Unashamedly ridiculous with bombastic special effects. This nostalgia-fueled, overblown sequel doesn't fail to entertain.
20 years after the events of Independence Day, humanity has adapted alien technology to create the Earth Space Defence system, or ESD, to act as an early-warning system against alien invaders. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) has been promoted from cable repairman to ESD Director, former U.S. President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is suffering from nightmares and Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is nowhere to be seen, save for a photograph, having been killed in a test flight of a new experimental fighter plane. He leaves behind his wife Jasmine Dubrow (Vivica A. Fox), now a hospital administrator, and his stepson Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher), who has followed in his step-father’s footsteps to also become a fighter pilot. One of the new leads, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) is also a fighter pilot and a friend of Dylan – though he’s also in a romantic entanglement with the former President’s daughter, Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), who gave up her life as a fighter pilot to look after her father.
Resurgence’s premise revolves around the aliens of the first film having sent out a distress call before being destroyed, meaning that another mothership – “That’s definitely bigger than the last one,” David remarks as it approaches – is on a fast track for Earth. But another mystery begins to unfold when a strange circular symbol starts appearing everywhere, and it becomes clear that the aliens have bigger plans than just exterminating humanity.
One of the joys of the first film was that it never took itself too seriously, and Resurgence is just the same. It’s silly and overblown, crammed with top-notch special effects and a wide range of characters, and just like Jurassic World, it reeks of nostalgia; obviously hoping to have the same impact that that film had last summer. Many scenes offer a blatant nod to the previous film, such as the shadow of the mothership creeping across the moon; Thomas Whitmore giving a rousing speech; the aliens using human vocal cords to ‘talk’; the huge battle between the fighter pilots and the alien ships; a Close Encounters of the Third Kind reference, and the sight of smoke unfurling around the mothership as it penetrates the atmosphere. “They like to get the landmarks,” David notes, as Tower Bridge gets obliterated.
There are a huge number of named characters, and the film struggles to find a balance between them, meaning that some characters get very little focus or development. One romantic subplot in particular comes out of nowhere and feels unnecessary, and in all the chaos, one major returning character is killed with only one other person seeming to notice. Resurgence suffers greatly from the bloated cast, with its only saving throw being the sequel hook at the end of the film, offering the potential for more character development. Lieutenant Rain Lao (Angelababy) is particularly underutilised, as she is introduced as a capable fighter pilot in the ESD – but later used as eye candy for Jake’s co-pilot Charlie (Travis Tope).
Despite the problems with its large cast, Resurgence is unapologetically silly, both poking fun at and celebrating the first film. With so much going on and with so many characters, it’s easy to forget that Will Smith is missing from the cast, but Jessie Usher steps into his shoes effortlessly – though it’s Liam Hemsworth who gets to punch an alien this time. Of course, it’s impossible to take this film seriously when it features a scene where, without giving too much away, an alien chases after a school bus full of children.
This film is not deep, or particularly intelligent, or even that original, but it’s fun popcorn entertainment and it should more than satisfy fans of the first film – though if you didn’t love the 1996 blockbuster, it’s doubtful you’ll find much to appreciate here. Anyone expecting a unique and revolutionary addition to the sci-fi genre will be disappointed – we’ve seen most of this before, and much of it in its predecessor. It’s nearly two hours of mindless explosions and scientifically impossible disaster porn; but it remains uncynical with its triumphant soundtrack, corny romance and inspiring speeches. Even when the surface of Earth is being ripped apart by the gravitational pull of the mothership, characters are still making humorous quips.
Independence Day: Resurgence doesn’t just settle for pressing the nostalgia buttons – it slams them all.
Independence Day: Resurgence, directed by Roland Emmerich, is distributed in the UK by 20th Century Fox, Certificate 12A.