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Friday, 25 November 2016

Alien Invasion DVD Of The Week: Independence Day - Resurgence (2016)


After genre classics like Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and Lord Of The Rings, 1996's Independence Day is probably my most frequently rewatched movie. I have a real softness for it and its simple, black-and-white, gung-ho storytelling.

This year's sequel, Resurgence - taking place 20 years after the events of the first film (see what they did there?) - is more of the same.

But bigger. The main alien craft has a diameter of 3,000 miles, the battle suit the alien queen wears towers over the surrounding landscape, Judd Hirsch's Julius Levinson is even more irritating... if such a thing is imaginable.

The screenplay by Nicolas Wright, James A Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and James Vanderbilt, is crammed full of characters, most of which have a single identifying characteristic and no development (poor Angela Yeung Wing's pilot Rain Lao, for instance, is "Chinese" and that's about as deep as her character development gets).

Where Independence Day was a fun disaster movie, concentrating primarily on the impact of the first alien invasion on civilians (with a few notable exceptions), Resurgence is a dry war movie, through and through, with named and unnamed characters dropping left, right and centre, devoid of real humour and people you'd actually care about.

Having received a message from the first invasion fleet, 20 years later the aliens return (we learn they're called Harvesters, did we know that before? I don't think so), with a plan to drain Earth's molten core (as, presumably, no planets closer to their own homeworld have molten cores any more?) to use as a power source. Or something.

With Roland Emmerich at the helm, you know there's going to be plenty of explosions and large-scale property damage, but as thrilling as it is, none of it has the emotional impact of the original.

Resurgence is great fun to watch, but as soon as it ends it's largely forgettable. Superficially, it bears a lot of similarities to the original, but once you scratch below the surface it's quite hollow and disposable.

None of the new characters (except, possibly, the comic relief guy in the glasses, whose name I've totally blanked on) bring anything to the mix beyond superficiality, while most of the returning characters - such as Jeff Goldblum' David Levinson and Brent Spiner's Dr Brakish Okun - are just going through the motions, leaving the most powerful, human, moments to Bill Pullman's President Whitmore.

There's a decent "enemy-of-my-enemy" plot buried under all the special effects and the climactic sequence involving the alien queen was quite outstanding, but ultimately Resurgence is purely eye candy rather than a well-rounded cinematic experience.

I love all the alien tech, and the way humanity has adapted it to use against its original owners, but should another movie appear (as is clearly intended by the ending of this one), I hope the filmmakers rein in their fetishisation of the weaponry and battle sequences at the expense of the human side of the story, and instead focus more on developing the characters (while things are exploding all around them).

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