Monday 19 March 2018

Film review: Independence Day: Resurgence - Aliens return for more cheesy fun

There's a lot to like in a messy but enjoyable sequel to the original blockbuster

This means war: Liam Hemsworth takes on the aliens in 'Independence Day: Resurgence'.
This means war: Liam Hemsworth takes on the aliens in 'Independence Day: Resurgence'.

Paul Whitington

Twenty years ago, Roland Emmerich rumbled into the popular consciousness with a subtle and understated little movie called 'Independence Day' on July 4, 1996.

It imagined a heroic American response to a decidedly hostile alien invasion, and smashed its way to the top of the box office charts, grossing over $800m. Mr Emmerich and his film have a lot to answer for, beginning a trend for ever louder and dumber summer blockbusters that reached its dark nadir with the unspeakable 'Transformers' franchise.

But 'Independence Day' had a certain cheesy charm, and the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia have persuaded some that it was a kind of mass market mini-masterpiece. It was not, it's a very silly film, but it's also an irresistibly engaging one, a quality few of Mr Emmerich's subsequent movies have been able to emulate. Fans of the original have been fretting in the wings ever since he announced he'd be making this sequel, but so far as I can see they've worried in vain because there's not much to choose between the two films in terms of quality.

They're both shoddy but kind of fun, the original perhaps slightly more so, but I found 'Independence Day: Resurgence' oddly entertaining, a consequence no doubt of my rock-bottom expectations.

America, which now has a female president by the way and let's hope that's prophetic, has gathered on the 20th anniversary of the original attack for a spot of smug back-patting when suddenly there's a new threat on the horizon.

A giant alien vessel a third of the size of our planet has attacked and disabled a lunar defence system and is now bearing down on the Earth. It's the same species and they seem to be out for a spot of revenge, and while they burrow through the Pacific bed to steal the Earth's molten core and thus render our planet uninhabitable, only the brave men and women of the UN-backed Space Earth Defence force stand any chance of stopping them.

In the 20 years since the original attack, humanity has put aside its differences and used captured alien technology to come up with sophisticated weapons and aircraft. But all of this is soon beaten back by superior enemy fire-power, and the authorities turn in desperation to David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), the scientist who figured out how to defeat the aliens first time around.

Very wisely, Mr Emmerich and his producers have peppered a glossy young cast with veterans of the 1996 film who constantly draw our minds back to the glories of the past: Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Judd Hirsch all feature prominently, though not Will Smith, whose salary demands apparently could not be met.

Liam Hemsworth and Jessie Usher play dashing young fighter pilots who've fallen out over a near-fatal training flight incident but will of course bond while combating the aliens, Sela Ward is the embattled US president, and Charlotte Gainsbourg is a passing French scientist who'll provide a love interest for Mr Goldblum. The characters in this film crack wise and are mostly subsidiary to Mr Emmerich's overbearing special effects. But Jeff Goldblum in particular manages to break through the 3D pyrotechnics with a typically quirky and amusing performance.

He's become a wonderfully eccentric actor over the years, full of wild tics and unnecessary gestures that somehow combine to produce undercurrents of subversion, and comedy.

He seems to be finding it all hard to take seriously, and who can blame him: the film's plot is rudimentary, and only intermittently makes sense. But the enthusiasm with which Mr Emmerich takes his CGI wrecking ball to the world's major cities yet again is stirring, the action sequences are pretty good for the most part aside from one too many befuddling dog fights, and there are just enough jokes in between the explosions to keep things interesting. You may be too embarrassed to admit it afterwards, but you will be entertained.

Films coming soon...

Ice Age: Collision Course (Denis Leary, Ray Romano); Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley); Central Intelligence (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart); Queen of Earth (Elisabeth Moss); Notes on Blindness (Simone Kirby).

Independence Day: Resurgence

(12A, 120mins)

3 Stars

Irish Independent

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