Independence Day: Resurgence (2016).
Directed by Roland Emmerich.
Starring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, William Fichtner, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Brent Spiner, Joey King, Judd Hirsch and Deobia Oparei.
Humanity won round one. But now, 20 years later, the aliens are back…and then some.
The President of the United States (Sela Ward) walks through a nuclear bunker, flanked by military officials and advisors on either side. It’s been 20 years since the War of ’96 (Independence Day: Resurgence’s name for the events of the first movie), yet despite Earth’s efforts to prepare for another attack, an invading alien force is descending upon the planet.
“The ship will touch down over the Atlantic, ma’am,” one of the high and tight haired men informs.
“Which part?” replies the President.
“All of it.”
It’s the best line in the film, and one delivered with utter straight-faced seriousness. You both laugh at how absurd it all is and punch the air with awesomeness at the same time.
ID:R is full of such moments. The basic plot is the same as the first movie (aliens attack Earth and obliterate various landmarks), but there are enough riffs and alternate threads to keep the plot interesting. Our heroes try the same strategies as last time, but the enemy is ready for them. The adaptations from either side prevents the story from being just a copy/paste job.
All of your favourites are back. Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore, Judd Hirsch’s Goldblum Sr. and Brent Spiner’s Dr. Brakish Okun return, but it’s Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson that personifies the film’s absurd/awesome dichotomy so well.
Goldblum is an incredibly comforting screen presence. He’s drolly laid back, even when facing ridiculously large alien spaceships. At one point, when time is of the essence for an escape, a young girl hops off the bus to rescue her dog. “You gotta get the dog?” he rhetorically asks no-one.
Killing the dog. It’s the worst act you can commit in screenwriting.
Goldblum’s Levinson is a Roland Emmerich movie archetype – the calm wise-cracker amidst the chaos (see: John Cusack, 2012). You must wonder if that’s Emmerich’s onscreen version of himself: the man with the plan, amused at the destruction around him.
So that’s everyone. The kickass President. The funny Jewish father. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation…all your favourites from the first movie. Right. Let’s move o-Oh yeah. Will Smith.
Will Smith leaves a pretty sizeable hole. Emmerich once claimed not having Smith nearly stopped him from making the sequel all together. Smith was in the middle of making After Earth when the project was first pitched to him, and he didn’t want to make too many science fiction films back-to-back (ID:R leaves the story open for a third instalment).
To get around Smith’s awkward absence, Captain Steve Hiller is dead, unceremoniously killed off in the two decades between ID and ID:R. He’s expositioned away as a fatal casualty of Earth’s first fighter jet based on alien technology. Hiller is replaced in the leading role by his son, Dylan (Jessie T. Usher), and Dylan’s former best friend from the flight academy (they had a falling out), Jake Morrison (Liam ‘Young Thor’ Hemsworth).
They’re both totally fine, but they’re not the Fresh Prince. It’s the one element missing that would’ve made a very decent sci-fi action movie a great one.
But back to the whole absurd/awesome dichotomy. Beneath the London Eye collapsing into the Thames and within the Burj Khalifa Tower (the world’s tallest building/Tom Cruise’s favourite climbing frame) being javelined into the middle of Paris, there lies a socially significant undertone.
One argument for the growing popularity of superhero movies is that, post-9/11, most of our world leaders have let us down. So we trudge to the cinema, where fictional heroes save an imaginary world in their place. Because there’s confidence in the people that lead us is so scarce, the silver screen provides escapism.
ID:R’s references to the September 11th attacks are so blatant they become hidden in plain sight. Aerial assaults, the destruction of national landmarks, the military spending and reaction to a world-changing terror event, the idea that everything can be stopped if you just take out a central commanding figure – there’s even the subtext of shared subconscious trauma, with human characters being pained by their link to the aliens’ hive mind.
And at the heart? A President who will not only fight our greatest foes, but lead the aerial charge.Bill Pullman for 2020!
Almost a decade ago, the film’s writer and producer Dean Devlin said as much in an interview. It was 9/11 that first prompted him to consider a sequel.
In that way, ID:R is almost a revisionist history – where an alien invasion happened instead of September 11th. It’s a pretty daft one, no doubt, and if that sort of unabashed flag-waving and AMERICA – F*** YEAH! makes you cringe, you likely won’t enjoy this movie.
But for everyone else, just like the first (although nowhere near as good), you’ll recognise that flag-waving for what it is. America is Emmerich’s shorthand for ‘humanity united’. The humour is tongue-in-cheek, the destruction scenes incredible and action thrilling.
ID:R is ridiculous. Enjoyable, infectiously optimistic ridiculous.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★