Same Player Shoots Again
Hollywood must be psychic: this is the second week in a row that London gets destroyed, this time by Singapore and Dubai debris, in a thinly veiled metaphor for alien migrants. Also, Independence Day: Resurgence (henceforth Resurgence) acts as a cautionary tale about the dangers of having a woman elected President of the United States, while devaluing the office so much that any four star general can be sworn into it by happenstance. It is good that 20 years have passed since the original movie became the highest grossing blockbuster of 1996: the State of the Union has changed quite a bit in a generation, and the sequel brings those changes under a magnifying lense.
In 1996, the aliens stroke the United States, perceiving the land of the free / home of the brave as the world’s thinking head and powerful shoulders. If Washington fell, their victory was a sure bet. Former jet pilot POTUS led the counter-offensive of a ragtag skeleton crew and USA, therefore humankind, prevailed in spite of being unprepared and vastly overpowered technologically. So, what happens in 2016?
The world stands united under a US and vaguely Chinese leadership and has established a space defense system based on alien technology (basically a very slow blue laser which takes forever to charge after it blasts). The aliens will come back sooner or later, but surely not on the very anniversary of their first strike, implicating that the American calendar rule the Universe? Well, of course they appear right on time: it goes with the territory…
Some kind of an eight ball appears out of a worm hole and is promptly shot over the moon. Madam POTUS, as the party girl she remains, decides to delay the examination of the crashed spacecraft until “after the celebration”, one of her many poor decisions before she gets annihilated with her whole administration, conveniently assembled in one place. But David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum, hardly changed in 20 years) thinks differently; he join forces with a suit (Nicolas Wright, also writer of the thing and unable to provide himself with any character consistency), an old flame (Charlotte Gainsbourg, in her ill-advised big budget debut) and an African warlord (Deobia Oparei, don’t ask) to examine the alien spacecraft, doubtlessly full of goodies.
“What are we looking for?” asks someone, to be answered “I hope we’ll know when we see it.” What they don’t see at first is the 3000 miles long alien spaceship gamely hiding behind the moon. This time, they are prepared, see. The mothership has an motherfucker of an EMP which crashes all satellites, an anti-gravitational pulse which sends the Burq-El-Arab on a collision course with the Tower Bridge, and lands over the Atlantic (“Which part? All of them!”), missing the White House by an inch.
And so it’s back full circle to the first movie but bigger, louder and, mercifully, shorter. The dynastic system being firmly established, we have President Whitmore’s (Bill Pullman, shaving his beard to commit the ultimate sacrifice) daughter Patricia, herself a jet pilot with intuitive knowledge of alien fighters command system; Will Smith’s son (not Will Smith’s son, praise the Lord), himself a jet pilot, etc. etc. etc. Patricia’s boyfriend’s Jake (Liam Hemsworth) is here for the ride with sidekick What’s-His-Name. Jeff’s Goldblum’s father shows up too, bringing the kids to what is essentially a family reunion compromised by poorly educated neighbours, aka evil alien harvesters refueling their motherfucking ship with Earth’s molten motherfucking core.
The script oscillates between destruction and attempts at witty banter. Very few characters die but when they do they do so nobly. The promise of yet another sequel is shamelessly made, since a new treasure trove of technology has been unlocked for humanity to “kick some alien ass”, rejoices mad gay scientist Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner, easily the best character around), seemingly unaffected by the death of his long time partner. By contrast, the war lord has a considerable effect on the suit. Go figure.
Transposing in the interstellar realm the US inability to win a war on Earth then deal with its aftermath, Resurgence‘s long awaited “killer idea” of a sequel basically boils down to reheating the first movie with some Star Wars (the Dark Star) and some Alien (the Queen and her hive) added in the mix. To say that it doesn’t break any new ground would be stating the obvious. “It’s getting real real” underlines a savvy jet pilot, when on the contrary it has never felt so unreal, devoid of any original idea, feeling, or purpose. See you, aliens.