Much has changed in the cinematic landscape since the original Independence Day rocketed to box office glory in 1996. While the advent of CGI has stretched the boundaries of what is possible for blockbuster directors such as Roland Emmerich, the fundamental principles of good storytelling and strong characterisation are still very much crucial to any film’s success. This latter point seems to be lost on Emmerich and partner in crime Dean Devlin. Despite crafting a script between themselves and three additional writers, Independence Day: Resurgence is riddled with two dimensional characters and dialogue cornier than a field in Nebraska. The visual effects are undoubtedly impressive, but the storytelling is so hollow and hackneyed, that it is hard to engage on any level with this trashy, overblown sequel.
Resurgence is set in an alternative reality where the world has been united in some kind of utopian peace time since the events of the first film. Unfortunately, for all involved, the aliens that wiped out a huge chunk of the planet’s population have merely been having a breather. Almost twenty years to the day, as 4th of July approaches, the second wave is about to unleash Hell on Earth and, as returning character David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) aptly points out, the threat is ‘bigger than the last time.’
The plethora of characters that populate the film are comprised of a mix of old faces from the original and a new breed of young guns brought into the fray to inject an element of youthful exuberance to proceedings. None of them are fleshed out in a satisfactory manner or provided with a subplot that rouses the least bit of interest. Goldblum’s Levinson, while being elevated to a high level government position as Director of Earth Space Defense, still manages to deliver little more than the dopey, bewildered one liners that defined his computer geek persona in the first film. Bill Pullman also returns as Thomas J. Whitmore, now a battle weary ex-president suffering from failing health and haunted by the events that took place under his charge. An endearing character, his rousing speeches are well delivered but the plot to psychically link him to the alien invaders is never developed beyond a perfunctory level. Will Smith, the charismatic star of the original, wisely passed on the opportunity to reprise his role. His character Steve Hiller has been killed off and the torch passed to stepson Dylan Dubow-Hiller (Jessie Usher) and Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) as pilots charged with saving the day. Neither of them are graced with a notable presence or appealing personality and an attempt to inject dramatic conflict between their characters is woefully under written. The aliens themselves lack the intrigue and genuine menace of the first film. The drawn out build up to their arrival is void of tension and their impact is diluted in the CGI chaos that ensues.
It’s a sorry, soulless mess of a film. While the original was flawed, it still worked as a monumental popcorn event movie which effectively blended 50’s sci-fi schlock, 70’s disaster movie mayhem and inventive practical effects. This sequel comes up badly lacking in comparison. Technical proficiency, big budget visuals and bombastic action sequences fail to paper over a lazy, insipid script. The end product is banal, bland and unforgivably boring. It may well challenge Godzilla as the low point of Emmerich’s career to date.