During the calm before the digital effects storm in Independence Day: Resurgence, Jeff Goldblum’s quixotic scientist stares slack-jawed at an approaching alien mothership and gasps, “That’s definitely bigger than the last one”.
Those words encapsulate the bombastic sequel to Roland Emmerich’s 1996 sci-fi blockbuster, which famously blew up The White House as a symbol of extra-terrestrial hostility.
Second time around, the German director isn’t content with razing iconic buildings in Washington D.C.
He deposits the whole of Dubai including the spearlike Burj Khalifa skyscraper on top of London, flattening landmarks with whooping abandon, then proceeds to pulverise America’s eastern coast.
Restraint isn’t in the film’s limited vocabulary and repeatedly, Emmerich and his army of special effects wizards conjure wanton destruction on a grand scale.
With the benefit of this state-of-the-art trickery, eye-popping 3D and immersive sound, Independence Day: Resurgence should be a pulse-quickening thrill ride.
So it comes as a crushing disappointment that the second film lacks the roughly hewn excitement and charm of its predecessor.
Critically, the five scriptwriters have neglected to provide us with characters to care about before they unleash otherworldly hell upon the third rock from the sun.
It has been 20 years since US President Thomas J Whitmore (Bill Pullman) issued his rallying cry to the entrenched human race.
In the aftermath, survivors salvaged the remains of fallen alien technology to create hybrid weapons systems.
We also initiated the Earth Space Defense (ESD) under the direction of David Levinson (Goldblum) as an early warning system against future incursions by hostile extra-terrestrials.
On the eve of the July 4 celebrations, a hulking otherworldly destroyer enters our atmosphere in response to a distress call from the fallen fleet.
Current US President Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward) commands elite pilots to take to the skies, including Dylan Hiller (Jessie Usher), orphaned pals Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) and Charlie Miller (Travis Tope), whose parents perished during the failed first invasion and Chinese golden girl Rain (Angelababy).
“It’s the fourth of July,” bellows Dylan as he spearheads the rebellion, “so show ’em some fireworks!”
On the ground, Levinson searches for a scientific miracle aided by Whitmore’s plucky daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), French psychiatrist Dr Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg), African warlord Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) and Area 51 boffin Dr Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner), who suffers from the human-alien residual psychic condition.
Independence Day: Resurgence lazily embraces disaster movie cliches including one mawkish subplot involving Levinson’s father (Judd Hirsch), a school bus of stricken children and a dog.
Performances struggle to make an impact above the din of pyrotechnics and a rumbustious orchestral score.
Pivotal characters, who are clearly marked for death, serve their perfunctory purpose, blatantly teeing up a third instalment that will hopefully take another 20 years before it sees the flickering light of a cinema screen.