SHOWCASE CINEMAS PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW
While this ultimately won’t stand out in the same way the original did to become a cult popcorn-munching blockbuster in 1996 – there’s still a lot of fun to be had 20 years on.
Director Roland Emmerich retains the essence of the first film – staying close to its ‘cheesy’ sci-fi roots – but the special effects that had the ‘wow’ factor two decades ago have now unfortunately become ‘two a penny’.
But despite bringing veteran cast members back – Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A Fox, Brent Spiner and even the late Robert Loggia – it really does miss a truly enigmatic A-lister presence like Will Smith (who opted for Deadshot in Suicide Squad instead) to really take this into the stratosphere.
The Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth does his best in the Smith-alike role – as the chilled out wise-cracking action man – along with other young newcomers, such as the much sought-after Maika Monroe (It Follows), Jessie T Usher (When the Game Stands Tall) and Joey King (White House Down), who complement the ‘old guard’ pretty well.
With the nations of Earth having collaborated on an immense defence strategy using the recovered alien technology left behind after the last devastating invasion (known as the War of ’96), humanity must once again stand together to try and defeat the extra-terrestrial menace when it comes back, bigger, stronger and an unprecedented scale – which again could put the world on the brink of extinction.
So it’s left to warring fighter pilots Jake Morrison (Hemsworth) and Dylan Hiller (Usher) – the older version of Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller (who has been killed off before the events of this film) and Fox’s Jasmine Hiller’s son from the original – and Morrison’s girlfriend Patricia Whitmore (who is the older version of Bill Pullman’s former President Whitmore’s daughter from the first film), who has given up her piloting career to look after her now unstable Father.
You still with me? Well this all falls conveniently into place alongside the returning David Levinson (the always good value Goldblum), his Dad Julius Levinson (Hirsch), Dr Okun (Spiner) and co, with new female President Lanford (Sela Ward) giving the final say on attacking the returning protagonists when they wreak havoc on the moon’s base, then head to Earth with a massive mothership – complete with mother alien on board.
And for the most part, with a decent opening and slow-moving first hour, it delivers, with Hemsworth and Usher providing notable scenes that echoed the Smith/Harry Connick Jr dogfights from the original – which generally leads to an actioner that feels like a noteworthy successor complete with impressive special effects.
It’s of course laden with stereotypes, inconceivable coincidences and trademark ‘cheesy’ moments – see Pullman’s hangar speech which has the usual ‘Team America’ gravitas – but it does just enough to leave you satisfied from this Independence Day resurgence.
But even though the ‘young guns’ nicely complement the returning cast, there’s not enough screen time to truly flesh out all the characters, with Monroe and Usher – and especially Deobia Oparei’s machete-wielding African warlord – suffering among the multiple side storylines to make you actually care for the main characters in the same way the original did.
The humour – despite Hemsworth’s best efforts – is left to Spiner’s eccentric doctor to spearhead, but on that front it does miss the pizazz that Smith brought to the party.
There’s a nice twist from another alien race – looking like something from the set of Tom Cruise’s sci-fier Oblivion – which could potentially lead to another sequel that is set further among the stars, but whether this makes enough money to greenlight that remains to be seen.
It’s better than the likes of Transformers, and is still a cut above most sci-fi adventures – bar Star Wars of course – so here’s hoping there’s enough fusion in the tank to make what could be an intriguing third instalment.
There’s just about enough of a resurgence here to have earned it.
Rating: 3/5 Gavin Miller