If you’re planning on seeing Independence Day: Resurgence, it’s because you thought: ‘Meh, the first one was fun, I liked it when Will Smith punched an alien in the head and smoked a cigar, I’m sure the sequel will be a gently entertaining thing to watch on a weekend’. I refuse to believe there are other reasons. You’re not unaware of the first film and expecting something high brow. You’re not there for a cerebral examination of humanity’s relationship with alien life. You’re not expecting it to stoke an atavistic reaction in you more nuanced than ‘humans try really bloody hard to stay alive’.
As such, I’m not going to sit here and slate the film for its linear plot, cartoonish characters, lack of realism and biblical, CGI-laden set pieces, it’s what makes it enjoyable.
‘We always knew they’d be back’ is the tag line, both a reference to the returning alien threat from the original and an unconscious comment on the inevitability of sequels, and tells you about all you really need to know: the mothership is back and it's coming for your internationally recognisable landmarks.
While real-life humanity has been designing ways to have sex with an iPad in the 20 years since the first film, the on-screen extraterrestrials have been busy developing a ship so powerful it can suck up entire cities with its own gravitational field and drop them on ones the other side of the world. It’s a pretty mind-boggling thing to watch, and never too morbid when Jeff Goldblum is looking on with little more than mild bemusement. That’s another great thing about the Independence Day franchise, its delightful levity. When large percentiles of the world’s population are wiped out, no-one goes into mourning and wrestles with the ontological implications of the end of mankind, they just crack wise, suit up and start blasting alien ass.
It’s a real shame that Will Smith was too busy being an Important Actor to return for the sequel, and his charisma is sorely missed in the film - replacement trigger happy upstart Liam Hemsworth doesn't come even close - but fortunately Jeff “My door’s not just open, I’ve torn the door” Goldlbum is back and on great form as ever, saving the world in his idiosyncratic distracted way. Honestly, there’s a bit where the all-powerful alien queen chases a yellow school bus being driven by Jeff. This thing can swat jet fighters out the sky and has mined and destroyed countless planets, but has a terrible time trying to keep pace with the whimsical vehicle. It’s like Herbie Goes Bananas meets War of the Worlds, and one of the film’s best scenes. I’m serious. Superhero movies have stopped taking themselves seriously, so why shouldn’t space invasion blockbusters too?
There is a potentially interesting and intelligent plot strand involving a rival alien race that actually wants to be our friend instead of destroying the London Eye, but, probably for the best, it takes a backseat (saved for the threequel) to make way for more hijinks; Liam Hemsworth takes a piss on the aliens' spaceship and flips them the bird!
There’s even something for real cinephiles here in the form of indie actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, who seems to have been included only to intrigue and confound this type of cinema-goer, the same way Disney throws in an adult reference for the parents.
2001: A Space Odyssey it aint. 2016: A Space Tomfoolery it is.
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