by Sam Robinson
Rated M. Starring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman. Directed by Roland Emmerich.
Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day was a fairly groundbreaking film when it was released back in 1996. Although it was no masterpiece, it set the tone for big summer blockbusters to come – in particular, large-scale disaster movies (those scenes of the sun slowly being blocked out via spacecraft shadows still chill today), and propelled Will Smith to action movie stardom. And as usual, nobody listened to Jeff Goldblum.
Independence Day raked in mega dollars at the box office, yet produced no sequel. That is, until now. Twenty years on, Independence Day: Resurgence is here. Emmerich is back in the director’s seat and mixes a decent number of original cast members with the next generation of alien fighters. The blockbuster is also set twenty years after the original, where in that time the world has created the Earth Space Defense system, which warns of potential alien attacks. Military forces are stationed in space, and our star Jake Morrison (Hemsworth) sits on the moon watching and waiting. Of course, we came to see another Independence Day, so the aliens attack, naturally on a much larger scale than the first film. It’s more or less the same film with a much bigger budget (US$200 mil!) and a whole lot more CGI.
Emmerich has succeeded in creating a summer blockbuster, albeit a big stupid one. There are moments that bring welcome nostalgia – cars on salt flats, aliens hidden in mist behind glass walls, Americans acting as though they run the world – but the sheer scale of the invasion doesn’t shock and thrill as it did in 1996. We see films like this so frequently now, and viewer fatigue is undoubtedly going to affect enjoyment here. To be really engaging, there needs to be a point of difference, some invention, and blowing up more stuff is not the solution.
But there are more glaring problems with Resurgence. The whole film has a Will Smith-shaped shadow looming over it. He brought such star power and charisma to the original, and that is missing here – despite Jeff Goldblum being on the roll. Also, there’s so many technological advances in the film that don’t belong in present day (Crazy spacecraft! Quick space travel!), and the majority of the film is set in space – which together lose the “realistic” earthy charm of the first film.
Once again though, Emmerich makes you feel small. There are scenes of buildings and cars being vacuumed into the sky, as if all gravity is lost. Other times alien ships plough the ground, ripping up all that lie in their wake. I find the feeling in real life when I stand on the edge of a cliff and peer down into a valley, seeing massive trees below that look like broccolli. Emmerich wants you to feel small and vulnerable – and somewhat helpless. What would happen if something bigger than us came and threatened our species? Is it possible for humans to have control?
The Bible makes it clear that God cares for us, and is in control of all things. Psalm 8:3-4:
‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?’
We see a lot of our galaxy in Independence Day: Resurgence. We feel small. But in our smallness in the real world, we have a God who cares for us. A God who would sacrifice his Son to save us from humanity’s greatest threat – sin. And he continues to care for us daily.
The Verdict: Independence Day: Resurgence is everything you’d expect from a big, stupid Summer blockbuster. It would have been nice to see some more imagination. And Will Smith. Maybe dust off your Independence Day VHS and watch that instead. 2.75/5
Independence Day: Resurgence will release in cinemas worldwide later this week.