Review: Independence Day Resurgence

independence day resurgence movie poster one sheetTo avoid any suspense, the new film’s great fun and you should go see it. Better than the original 1996 Independence Day in lots of different ways, it’s the first summer sci-fi action film of the season and a perfect popcorn movie, with lots of big visual effects and splattery aliens.

Independence Day: Resurgence opens twenty years after the original “War of ’96” where we came oh-so-close to losing our planet to these mean, ugly Alien-like creatures and their superior technology. They just wanted to harvest our planet, we humans were in the way. Fortunately we had quirky genius David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) to figure out the weakness in the alien mother ship and destroy it. But we didn’t just get our planet back, we gained all sorts of alien tech, and twenty years later Earth is at peace, everyone’s working together and we have a defensive perimeter around not just our planet but out into the solar system too.

In fact, President Lanford (Sela Ward) is presiding over the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the War of ’96 in a slickly realized Washington DC where a monorail zips people around the city and the president’s helicopter is powered by alien fusion, not a propeller. Except there’s an alien sphere heading towards Earth, and when it approaches the lunar defense base run by Commander Jiang (Chin Han), there’s a rapid back and forth with Earth: do we attack? Or do we wait to see if the alien’s intentions are peaceful?

Genius scientist Levinson is in Africa with a United Nations science expedition: two days earlier the crashed spaceship that has been sitting dead for twenty years suddenly powered up. But the space ship is in the territory of the warlord Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei), who has tattoos running down his arm tallying up all the aliens he’s killed. And it might just be critically important to figure out exactly what’s caused the ship to power up and what they can do about it.

Meanwhile, there are all the requisite elements of the space soap opera that so characterized the original Independence Day, including hotshot pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) and his sidekick Floyd (Nicolas Wright). Jake’s in love with former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman)’s daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), but she’s stuck back on Earth, taking care of her somewhat crazy father. The hotshot pilots who have arrived at the moon base to help with the 20th anniversary celebration include Jake’s nemesis Dylan (Jessie Usher) and Chinese celebrity pilot Rain Lao (Angelababy). Got all that straight? Don’t worry, it doesn’t much matter to your enjoyment of the film.

David Levinson (Goldblum) and Dr. Okun (Brett Spiner), from "Independence Day Resurgence"
David Levinson (Goldblum) and Dr. Okun (Brett Spiner), from “Independence Day Resurgence”

This time the aliens are bigger and their ship is much bigger. Much, much bigger. 3000 miles across bigger. So big that when it finally lands on Earth, after having made shrapnel out of the planetary defense system, it’s reminiscent of the alien tentacle that covers human faces in Alien. Definitely not good for humans, and there are dark moments in the film where even our best alien-tech-infused defenses are completely wasted and ineffective against these new, bigger, badder creatures. And they have plans for the Earth, plans that don’t include us being able to live on the planet afterwards.

So now what? Big, bad aliens. Futuristic tech weapons that don’t work. The Earth at risk. Handsome men and women who fly alien craft like they’re in a video game. And the clock is ticking down!

There’s really nothing deep about this sci-fi adventure film, it’s going over well-trod ground and there are elements of a number of other films visible for the savvy viewer, including Alien and Starship Troopers, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s just really fun. The film moves at a really good pace, the visual effects are really excellent (see it on a big screen!) and while there are some trite moments – particularly between Jake and Patricia – there are a lot less of them than in the previous film. Thank goodness.

I really enjoyed Independence Day: Resurgence and say that it handily improves on the source material, making it one of those rare sequels that’s actually better, more enjoyable and more satisfying than the original. It’s not great cinema, but it’s really fun. Go see it, you’ll enjoy yourself.

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