What must it be like on the inside of Roland Emmerich’s head? Coping with the constant pressure to dream up new and unprecedented catastrophes; negotiating that precarious tipping point at which the cataclysmic loss of human life and infrastructure would effectively rule out a sequel.
We probably won’t be seeing the UK in any future Independence Day films: one of the most arresting moments of CGI mayhem involves an alien spaceship scooping up all of what appears to be Shanghai and dumping it on top of London. “Why do they always go for the landmarks?” muses David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum, one of several alumni from the original picture).
Also reprising their roles from the first film are Bill Pullman, as the now slightly addled President Whitmore; Judd Hirsch as Levinson senior and Brent Spiner as the maverick scientist and 20-year coma survivor Dr Brackish Okun. Notable by his absence is Will Smith – his character, we are told during the long, laboured chunks of exposition at the start of the film, died in the service of humanity. Fortunately his pilot son, Dylan (Jessie Usher), is on hand to carry on the Hiller family tradition of looking dashing while flying recklessly fast and shooting aliens. The principal newcomers to the cast are Jake (Liam Hemsworth), a rebellious pilot who has been relegated to driving a low-status moon tug, and Patricia (Maika Monroe): fighter pilot, daughter of President Whitmore, girlfriend of Jake.
Despite the creaky exposition, the cliches (school bus in peril anyone?) and the battering-ram approach to special effects, this is enjoyable chaos. And, at two hours, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Unlike the aliens.
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