Independence Day: Resurgence


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So, I went to see Independence Day: Resurgence. I wasn’t sure I was going to but I had a free afternoon and I do so love nipping off to watch a film before the evening crowds come in. This is a particular treat in the Everyman cinemas where you can sit in an armchair with a coffee and if it’s quiet you can sweep up all the cushions from the row and surround yourself with them. It was raining outside too which only adds to the enjoyment. In fact the least significant thing about the whole experience was the movie.

It’s not that this latest belated sequel is a bad film, it’s just not a spectacularly good one. When it was released in 1996 Independence Day was a real sight to behold. The shot of the alien spacecraft blowing up the White House was the centre piece of both the film and the marketing but there was more; the aerial dogfights were the best we’d seen since Star Wars.

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Now though we have seen dozens of movies with things flying around in the sky blasting each other, many of them from Marvel, and our appetite for famous buildings being destroyed changed after 9/11. To be fair, this new film recognises both these things but what it has replaced them with just doesn’t grab you in the same way.

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Again, it’s not that the effects sequences are badly orchestrated of choreographed it’s just that making everything bigger is not enough. The sight of the Burj Khalifa and large sections of the Arabian Peninsula getting dropped on London is good, and by not concentrating on isolated landmarks it is more palatable to a post 2001 audience, but it is only a small part of the whole and it was given away in the trailer. Incidentally, it seems the way to avoid showing buildings coming down, reminiscent of the twin towers, is to have them getting sucked up. The latest X-Men film did the same thing. The way to do something audacious with skyscrapers today is to climb up them or jump cars between them, not to reduced them to rubble.

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I assume some of the attraction here was also meant to be having the old characters come back. It is good to see Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman heading up a big film again but these characters are not exactly Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia so the effect is not the same.

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In fact nothing about Independence Day merits a return to the story twenty plus years later. It was fun at the time but it doesn’t have the same timelessness as Star Wars or Jurassic Park or even Mad Max and Rocky. Independence Day: Resurgence is a sequel we didn’t want and what little expectation it does carry isn’t met. There’s also nothing as tricksy as the miracle computer virus that saved the day before. The plan here does involve an interstellar space ball (that just reminded me of Marvin’s head from the last Hitchhiker’s Guide movie) but chiefly it all revolves around just shooting stuff until it falls over.

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The young cast are likeable enough. Maika Monroe appears as the ex president’s daughter and I’d watch her in almost anything, she has an understated but palpable screen presence. Unknown actor Jessie T. Usher, as Will Smith’s orphan, is good but not good enough to guarantee he won’t stay unknown. Katniss Everdeen’s sometime girlfriend Gale, aka Thor’s brother Liam Hemsworth, stars and he’s okay. He doesn’t appear to have any known pedigree like the others but apparently his parents did take part in the events of the first film so I’ve decided he is the offspring of Harry Connick Jr’s Captain Wilder. He’s got the hair for it.

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Another thing the film has going for it is the no fuss inclusion of a gay couple. This is limited, there is no kissing – not even a peck, but it is still an unusual thing to see in a huge blockbuster movie. It is a small step forward but it is a step forward nonetheless. If you compare the relationship on screen here to Deadpool, which made noise about its pansexual hero, then this movie wins. The two men in question have an unambiguous , unmocked and loving partnership and it all pushes toward a place where such a thing is so commonplace in movies it won’t even be noticed.

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Independence Day: Resurgence reintroduces a series that no one thought was a series (number three is clearly planned) with sufficient success. It balances the new generation and the old guard and it is perfectly serviceable entertainment. It just isn’t as remarkable as it should have been. With the exception of Captain America 3 the blockbuster sequels have been a little lacklustre so far this Summer. Captain Kirk, Dory, Bourne and the Suicide Squad gang that Will Smith chose to join instead of this crew still have it all to do.

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The Ripley Factor:
There are female fighter pilots, a woman president and a lady scientist. It is a suitably gender balance film.

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Is this one for the kids?
Considering the entire world is being destroyed the sense of threat is never that strong and most of the deaths happen off screen. The aliens aren’t very frightening either. It is fine for most aged ten or above but you could just stay at home and watch the first movie. That’s what I’d recommend. 

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