You know those people who are constantly showing you pictures of their kids? They whip out their phone, select a photo of their distinctly average-looking child into your hand and say “look at little Mo, isn’t he beautiful!” You have to nod, give out an audible ‘ah’ and then try to move the conversation on really quickly. Well imagine that scenario played out over nearly two hours, it’s on a giant screen, and the person doing it to you is a major Hollywood disaster-film director, and you have Independence Day: Resurgence.
I went into the cinema with high expectations; the first film is a thoroughly enjoyable lark, and the trailer for this sequel made it look like more of the same. But whoever made that trailer deserves some sort of award because they managed to dupe me, and probably quite a few other people too. The film itself is a messy, shallow, retrofitted, hyper-clichéd, sentimental glut of visual nothingness.
From the off, it proceeds at a million miles an hour, with set play after set play with zero time for character development. Emmerich has taken the beloved characters from the first film and leached any semblance of attachment you have for them by the film’s second act, no wonder Will Smith declined to be in it. You simply are not invited to invest in these characters one little bit. You are supposed to care that they are fighting for something (usually a dead relative), but because it is pounding you in the face from the off, you just don’t have time to make any connection with the characters, even these ones you loved from the first film. Former President Whitmore is introduced as a man plagued by his alien encounter; he is frail, bearded and partly insane. Ok, Emmerich, this could be interesting, but no. After an hour, he’s shed his walking stick, seems to be completely back to full strength and even has time to shave off his beard and get a haircut before deciding to pilot what is essentially a suicide mission. Goldblum just seemed there to pick up a pay cheque and the younger ‘breed’ of pilots were so generic and homogenous it’s no wonder the aliens are so keen to kill them; even I wanted to. Also, the visuals of urbicide on a global scale are so trite now that they simply fail to shock anymore. Hollywood blockbusters have always been looking for bigger and more spectacular ways of destroying cities, but now any attempt to up the ante just bores you rather than awes you.
The film is laughably clichéd. It takes every trope from the first film and tries to make it bigger and louder. But in so doing, it ends up slapping you in the face. There’s the same spaceship entering the atmosphere scene, but with a bigger spaceship. There’s the screaming urban populations running for their lives, but again turned up to 11 as this time the invading ship has it’s own gravity that lifts people and things into the air. There are the same characters trying to do the same things like a rousing speech, but this time with more jingoistic flag-waving nonsense. It’s like Emmerich has produced a chubbier, flabbier and more grotesque child and is saying, “Look! Look! Aren’t they so much like the first one!” No, Ronald, no. So much no.