Independence Day: Resurgence is the kind of movie that begins with an African warlord strapping machetes to his back and flying to the moon to fight aliens, and ends with the alien queen chasing a schoolbus full of children through the Nevada desert.
It goes without saying that the African warlord’s village is decorated with spears that have alien skulls stacked down them, and that the school bus also contains an adorable little dog. And half of the children aboard it are wearing bunny hats.
You either go with this kind of thing or you don’t.
Resurgence, or ID42, is about an alien invasion of Earth. Again. Due to the events of the last film, it’s set in an alternate 2016 in which mankind has utilized alien technology from the 1996 invasion to finally build that Moonbase we’ve all been waiting for.
There’s little plot here worth mentioning: like the last movie, aliens show up, blow up half the world, and it’s up to the survivors to come up with a way to defeat them.
But there’s still a charm to director Roland Emmerich’s loony mass-scale destruction, where cities are upended and dropped upon each other, presumably killing millions, but the movie is careful to note that the little dog is OK. Unlike Batman v Superman or X-Men: Apocalypse, the filmmakers clearly aren’t taking this stuff seriously. That lets them (and us) have some fun with it.
Up in space, hotshot pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), filling in for the Will Smith character from the earlier movie, prevents a large object from falling into the Moonbase by ramming it from the other side and blasting his thrusters until it clicks into place. Because of his reckless actions, he gets “grounded.” On the moon.
But when an alien spaceship appears via a portal, he’s off to pick up David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), the satellite tech who saved the world last time around, Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg!), a psychologist who specializes in dreams of alien premonitions, the African warlord (Deobia Oparei), and a comic relief reporter (Nicolas Wright) to investigate. For some reason of utmost urgency.
The warlord has been leading his people in a decades-long battle against the aliens that have remained on Earth since the previous movie, and as such is an expert on taking them out. The secret? “You gotta kill ‘em from behind.” He must have read The Art of War.
While Will Smith is conspicuously absent from this film, his character’s son (played by Jessie Usher) has a key supporting role as a more level-headed version of the Liam Hemsworth fighter pilot. Also taking to the skies: Jake’s buddy Charlie (Travis Tope ) and Asian star Angelababy, in an effort to appeal to the booming Chinese market.
When the big bad alien spaceship appears over the moon, things start to look bleak. The alien mothership in the new movie is so large it has its own gravitational pull. How big is it? “It’s landing above the Atlantic,” one character mentions. “Which part?” “All of it.”
According to the film’s logic, that gravitational pull lifts people and cars and buildings up into the air over Burj Khalifa, and then dumps them somewhere in Europe as it lands on top of London and the Eastern coast of the US.
But all the CGI destruction lacks the magic of the more practical work in the first movie, which featured such iconic imagery such as the White House blowing up real good. You might let out a yawn as London Bridge topples over, having seen similar stuff a couple months ago in London Has Fallen.
In the states, characters scrambling to figure things out include the President (Sela Ward), a top general (William Fichtner), Area 51 scientist Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner), who wakes up from a 20-year coma to explain his apparent death in the last movie, and Levinson’s father Julius (Judd Hirsch), who outruns the mothership in a motorboat at the Atlantic coast, then makes the days-long journey to Nevada before the aliens can do anything of note. Logic be damned, we need to get all these characters together somehow.
I always wondered what, exactly, the aliens wanted to accomplish in the earlier film. Here we find out: they’re drilling into the Earth’s mantle in an effort to extract our molten core. That sounds bad, and if you haven’t seen 2002’s The Core, Goldblum fills you in on just what that might mean: “…the end of all life on Earth!”
To provide a ticking clock, a boat full of deep sea treasure hunters monitors the aliens’ digging progress. Presumably, they’ll celebrate when the aliens are repelled seconds before reaching their goal, but I’m thinking a core-sized hole in the Atlantic Ocean leading down to the center of the Earth is gonna be bad news, anyway.
But there’s a charm to the illogical nature of how things play out in Independence Day: Resurgence, a charm in the cheesy plot dynamics and cornball dramatics, in the utter stupidity of decisions made by government officials and leading protagonists. Other movies seem to dumb themselves down to appeal to wide audiences, but there’s an honesty throughout Emmerich’s work that’s genuinely appealing.
Like the previous movie, this Independence Day sequel is one of his better efforts. I enjoyed it more than I’d like to admit.