20 years after Earth fought off an alien invasion, and then spent the next two decades making the planet safe again, extraterrestrial life returns to make another attempt to take over. This means that a new generation of heroes must work with the battle-experienced veterans to save the day once more.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Jessie Usher, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, William Fichtner
Run Time: 120 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
Nostalgia isn’t always a good thing. 2015 saw the Jurassic Park, Star Wars and Terminator franchises – to name just a few – lean heavy on nostalgia in the hope of relaunching the respective series’. However, while a Chris Pratt-led Jurassic World and The Force Awakens achieved their goals, Genisys came up woefully short and emphatically hammered a nail into the coffin of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most famous role. In short, nostalgia can work, but it can’t be a movie’s only redeeming feature.
Unfortunately, Roland Emmerich seems to have forgotten this little nugget of necessary information while making this sequel to his 1996 disaster epic…
Opening 20 years after the original attack on Earth, we are quickly reunited with Goldblum’s Levison and Pullman’s President Whitmore – with both actors proving to be highlights and a natural link for viewers of the original. In fact, the absence of Will Smith from this film is more than made up for with the performances of the main members of the original cast. Goldblum leads the way, and is clearly reveling in returning to the character. Same for Brent Spiner, who gets more screen time than I expected as the crazed professor Brakish Okun, but is wonderful to watch, adding a level of comedy that this movie desperately needs. A word, too, for Pullman, who effortlessly slips back into the role. However, this does come at the detriment of the new, younger cast members. And that isn’t the fault of the veterans, it’s mainly because the new cast just don’t offer much. Liam Hemworth is still waiting for that film and performance to come along to show that he maybe, possibly, could be as good as his more-famous brother. And while Maika Monroe does have her moments as Whitmore’s daughter, she doesn’t bring any emotional involvement, or give you any reason to worry about anyone other than the veteran cast members. To be honest, that is pretty synonymous with the rest of the young cast. And while they are all clearly trying, they just don’t appear to possess that charisma needed to elevate a movie.
And make no mistake, this movie needs to be elevated. Now don’t get me wrong, there are one or two good things about Resurgence. As I said, the performances from Goldblum, Pullman and Spiner lift this way above Genisys-like levels of ‘awful’, while the CGI is almost-always on point and looks superb. If there is one thing that Roland Emmerich has always been able to do, it’s make his films look good. The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 – for all their faults – looked as close to the real thing as you could get without actually being caught up in a world-ending disaster/alien invasion. Unfortunately, in this case, it seems that Emmerich knows this and therefore decides that more is better. In actuality, that is rarely the case and by the time we reach the final act, the amount of CGI employed actually nulls you from its effect. Turns out you can have too much of a good thing.
Many people pointed to the 20-year gap between the original and this, and whether Resurgence would work given the amount of time passed. However, like Jurassic World last year, on this occasion the amount of time between works. In all honesty, it helps. If this film had been made ten years ago, it just would not have worked. Given the level of destruction and devastation left in the aftermath of The War of 1996, and the new alien technology that Earth would have had to learn, develop and utilise, twenty years seems like the right sort of time needed. The technological advances made, as explained in the expositional opening of this movie, are not something that would have been easy to pull off in a few years. Whatever the reasons for the ongoing delays in getting this movie made, in terms of the storytelling it worked out well.
So, as we all do when it comes to sequels, let’s ask the simple question; is it as good as the original? No, it isn’t. And there are reasons for that; the cast just don’t match up with that those from 1996. Yes, Will Smith’s absence is notable – though, as stated, the combined efforts of Pullman, Goldblum and Spiner make up for that – and although William Fichtner is fine, as he is in most things he does, outside of that there isn’t a whole lot of positives amongst the cast.
I mentioned nostalgia and how big of a role it plays, and while it doesn’t have the effect here that worked so well on some of last year’s biggest movies, Emmerich does try and plant moments designed to take viewers back. These mainly come from Goldblum – which makes the most sense – and while some do land, others fall short and are more likely to induce groans from the viewer.
In the end, it was always going to be difficult to replicate the 1996 original, and despite the best efforts of Goldblum et al, it inevitably falls short. Emmerich once again ensures that everything looks like it should, and in the highest quality, although the ‘less is more’ theory may be one that should be explored a little more.
A sequel twenty years in the making, and despite the door being blazed wide open for a sequel, this probably should be the end of things now.