“The ship will touch down over the Atlantic.”
“All of it, ma’am!”
Now, more than ever before, a peaceful world looks like utter fiction. It is not the floating tanks or laser rifles that makes Roland Emmerich’s world feel like fantasy, but the twenty war-less years Earth has had since 1996. Earth is now devoid of petty squabbles and embraces international co-operation. Thankfully, peace is never meant to last.
Back before Harry Potter was a thing, Will Smith joined forces with Jeff Goldblum to save the world from alien invasion. But twenty years is a long time. Twenty years ago I was still pooing my pants. In that time, Will Smith has grown too big for this franchise, a test flight accident excusing his absence. Goldblum has developed into a self-parody, but returning to David Levison feels like home. His gesticulations and intonations are like no other, breathing a life into dialogue as flat as the world B.o.B is living on.
But we aren’t gifted enough of him. To plug the gaping charisma chasm Smith would have filled, Emmerich shoe-horns in a cultural cross-section of characters. Smith’s family return, in the form of his fighter pilot son Dylan and caring physician wife Jasmine, but they are quickly confined to the fringes. The family connection is an attempt to create emotion, photos of Dylan’s deceased father littler the early exchanges, but it’s effect is limp as a squid’s handshake.
Parallel to this hark back in time is a fresh new angle. Yet, it’s one straight out of the post-Top Gun playbook. Liam Hemsworth plays Jake, a “grounded” fighter pilot who almost cost Dylan his life. He is haunted by his naivety, but still finds the strength to break every rule going. He’s a paint-by-numbers action maverick. His partner, Patricia (Maika Monroe), is also an ex-pilot, now working for President Lanford as a speech-writer. (The choice to portray a female president in a world of Clinton and May, and an undramatic gay couple, help this film inch its head above its competition. As Emmerich points out, “It’s time for it.”) Also, Patricia’s father is President Whitmore, the inspirational heart of ID4, bringing the film full circle.
Old and new characters face-off in this generational jostle for screen-time, with a remarkable amount awarded to jobsworth John Oliver, and it doesn’t help a film already struggling for emotional drama. This is confounded by the lack of fear shown by anyone in the face of world annihilation. I guess they’ve all played too much Space Invaders.
The invasion of the giant Oreo mothership is straight-forward, livened by the initial calmness of the extraterrestrial interaction. But this comes from the same man who made Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, and Resurgence soon devolves into Episode IV: No Hope, drawing on everything from Alien to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The mothership is “bigger than the old one”, but when something’s so massive, it is hard to feel like a step-up. All the smashing and crashing leads to confrontations in air and on land, but all’s been seen better and before. ID4 lay the groundwork for film’s like London Has Fallen, but it is still disappointing that Resurgence‘s spectacle often resembles Butler’s landmark-buster.
Despite all that, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Goldblum is innately entertaining and Hemsworth is as lively as we’ve ever seen. Resurgence is happily commercial but also knowing, much of its humour is intentionally meta. There’s also much to laugh at that probably isn’t intended, but to lay it out would only be to rub salt into wounds.
Resurgence? This one could have done with a shot in the arm.
Images courtesy of Fox Movies.