We’re going to survive. We’re going to move on. Lee reviews Independence Day 2.
Simplicity itself is an oft-promoted value in cinema. It’s hard to criticise a simple idea executed simply as to critique simplicity misses the point. Grandeur, conversely, attracts criticism by design. The bigger the object, the easier it is to point at it and call it a bloated, convoluted, nonsensical mess. With that seamless segue, enter “Independence Day: Resurgence”.
Rather awkwardly, what works best about Roland Emmerich’s films is their inherent simplicity. He tells stories that are well-meaning in message, often requiring the world to see the better in each other and overcome some grand obstacle they caused with their enormous, planet-sized hubris. Themes of environmentalism, religious and social openness, good Samaritan-ism, altruism and familial support regardless of family shape, size or past drama are just some of his most prevalent. There’s something Utopian in how he views the world, that no matter the hardship we shall prevail. It’s just his utter lack of craft that not only hinders his good will, but poisons it.
Characters go from simple to non-existent. Jeff Goldblum plays a guy who is famous for being in the original “Independence Day”, so that’s not a character. Liam Hemsworth plays a guy who goes from some sort of poorly explained Moon slave to an alien fighting hero and nobody bats an eye. There’s Bill Paxton, now playing Randy Quaid’s character from the original. There are over twenty further speaking roles, each with their own subplot; from war criminal and journalist team-up, to war criminal and girl journalist team-up, to a bunch of kids whose purpose in the film is to bring Goldblum’s father to him for reasons, to a bunch of pirates? Explorers? There are whole groups introduced your mind will immediately forget, and not just because your senses have been overloaded by all the fast-cut nonsense but also because they contribute next to nothing to what should be a very straight-forward plot.
Aliens attacked, we won, so now aliens attack again. How this became a series of twists and turns in which humans are tasked with protecting a magic space orb from alien spaceships by having the ex-president perform a suicide run into an alien mothership while also maintaining ground defences and, really, that’s just the surface plot.
The film contains very questionable messaging as well. From its weird outlook on grief handling, to its support of paranoia-induced military defence strategies, to its old-fashioned love interests who exist only as a reward for the men after they do the manly things, to its bizarre ending that seems somewhat pro-Colonialism, if at least pro-Murderous Vengence.
Most of which could be forgivable if the film were at least interesting in some way, but it goes on and on following the same beats as the previous film but without that much needed spark and campness that made the original so bearable. Every beat, every cut, every shot, every scene is so utterly predictable it borders on contempt for the audience.
Still, there is some value: it will make for an excellent Emmerich drinking game. It doesn’t just have some of his tropes, it has all of them; repeatedly. If it comes to Netflix, I can recommend getting a few friends together and tearing it apart for entertainment. Just make sure to have plenty of caffeine, because there’s nearly an hour-long slump on the road to the end.
Best line: “Holy Christ”. Well done William Fitchner, that was hilariously inappropriate in the context of the scene. Also this movie proves that adding spaceships and lasers does not necessarily improve everything.