Roland Emmerich returns to his blockbuster roots with this cheesy, good-natured, cynicism-free legacy sequel that's as good as the original.
The term 'legacy sequel' is something that's gained a lot of traction in the past year or so. Creed, The Force Awakens and Jurassic World all took a dormant property and revitalised it for a new generation. So it goes with Independence Day: Resurgence, Roland Emmerich's return to the world of planet-destroying blockbusters.
Set twenty years after Independence Day, mankind has managed to rebuild most of its civilisation - and landmarks - with the help of alien technology that's been scavenged from the wreckage. Life's returned to normal, or as normal as it can be, and with twenty years since the last alien encounter, things are looking pretty rosy. For about fifteen minutes. The film essentially opens on the far-flung alien invaders receiving the distress call from the mothership that was destroyed back in 1996. On Earth, the new President (Sela Ward) is preparing to honour the 20th anniversary whilst David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is off trying to figure out why one of the downed ships from '96 has suddenly reactivated. Before long, the long-awaited alien mothership reappears over Earth and begins raining down destruction on the planet.
When approaching a film like Independence Day: Resurgence, it's best to come at with the spirit it's intended in. You can't go into something like this with an overly analytical mind because, even for the scientific inaccuracies alone, the film just wouldn't process. It's a straight-up popcorn blockbuster with only the best intentions - to be wildly entertaining. Thankfully, it is. Jeff Goldblum, Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Fichtner and Bill Pullman all recognise that this isn't a film for their performances - rather that it's about reaction to showy scenes of spectacle. Goldblum, however, is back on form as the wily, sarcastic Levinson whilst William Fichtner is all square-jawed and steely-eyed as the commanding officer of Earth's defences. Bill Pullman, for the most part, is now a bearded loon who spends the film hobbling around, trying to warn people of the impending danger whilst Brent Spiner (remember him?) has a fantastic comedic turn as the scientist who can speak alien.Where the cast begins to flatten out, sadly, is in the younger actors. Liam Hemsworth is attempting to channel Harrison Ford circa Raiders Of The Lost Ark whilst Jessie Usher barely registers a presence on screen - even though he's supposed to be Will Smith's on-screen son. The only one who makes an impression from the younger cast is Maika Monroe, who plays Bill Pullman's daughter.
Returning to the film that made his career, Roland Emmerich has managed to capture that same sense of spectacle and awe in a cinematic landscape that is nothing but spectacle and awe. When you consider the hodge-podge ridiculousness that was 2012 or the neutered White House Down, there's every reason to believe that Emmerich could have recycled Independence Day. To an extent, there is a lot of the same DNA here, but there's much more of a science-fiction flair to it than a standard blockbuster. The first forty or so minutes take time to set up the alternate history of the world and give it a lot more context than one would expect from this kind of film. Moreover, the aerial battles that take place during the film have a space-opera vibe to them that's really infectious and dazzling. While Emmerich makes great use of CGI throughout the film, it doesn't fall into the trap of being soulless or textureless. Even the score calls to mind John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith in their heyday whilst the cinematography really pops out of the screen.
With a total of five screenwriters, one would begin to think that Resurgence would become a mess of a film; all tangled and lost in varying tones and setpieces. Granted, there are some moments of almost cringe-inducing celebrations and trailerspeak, it's all in the tone. There's a certain cleanliness to it and the direction gives it a strong through-line that carries you forward. It does begin to wear itself out towards the end, but it's all so upbeat, optimistic and devoid of cynicism that it's not to be caught up in it. By the time the film ends, it's a rousing display and leads on to the next chapter - because, let's face it, there's no end to where they can go from here.
Ludicrous, fiercely entertaining, joyfully explosive, Independence Day: Resurgence is every bit as good as the original.