You are an absolute fool if by now you don’t know you have to listen to Jeff Goldblum. The man has survived transmutation, dinosaurs (twice), talking domestic pets, aliens, and he still goes unheeded. All the world leaders and supposed intellectuals in Independence Day: Resurgence glare at him as if he’s a nutcase, think for a second, and then completely chuck his opinions in the bin, all before they’re either incinerated, stabbed, or shot. Clearly none of them have seen Jurassic Park (1993), or their own prequel.
That’s probably because they’ve spent the last twenty years preparing for an alien invasion and think they’ve got it all covered. That’s until a ship a bajillion times the size of the mothership in the first Independence Day looms over planet Earth like a parasitic Frisbee on a mushroom and sinks its gigantic claws deep into the ground, the effects of which should cause the Earth to rupture and split at the seams. But in Roland Emmerich land, all it does is toss some landmark buildings into the next continent and decimate entire populations. It’s a neat trade-off.
All the leaders of the world summon David Levinson (Goldblum), who you will recall saved the world before by infecting the aliens with a computer virus from a USB flash drive. High-tech stuff. Dave arrives and predicts total annihilation again, as if the alien ship the size of Africa, latched on to the planet’s surface, wasn’t proof enough.
Cut to a space station on the moon, where Liam Hemsworth and his buddies are fighting through thin characterisation and hammy dialogue to emerge as the movie’s true stars. Hemsworth plays a pilot called Jake Morrison, who’s saddled with one of those generic action hero names and wears an action hero stubble like it’s the fourth of July.
None of these newcomers are effective in the roles assigned to them. Hemsworth is your typical wise-cracking macho saviour. His girlfriend Patricia (Maika Monroe) works in The White House and used to be a pilot. She does a lot of running and crying, which has long been the purpose of adolescent girls in disaster movies. Jake and Patricia have a mutual pilot friend, Dylan (Jessie Usher), who is the son of the Will Smith character from the first movie and usually reacts to large-scale terrors as if, oh my god, he’s about to be assaulted by a green screen! Jake also has an engineer pal (Travis Tope) who provides the movie’s Douchebag Relief by ogling creepily at the sexy Chinese pilot (Angelababy), dropped into the plot because diversity’s important.
I think it’s time to pull the plug on disaster movies. They’ve done their job for the better part of a century, and I personally have had enough of buildings collapsing and roads splitting open to engulf unfortunate civilians. I’ve also tired of the Roland Emmerich stockpile of reliable but clichéd character types. There’s the genius scientist whom everybody has to listen to but doesn’t. There are the plucky young heroes who will witness a lot of people dying around them but not each other. There’s the mindless comic relief, and the savage who wields unorthodox weapons (this time it’s a warlord with two swords). There’s the wise old sage who has insider information and can communicate with foreigners to advance the plot. The old president returns. The military commander barks orders and looks portentous. A pilot sacrifices himself for the greater good, and there’s always a random car filled with children trying to find their parents. And they must have a pet dog.
ID: Resurgence has its funny moments (there’s a throwaway Star Trek reference that had me in stitches) and its visual effects are spectacular in a gratuitous sort of way, but this isn’t great entertainment. It’s a CGI extravaganza in which character and plot don’t mean as much as the amount of man-hours it took to create that giant Frisbee ship.