Roland Emmerich’s latest carnage-fest is abundant in thrilling silliness, but is almost too incoherent to function.
“Size does matter” proclaimed the poster for Roland Emmerich 1998 Godzilla, and the German-born Master of Disaster has certainly applied this logic to his two-decades-in-the-making sequel to 1996’s Independence Day. Everything is bigger: the spaceships, the cast list, the special effects budget. But none of these things are necessarily better. Size, it would appear, has taken priority over soul for the usually soulful Emmerich.
Lack of soul is evident in the film’s fresh-faced young heroes: Liam Hemsworth and Jessie T. Usher are shockingly unappealing characters, and stick out like wooden plans beside the charisma tsunami that is Jeff Goldblum. Goldblum’s involvement arguably saves Resurgence from its own pretensions: his cock-eyed, legs-apart posture when delivering “End of the World” lines gives the film a jazzy energy that makes its duller moments more bearable. Other returning ID4 cast members include Bill Pullman, looking a little worse for wear as former President Whitmore, Brett Spiner and Judd Hirsch. A subplot teaming Hirsch and the immensely talented Joey King is a classic Emmerich human story amidst the inhuman destruction: if only the film had a few more of these encounters.
Resurgence‘s scenes of alien carnage are flawed in both their pacing (the first 45 minutes of the film takes place in and around the Moon. Yes, the Moon.) and their scale. The White House money shot that cemented ID4‘s place in cinema history has no equal nor competitor in Resurgence; the image of the Burj Khalifa smashing into London glimpsed in the trailer being the film’s most impressive moment of CGI tomfoolery. It comes to mind that perhaps Emmerich’s talent for ruination can no longer impact us in a world of countless smashy-smashy-things on giant screens.
The balance of CGI Carnage and Human Heart that Emmerich has handled so well in previous films (unlike his distinctly heartless contemporary Michael Bay) is tipped frustratingly in favour of the former on this occasion. That said, the overwhelming amount of overcomplicated sci-fi exposition that floods Resurgence‘s third-act (shoutout to the talkative White Ball of Death) threatens to ruin even the enjoyment of the smashy-smashy-things.
At just under 2 hours, Resurgence feels both overlong and too rushed (considering the tight production schedule, there is evidence for this). Even at its worst moments, it is- like any Emmerich production- very difficult to dislike. Female, gay and ethnically-diverse characters (let’s not mention the machete-wielding warlord) are given important roles in the story, contrasting hugely with the horrific politics of the aforementioned Mr. Bay’s casting. Emmerich knows how to make a fun film, but with Independence Day: Resurgence, he has perhaps focused too much on making a BIG film…