2016 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

Twenty years after their first unsuccessful global takeover, the aliens are back to launch the mother of all invasions... and on a ship so vast it creates its own gravity. Blowing Earth's defences away and creating chaos across the planet, it seems nothing can stop them. But as veterans of the first war including super-scientist Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and ex-president Whitmore (Bill Pullman) join forces with a new generation of heroes, it's clear that humanity is not going down without a fight. Monumental displays of courage, selflessness and visual pyrotechnics ensure that director Roland Emmerich's second Fourth of July parade goes off with an almighty bang.

Director

  • Roland Emmerich

Cast

  • Liam Hemsworth

  • Jeff Goldblum

  • Bill Pullman

  • Charlotte Gainsbourg

  • Maika Monroe

  • Vivica A Fox

  • William Fichtner

Review

We knew they'd be back. ​The original's international box office haul of $800m (and change) guaranteed it. The only surprise is that it's taken 20 years for them to return.

In that time, the world it presents has moved on. Emmerich's Earth 2016 is a space-age planetopolis of hovercopters, lunar defence stations and permanent global peace.

Alas, there's no evolution in the plot as Emmerich and co-writer/producer Dean Devlin simply restage the original with a bigger budget, a bigger cast, and a much bigger ship for the marauding visitors.

So big, in fact, that it has its own gravitational field, thus playing merry havoc when it reaches Earth, hoovering up everything from planes to people, levelling entire countries and dumping the Burj Khalifa in the Thames.

Strangely it doesn't seem to affect the tides or knock the Earth off its axis, both of which really would be the end of us. But of course, this is no place for scientific rigour.

This is a world in which humanity must once more shows its mettle in a series of gogglesome set-pieces... however slackly contrived and box-ticking they may be.

The last patient being saved from a crumbling hospital. The bus full of imperilled schoolkids. The attack-the-mothership suicide mission. The aerial battle where you can't tell the sides apart. Emmerich leaves no page unturned in the sci-fi disaster handbook.

But make no mistake, everyone here's a hero - although Sela Ward's US president doesn't exactly cover herself in glory with her "shoot first, look like an idiot later" policy.

Of course, we all knew megabrain David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) was a hero. He's the one who works out how to beat the aliens. Same goes for ex-president Whitmore (Pullman), tech genius Dr Okun (Spiner), and Levinson's dad (Judd Hirsch)... even if the previous close encounter has left them worse for wear.

The sequel's new recruits are also heroes, albeit straight out of the Bland Academy. These include Whitmore's daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), her astronaut boyfriend Jake (Liam Hemsworth) and ace pilot Dylan Hiller (Jessie Usher), the son of 1996's hero Steve, who sadly died as a result of Will Smith's unavailability. There are also cookie-cutter roles for William Fichtner (as Area 51's top general) and a couple of geeky sidekicks.

An African warlord (Deobia Operai) proves to be the most interesting new hero by far, but with Emmerich flipping dispassionately between events tragic and trivial, the film creates no emotional resonance.

One minute we're witnessing countless millions lose their lives. The next we're presented with Brent Spiner's sagging underpants. Ironically, Emmerich's penchant for corny speeches means the funniest moments are mostly unintentional.

It's at times like these - and whenever Charlotte Gainsbourg's brainologist opens her mouth - that you're almost willing the invaders to succeed. Unfortunately, as lazy facsimiles of Alien's aliens (with slightly more opposable thumbs), they're even more derivative than the good guys.

Whatever the result, it'll do no harm to the digital effects and popcorn industries. And something tells us you won't have to wait 20 years for your next star-spangled slice of cheesageddon.

Elliott Noble