3 July 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence review

Independence Day may be director Roland Emmerich's best film, but that doesn't actually make it a good one. At best, it's just adequate - a mostly coherent story told by a mediocre director with characters that are, for the most part, purely functional. It's legacy comes more from the novelty it was at the time of release than anything else, and if we are being honest it's fair to say that Will Smith is, by and large, the only truly memorable or worthwhile aspect of the entire movie.

So imagine if Independence Day didn't have Will Smith. Imagine that it was bigger, and significantly stupider. Imagine that it was even less in control of itself, veering wildly in tone throughout. Imagine that it was badly put together, derivative of that which came before, utterly without charm or that earnest 90's cheese.

That would still be a better film than Independence Day: Resurgence.

Set 20 years after Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence has the alien species from the first film return to Earth in order to finish what they started. After an initial attack wipes out several major cities, it's up to the ESD (Earth Space Defense) to do what they can to stop the aliens from destroying the entire planet.

Independence Day: Resurgence is yet another film that is all too happy to simply regurgitate the same plot points, characters and iconography from earlier films in order to generate a feeling of familiarity and safety, rather than having to go to all the effort of doing something new. It's something we've seen more and more of in recent years, to varying degrees of success - Star Wars: The Force Awakens may have just about gotten away with it by being at least being entertaining when it was doing new things, but that's hardly high praise, and Independence Day: Resurgence fails to do even that.

It doesn't even have the courtesy to at least be bad in interesting ways, instead suffering from the exact same problems you've seen in a hundred other big, dumb blockbusters. It's awfully structured. It's got no interesting characters. It relies on spectacle that is no longer spectacular. It's bland. It's generic. It's wholly unoriginal. These are quickly becoming a checklist of criticisms that can be made about a large proportion of would-be tent-pole features, and the fact that Independence Day: Resurgence suffers from them too is as unsurprising as it is frustrating. Roland Emmerich has long said that he makes "popcorn for the masses", but what he's really saying is that he makes films for people who don't care about films. And when that's the case, where is the incentive to really try to make something good?

It isn't there, which is why Independence Day: Resurgence has nothing to offer neither fans of the original film nor new audiences, and especially not anyone who would considers themselves to be a film fan. It's just so low effort in every area, as if someone wrote a first draft of the script and decided that was good enough, or as if the take used in the film was the only one ever filmed. Nothing works the way it should, leading to a film that is completely unengaging throughout.

I didn't expect much from Independence Day: Resurgence - I doubt anyone did - but the fact that it fails to meet even those very low expectations is in itself a good indication of what you might get from a film that aims for "dumb fun" but forgets that all important "fun" part. It's a disappointing return to a world that never needed returning to; a huge waste of time that could instead be spent doing any number of other, more worthwhile things; a film that Will Smith was smart to avoid. As I said earlier, Independence Day may be director Roland Emmerich's best film - but Independence Day: Resurgence may well be his worst.

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