Independence Day: Resurgence fails to capture the fear, and wonder of the original

20 years is a long time in Hollywood. Back in 1996 Independence Day was one of the defining entries of what we know as blockbusters. The sheer destructive power of Noah Emmerich’s alien disaster movie thrilled, and freaked, audiences, along with a star performance by Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum doing his thing, and, of course, the speech. The film hasn’t aged badly, its humour is still cheesy, we now have “the world’s best extra” gif, and numerous blockbuster franchises that owe a huge debt to it. So did we really need another one? No, we did not. Hollywood has moved on since Independence Day, and taken many of its cues from it. Which means that any Independence Day movie released in 2016 is going to look like a generic summer flick, with the same images of global destruction, but without the multi-coloured superheroes.

Resurgence takes place 20 years after the first invasion. The world is now at peace, unified by the alien destruction two decades before. Except the aliens are, inevitably coming back. The plot isn’t rocket science, sometimes its quantum physics but let’s not split hairs, but there are a few key differences. Earth didn’t just go back to normal. Instead, the human race used the technology brought by the alien invaders in order to create new defences against perceived foes from outer space. There’s a defence base on the moon, satellites that shoot lasers, and earth itself looks more Minority Report than normal. While it’s not exactly a clever piece of story-telling, it took five people to write the script and there isn’t a single bit of cleverness to be had, it is logical to have a more futuristic earth as our setting. But this is also one of the films biggest problems. Part of the original’s horror was the destruction of iconic earth landmarks. This earth is so different, so sterile and un-relatable, that when these aliens go after the landmarks it’s all just the ones and zeros of blink and you’ll miss it CGI.

The cast at least seem to know what they’re doing. Jeff Goldblum is as Goldblum as ever, Bill Pullman’s former President is relegated to harbinger of doom, but he wears it well nonetheless, there’s even a surprise return for Brent Spiner’s Dr Okun (who might as well be shouting “franchise!” at the top of his lungs). The new generation doesn’t fare as well. Liam Hemsworth is at his best in the rogue hero role, that’s when the movie wants him to be the hero. It really feels like Emmerich couldn’t decide if he wanted Hemsworth or Jessie Usher, who plays Will Smith’s stepson/replacement Dylan Heller, to be the hero of the story, and instead of this creating any real tension between the characters, it just feels sloppy.

Which is exactly who the movie feels. At first it’s hard not to be dazzled by this version of earth, to be caught up with the impending sense of doom, but the final product is sloppy, The first film felt like the human race rallying together in the face of insurmountable terror, whereas Resurgence feels like a textbook exercise.

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