and harvested them like our new alien overlords. It’s a really sketchily patched together plot that absolutely won’t stand the logic pressure test, but it doesn’t matter. The sheer fun and spectacle of it all though allows you to skate over the thin ice and if you don’t look behind you, you won’t see the sheets of ice collapsing into the frozen water behind you.
The flashes of humour and references to the original film are the source for laughs and warm and fuzzy recognition. When you’re dealing with the extinguishing of half the world’s population, you can’t exactly be overstuffed with laughs, but when they get the levity balance right, IDR works so damned well. Add in Judd Hirsch saying and doing literally anything as David’s (Jeff Goldblum) father Julius are you’re onto a winner. Bill Pullman’s former President Whitmore is struggling with the residual psychological effects of being connected to the alien hive mind and he’s not alone. And although whenever there’s significant chatter through the alien horde, he and all those who are infected (mainly hippy Scientist Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) and new African warlord Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei), are all but crippled. When clear, he’s still able to hold court and whip together an inspirational speech, and whats more flick a sneaky glance to ensure that the audience (in the theatre and the extras) are listening. He’s still got it. Goldblum is an x-factor in the film. He’s the earth’s premiere intellectual and he plays David with the miles of a man who has dedicated his life preparing the Earth for this event. Goldblum’s cadence works in a different cadence to really any actors in the film and it slots perfectly for the character.
His former partner Hillier (Will Smith) is only there in spirit (and White House portrait). Instead it’s the younger generation carrying this torch in this unexpected story continuation. Jessie T. Usher plays Dylan Hillier, the Prince of the international airforce, carrying the torch in his father’s absence. Liam Hemsworth’s Jack Morrison is the charming bad boy pilot orphan trying to eclipse Hillier’s golden child in the academy. It’s his most convincing leading turn because he’s able to not take his character so seriously. It’s a diverse cast and Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Vivica A. Fox, Angelababy (yes that’s her name), Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chin Han and John Storey do solid work supporting the primary characters.
By the end of the film you’ve got the once hippy scientist declaring intergalactic war against our tentacled mind controlled friends to joyous audience reception. After the nodes of your brain begin to fire again, after being enamoured to the nostalgia; there’s the tiniest moment where you recognise this strange feeling. You start to recall that moment where you realised that Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers is stacked with Nazi imagery and is latently fascist. But wait, is that what I’m seeing? Is that’s what’s happening? No. Stop that philosophical analysis. Kick. Alien. Ass.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt
Liam Hemsworth: Jack Morrison
Jeff Goldblum: David Levinson
Jessie T. Usher: Dylan Hillier
Bill Pullman: President Whitmore
Maika Monroe: Patricia Whitmore
Sela Ward: President Lanford
William Fichtner: General Adams
Judd Hirsch: Julius Levinson
Brent Spiner: Dr. Brakish Okun
Vivica A. Fox: Jasmine Hillier
Angela baby: Rain Lao
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Catherine Marceaux
Deobia Oparei: Dikembe Umbutu
Chin Han: Commander Jiang
John Storey: Dr Issacs