Independence Day 2 review: A cynical love song to China

Roland Emmerich’s reliably cynical, psychotically CGI’d sequel to his own 20-year-old hit gives new meaning to the word ‘moronic’

Fire in the sky: Aliens make a second go of it in Independence Day: Resurgence

Film Title: Independence Day: Resurgence

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Travis Tope, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Genre: Sci-Fi

Running Time: 119 min

Wed, Jun 22, 2016, 12:55


Yo, yo, yo! I’m pumping my fist vigorously in the air while making noises like a copulating sow. Go, America! Go, World!

We’ve seen off the alien threat once again. We don’t need bombs. We don’t need unlikely computer viruses. We just need to spend $200 million on a film so appalling the intruders decide we’re not worth annihilating. Make your way instead to the swampy planet whose fauna has yet to advance beyond bottom-feeding invertebrates. Yo, yo, yo!

Can it really be 20 years since Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day cast a literal and figurative shadow across (Mr) Clinton’s America? It can. That was an era when a snoozy nation still felt the need to invent anxieties. It was a time before Hollywood gave a toss about China.

Here, the most cynical moments in an already hugely cynical film involve vigorous kowtowing towards the People’s Republic. Angelababy (a star in Hong Kong) is unceremoniously presented to one of the film’s bland top guns as something close to a love interest. Later on, during one of his trademark worldwide annihilations, Emmerich moves from another blasting of Tower Bridge to a levelling of some blameless Chinese city.

Roland makes bad films, but he is no fool. It is only a few weeks since the even worse Warcraft broke records in China.

The few simple pleasures of the original film have been cast aside for an embrace of CGI disorder on a psychotic scale. No longer is a recognisably ordinary world cast into darkness by an enormous intergalactic threat.

In Resurgence, the planet has – two decades after repelling the first invasion – utilised the alien technology to create an ugly, off-the-peg utopia. Helicopters no longer have blades. Laser-blasters have replaced traditional firearms. Paintings of dead Will Smith hang in a White House occupied by Sela Ward’s stern pseudo-Hillary.

(Given that we are about to be propelled into a nightmare that resembles Mr Trump’s paranoid nativist version of reality, this imaginary US might actually be better off with a pseudo-Donald, but that might invite truths too uncomfortable for mere cinema.)

Just in time for the anniversary celebrations of the great fight-back, something strange and spherical arrives in the solar system. The humans, who have built a vast near- space defence system, blast away at the alien ball, but it seems as if this was not the threat they feared.

Some short time later, a spaceship even bigger than the one that blocked out LA appears on the outskirts of the atmosphere. Everyone runs around maniacally as if his or her underpants are on fire. Pundits run lotteries on which urban landmarks will survive the first conflagration.

The younger stars are offered such awful roles that we can hardly blame them for being so terrible in them. Liam Hemsworth is the space pilot who disdains authority, but is sure to come good in the end. Maika Monroe plays another fighter ace who also happens to be the former president’s daughter. Somebody called Travis Tope is also in it.

The older actors have more fun with their gross caricatures. Bill Pullman (now mad), Jeff Goldblum (still fond of eccentric diction) and Brent Spiner (more hairy than an Open University maths lecturer) are all back.

Still, the undoubted star is the bizarrely unexpected Charlotte Gainsbourg. “I’m so surprised to see you,” Goldblum says to his fellow scientist. In a less moronic film, we might take the line to be a knowing gag. However it was intended, it expresses an undeniable reality. We could hardly be more surprised to encounter Michel Houellebecq.

Anyway, even Gainsbourg’s delightful oddball delivery can’t save the film from descent into incoherent mulch. After 90 minutes of being prodded, the mysterious ball eventually decides to tell us everything in perfect English.

Is it from the Planet Tellnotshow? How much money will this dreadful film make? Will the sequels go on forever? Look to the east, puny humans.