Why Will Smith is a wise, wise man.


I’m catching up on a few of the big films I missed during 2016. But Roland Emmerich has a lot to answer for with this one. Twenty years after Independence Day smashed the summer box office of 1996, the aliens are back: bigger and badder than ever. Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is no longer on the scene but, to give Emmerich a little credit, he has gathered an impressive array of the original stars to return led by Hiller’s wife Jasmine (Vivica Fox), President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), Dr Okun (Brent Spiner), David Levinson  (Jeff Goldblum) and his dad (Judd Hirsch). The great Robert Loggia even turns up, who played the original General Grey, looking like he is about to expire (which unfortunately he did late last year, and the film is in memorial to him). All of them have weathered over the years apart from Judd Hirsch who must have a picture in his attic.

Maika Monroe in that frustrating moment where they shut the train doors 30 seconds before departure.

Playing the new generation (Hiller’s young son Dylan and the president’s daughter Patricia) are Jessie Usher and the comely Maika Monroe respectively, the latter having the pout of a young Jessica Alba and showing promise. Rounding off the young ‘uns, and playing an enormously irritating hunk/hero and his sidekick buddy are Jake (Liam Hemsworth – yes, younger brother of Chris) and Floyd (Nicolas Wright). And with the obvious needs of summer blockbusters to appeal to the ravenous Chinese market there is also Shanghai-born Angelababy as a young hotshot pilot and Chin Han as her uncle, moonbase commander Commander Jiang.

Son of Thor. Liam Hemsworth looking hunkish.

It’s hard to know where to start with criticism of this film. It’s like you’ve caught someone desecrating the grave of a dearly departed relative. The plot is ludicrous…. Uh oh…here comes another One Mann’s Movies Showcase Theatre….

The scene:  onboard the alien craft high above central Asia

DRONE K’FAALL:   “The use of the anti-gravity weapon worked a treat your Majesty.  We have ripped up Shanghai and dumped in from a great height on London!  Take that Queenie! All hail our weapons superiority! I take it we should just ‘rinse and repeat’ around the world to wipe them all out? ” 

QUEEN ALIEN BEE: “No K’Fall.  Let’s land in the Atlantic and then go fight them one-on-one with our little ships in the desert near Area 51.”

DRONE K’FALL:  “B-b-b-but your Majesty, with our gravity weapon we could eliminate all threat, drill out the earth’s core and find what we came here for in perfect safety!”.

QUEEN ALIEN BEE: “No… that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do…”

I thought the Oscar for the dumbest aliens of the year was a shoe-in for the ones who chose a similar tactic in “The 5th Wave” – but no… we have another contender for the crown. This ridiculous London-based CGI sequence – a virtual re-shoot of the ridiculous CGI sequence in Emmerich’s “2012” where John Cusack is fleeing by plane a collapsing Los Angeles  – is mitigated only by Goldblum’s witty comment about them “Always going for the landmarks” – the best line in the film. 

“They always go for the landmarks”. A bad day to be flying out of Heathrow.

Elsewhere, the story and screenplay – by an army of writers (never a good sign) – is risible and an insult to intelligence, alien or otherwise. The ludicrous plot points go on and on…  

  • Why on earth is the single landed alien craft from 1996 owned by an African warlord? If mankind have ‘benefited’ so much from the alien technology that must surely have been through the UN-dismantling of that ship?
  • There seems to be no logical connection between the “visions” (stolen from “Close Encounters”) and the alien craft. The visions might have well have been of the alien’s last shopping list (“six cans of Kraag beans; one bottle of Vollufi ale; … “);
  • The alien craft is big enough to span the WHOLE Atlantic when it lands, but – who would believe it? – comes to a stop with its edge in Washington JUST ENOUGH to dip the White House flag to a jaunty angle.  #cringe;
  • The alien ship – apparently open to the elements – allows our heroic hunks to wander around without spacesuits;
Breathless… or not. Jessie T Usher and Liam Hemsworth (foreground) not dying of asphyxiation or cold.
  • At one point it looked like our curvaceous heroine was going to defeat the alien queen in good ol’ Wild West fashion armed only with a handgun (but no, my head could come out of my hands again);
  • And don’t even get me started on the opening “excitement” about propping up a collapsing supergun on the moon with a spaceship. Gerry Anderson would be spinning in his grave.

The dialogue is little better. The original “Independence Day” was probably most famous for two scenes: the impressive destruction of the White House and Bill Paxton’s ludicrously corny “We will not go quietly into the night” speech.  Here trying to go one better we have not just one version of this but two with William Fichner’s General Adams chipping one in from the rough before Paxton delivers an impromptu hanger speech that is toe-curlingly excruciating.  

William Fichner “You guys won’t believe the speech they’ve written me to delivery”. With Jeff Goldblum and Brent Spiner.

Much of the acting is of the “I really don’t want to be here but it’s good for the pension” variety with Paxton and Goldblum going through the motions and Charlotte Gainsborough being horribly miscast as a French anthropologist running around the world on the trail of Pokemon Go characters… or symbols… or something. Only Brent Spiner and Judd Hirsch really get into their stride with likeably over-the-top performances. 

Goldblum and Charlotte Gainsborough. A less likely historic romantic attachment its difficult to imagine.

If this was a standalone story it might scrape a double-Fad… but as it so horrendously sullies a classic movie experience it incurs my cinematic wrath. It might have made Roland Emmer-richer  (sic)…. but my recommendation would be to get a big bag of popcorn, the original 1996 movie on DVD and enjoy.  Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Fad Rating:  F.