Independence Day: Resurgence: A disaster film in more ways than one

Director: Roland Emmerich
Genre: Sci-fi/ disaster
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Angelababy, Sela Ward
Storyline: The aliens, fended off twenty years back, return with renewed vigour

Roland Emmerich, who has made The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and of course, the original Independence Day, is sort of an expert in this genre. He is aware that these films have a sizeable market in Asia, and hence, the eclectic cast that also has a Chinese actress (Angelababy) playing a ‘hot pilot’. It is also for that reason that another pilot, an American who’s into her, tries to flirt with her in Chinese. Emmerich is also aware that people who love these films get a kick out of watching spectacular visuals of buildings being razed down, of humans getting annihilated. And so, you don’t just have aliens but they are armed with fancy laser guns that can instantly reduce humans to ashes; you don’t just have buildings getting uprooted into the sky, but they need to be shown hurtling back to the ground; you don’t just have an alien spaceship digging a mile-wide hole in the ocean, but it’s shown reaching down into the planet’s molten crust. Everything is exaggerated for effect, as is the norm in such films.

Considering these films try to appeal to, you know, everybody in the living world, Emmerich also knows he has to provide respite from all the mayhem with silly humour and of course, a romantic angle or two. His idea of humour, however, is to have a man wake up suddenly from a coma after 7,300 days (that’s how they science up 20 years in the film), and shortly step out, scratching his posterior. That’s not all. He later demands to know why nobody told him that his “b*** was hanging out.” Well, you’d think he’d know considering he did scratch it in full public view moments ago. Emmerich’s idea of romance is to have a woman looking deep into her boyfriend’s eyes as he is about to take the attack to the aliens. She says, “Make them pay!” And the boyfriend, Jake (Liam Hemsworth), responds, “Well, not going there to make friends…” And of course, Emmerich also has the burden of making this film not seem like a carbon copy of the original. So, he brings in another alien race—as benefactors—and also makes the President in the film a woman.

I wouldn’t have begrudged the existence of all these cliches, had they seemed even slightly inspired. Every single one of them is average at best, somehow conspiring to create a below-average whole when coming together. The President is a woman (Sela Ward), yes, but her only contribution comes in the form of dozy one-liners like, “Take it down”, “Let’s do it” and “Permission granted”.

The Alien spacecrafts engage ours in battle, and bullets light up the sky, but we feel no thrill. A huge wave threatens to flatten an old man, but we don’t feel his fear. A pilot, much like Will Smith in the original, sneaks his aircraft out of an alien spaceship at the last possible minute, but we don’t feel relief—just indifference when he coolly asks another pilot, “Did you miss me?” The President has to deliver a rousing speech, again just like in the original, but he simply ends up saying, “We will face it all together, standing as one.” He almost seems to hesitate at the end, as though even he knew it wouldn’t be good enough.

They hint at a possible third film at the end, but considering Independence Day: Resurgence is a disaster film in more ways than one, I really can’t see it being made. All this sequel has achieved is to make alien attacks seem less menacing in comparison.

This review was written for The Hindu. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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