Thursday, 23 June 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

(M) ★★★½

Director: Roland Emmerich.

Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Travis Tope, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Jessie Usher, Brent Spiner.

"What do you mean they rebooted Jurassic Park without me?"

SURELY it hasn't been 20 years since Roland Emmerich had the nerve to blow up the White House, make Bill Pullman the President, and turn Will Smith into a bona fide action star?

Sadly, yes, two decades have passed since the original Independence Day (or ID4 as it was confusingly acronymed at the time) exploded at the box office.

A lot has changed since then. Independence Day came from a time when CGI was still a novelty that went hand-in-hand with practical FX, comic book movies were considered a niche joke, and Jeff Goldblum could headline a movie. How times have changed.

If ID4 was released now, this sequel (ID4:2?) would have been in the works before the box office dust had even settled. But here we are, 20 years on, looking at a belated follow-up that surprisingly recaptures the vibe, the style, the spectacle, and, best of all, the silliness of the original.

One of the most intriguing elements of Independence Day: Resurgence is the world it imagines that would have grown out of the interstellar invasion of July 4, 1996. Alien technology left behind on the battlefield has been harnessed to further humanity, which has banded together and made preparations should the invaders ever return.

The key players from ‘96 are predominantly still around (except Will Smith’s Steve Hiller who has been killed off – Smith obviously has better things to do). Goldblum’s David Levinson is a leading scientist with the Earth Space Defence, his dad (Hirsch) has written a book titled How I Saved The World, former President Whitmore (Pullman) is a hollowed out old man struggling with PTSD caused by with the events of the first film, and Area 51’s Dr Okun (Spiner) has been in a coma for 20 years.

There are a bunch of new players too – Hemsworth’s rogue pilot, President Whitmore’s pilot daughter (Monroe), and Hiller’s pilot son Dylan (Usher) are the main ones you’ll be worrying about when the aliens come back.

Did I mention the aliens are coming back? Because they are – bigger and badder than before, naturally, because this is a sequel and everything has to be bigger and badder.

Thankfully, amid the CGI overload of exploding buildings and spaceship dogfights, there are people and subplots to care about and ground proceedings. As with the original, the characters and an earthy sense of humour stop the film from disappearing in a blizzard of special FX.

There are plenty of throwbacks to the original film too – if you haven’t seen it in a while it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on it again before you dive into the sequel. Resurgence moves oddly fast in places, expecting knowledge and remembrances of its predecessor, but it also hints at bigger back stories, some of which it eventually fleshes out. In this sense, it is a fully realised world the characters inhabit, which helps make the film so engrossing.

While audiences are numbed these days to the spectacular CG centrepiece – a hard-to-impress quality partially birthed in the scene when the first film blew up the White House, so Resurgence can’t compete with creating a moment as memorable. But it keeps things rolling quickly from beat to beat, battle to battle, character to character, ensuring our attention never waivers.

As a belated follow-up, Resurgence is probably as good as you can hope it to be, maybe even better than many of us expected. It’s let down occasionally by going too over-the-top (if such a thing is possible in an Independence Day sequel) or packing in too many characters or having too many dumb moments, but this is enjoyable explosive fun, much like the original.

Now, let’s hope they leave it alone and don’t bother with the inevitable disappointing third film.

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