They’ve back, just when we might have dared to hope that we were safe the next wave of big-budget blockbusters with meaningless subtitles sweeps into cinemas. Just as Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to set the world alight by treating its material with undue reverence, Independence Day: Resurgence fails to set the world alight — while narratively doing exactly that — by treating its material with no reverence whatsoever.
The film sets out to reprise more or less exactly what it did twenty years before with little of the novelty, a touch more irony, and nary a decent speech to be heard. While in 1996 the wholesale destruction of world monuments was considered worthy of “oohs” and “aahs” aplenty, nowadays it barely merits a “meh”. World-threatening peril, by forces alien, natural, or of our own devising — or, in the case of X-Men: Apocalypse, mutants — are more or less the spectacle du jour. As Jeff Goldblum’s wryly startled David Levinson notes amid plummeting skyscrapers and, one would assume, the attendant loss of human life, “They always go for the landmarks.”
In all fairness, the dead do cast a large shadow over Independence Day: Resurgence; mostly in that the film’s younger generation (Liam Hemsworth’s cocky maverick, Jake; Jessie Usher’s too-earnest-to-be-quite-cool Dylan Hillier; Maika Monroe’s would-be Ripley, Patricia; ) can’t hold a candle to Will Smith’s cigar-chomping, alien-belting war hero from the first film. A lack of star power (or willingness to invest in it) doesn’t help counter the impression that this is primarily a cash grab.
There’s a utterly subsidiary Chinese pilot, played by model-actress-singer Angelababy, who — despite serving as a would-be love interest for Travis Tope’s cheerfully dweeby Charlie — feels like a calculated play for a wider audience. Brent Spiner runs around dementedly in his undies with a matted white mane of hair and Bill Pullman salvages sound dignity as the shellshocked former Prez. The alien mothership may be substantially bigger, there are katana-wielding African warlords and magic spheres, but even the film’s high-tech lunar base feels like a case of Ender’s Again? For all of the heroic sacrifices none of them mean very much.
This is Independence Day: Regurgitated*, a thin, warmed-over gruel that even the prospect of an intergalactic sequel can do little to infuse with any flavour.
3.5 out of 10
* Thanks to Amarpal Biring for that one.