Movie review: Independence Day: Resurgence is bigger, but not better

Liam Hemsworth (centre) fails to develop a convincing smirk.
Liam Hemsworth (centre) fails to develop a convincing smirk.PHOTO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

The sequel to Independence Day is a bloated affair that elicits yawns



120 minutes/Now showing/ 2 stars

The story: In this sequel to Independence Day (1996), two decades have passed since the alien attack that nearly wiped out humanity. Earth is a militaristic but peaceful techno-utopia, united in the defence of the planet. When the aliens show up for a second attack, their weapons are more powerful than ever. 

How do you make a movie about Earth going to war with a species from another planet?

You can do as Paul Verhoeven did in Starship Troopers (1997) and make a satire of a propaganda movie. Director Roland Emmerich (with writer Dean Devlin) shot it as a 1970s style disaster flick in 1996's hugely popular Independence Day. 

In both films, the cheese was intentional and so it is with Emmerich's sequel.

We learn to our dismay that some cheeses age well and others do not. This movie is green with spoilage.

Everything is bigger, of course - the destruction, the alien craft, even the aliens themselves, now seen in all their tentacled glory.

But what was awesome 20 years ago is now blah because blowing up cities is not as much fun as it used to be; cheap computer graphics have seen to that.

As if competing with the man he was two decades ago, Emmerich has made the alien ships so vast they cast shadows on entire countries, while their tractor beams move mountain ranges. 

This is what he does - go for the poster shot. In 1996, it was the White House getting blown up. In his global-disaster movie 2012 (2009), it was the image of the mountain-topping tsunami.

Past a certain point, scale fatigue sets in. Emmerich wants the audience to drop their jaws at the sight of a ship hoovering up Singapore. And we do, but to yawn.

He is loyal to a fault and has brought back a small army from the class of 1996 - Bill Pullman as former president Whitmore, Jeff Goldblum as scientist David Levinson and several more.

They are shoehorned into a story that is already padded.

There are dull excursions to a China-run military moon base (featuring Singapore actor Chin Han as a commander and Hong Kong's Angelababy as a fighter pilot) and to Africa, where Levinson and love interest Catherine Marceaux (played by a breathy-voiced and near-unintelligible Charlotte Gainsbourg) are on an overlong archaeological clue-hunt.

Add to that an array of underdeveloped characters such as cocky pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth, trying, and failing, to develop a convincing smirk),  his love interest Patricia (Maika Monroe) and about a dozen others, and you have not just a platter of spoilt cheddar, but a whole buffet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'Bigger is not better'. Print Edition | Subscribe