It’s been twenty years since the aliens invaded Earth in Roland Emmerich’s epochal Independence Day, and now they’re back to fulfil their world-destroying ambitions in its belated follow-up, Independence Day: Resurgence. While humanity has spent two decades preparing for the second invasion, nothing could have prepared audiences for this wretched, passionless cash-grab of a sequel. Indeed, one can’t help but wish that the benighted human race really were overcome by invading aliens in order to spare us from any more of these films. The original Independence Day may have been big, loud and stupid, but its slack-jawed charm and sincerity captured a cinematic zeitgeist, defining for better or worse a generation of blockbusters.
Moreover, its characters, while broad and archetypal, were written as distinctive personalities with clear motivations. Not so with Resurgence, which lacks both the iconic heft of its predecessor’s imagery as well as any sense of character development. Resurgence‘s characters can be divided into two categories: those from the original, needlessly shoehorned in, and the staggeringly bland new cast, headed by the charisma-free Liam Hemsworth. Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson, but this is not the neurotically amusing David from the original. Instead, Goldblum is content to rub his stubbly chin, stare into the middle distance, and wait for his paycheque to clear. Elsewhere, Will Smith is fatally conspicuous in his absence and Vivica Fox’s appearance is so pitifully futile it barely qualifies as a cameo.
More fun can be had from Pullman’s babbling wreck of a former President, raising unintentional guffaws as he mumbles through his lines, and Brent Spiner’s reliable weirdness as a bafflingly resurrected Dr. Brakish Okun is a blessed relief from the one-two punch of dreadful writing and tone-deaf editing, which ruthlessly chops scenes and their comic timing to pieces. Moments of schlocky personality – ‘Moon Milk’, an alien orb that looks like Pac-Man, the line ‘you have to get them from behind’ – occasionally flicker but never truly catch light, smothered by a blanket of corporate balance sheets and artistic indifference.
What truly disappoints, though, is just how naff Resurgence looks. Where the first film felt monumental in scale, with silent alien saucers hanging ominously above cities, Resurgence substitutes effective framing and perspective with weightless, badly composited CGI. This, from the director who has made a career out of showing destruction on a global scale, yet who now fails to match the spectacle of his own twenty year-old film. For those looking for a spot of cultural nostalgia, Jurassic World, Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Creed are all recent, superior examples. You could even wait for the Ghostbusters reboot to arrive in a week. But there is no reason whatsoever to endure this tepid shadow of a film. Avoid.