- Composed by Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser
- Sony Masterworks / 2016 / 52m
It’s amazing that it’s taken twenty years, really: Roland Emmerich’s mega-hit Independence Day was entirely self-contained, but that’s never been seen a barrier before to producing sequels. The sequel is Will Smith-less, but otherwise most of the cast are back, including Jeff Goldblum, as Earth is once again at threat from pesky invading aliens. The early reviews are pretty poor in general, but they were last time too and that didn’t stop everyone going to see it, so we shall see whether it can be as successful.
The biggest argument against making an Independence Day sequel has for many years been that David Arnold probably wouldn’t score it, given his parting of the ways with Emmerich while scoring The Patriot. Emmerich selected John Williams (you may have heard of him) to take up scoring duties on that film but since then seems determined to have music which is essentially the anti-Arnold – bland, colourless, forgettable musical wallpaper has blighted almost all of his films since 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow but given that the man who has composed most of it (Harald Kloser, in collaboration with Thomas Wander) is now Emmerich’s primary writing and producing partner, there was little doubt that he would be scoring Resurgence.
It’s a different movie. A different story. Times change. The musical demands are different. Blah, blah, blah – it’s a film about spaceships and invading aliens. It needs big, bold, memorable music – like David Arnold would have written. It’s fairly safe to say that if Arnold were still alive he’d be turning in his grave if he were to hear this – which is exactly what you’d expect from a Kloser/Wander score. It subscribes to all the modern action music tropes – monochrome, rhythmic and atmospheric rather than bold and melodic, joyless, instantly forgettable. It’s not awful music per se, but this is Independence Day: Resurgence and it just isn’t what the music for that is meant to be like.
The new main theme is clearly a close cousin to Arnold’s main theme from the first score and it does a job without ever coming close to sticking in the mind the way his music did, instantly. It’s a flag-waving, patriotic kind of theme but remains oddly muted a lot the time, seemingly afraid of pushing too far. And don’t expect it to form the foundation of a load of thrilling action cues, because it doesn’t – when the action does come along, the theme goes out the window, rumbling synths and samples come in to join the orchestra. The alien menace is provided by electronic splutters, dull and predictable.
When it does perk up a bit, the music’s OK – if you forget what movie it was written for – there’s a dash of heroism in “It’s Getting Real”, albeit one that’s cheapened considerably by the synths – and there are finally a couple of big action tracks near the end that are worthy of the name, “Whitmore’s Choice” and “Bus Chase”. It all sounds a bit student film-ish though, which was bitterly disappointing in Emmerich’s last few films, which may all have been awful to one degree or other but should at least have provided a canvas for any competent film composer to paint broad music – in an Independence Day film surely it’s just unforgivable. The best moments are actually the softer, more tender ones – again there’s nothing memorable about them, but there’s a quality to some of them which hint at something worthier.
The highlights come when Arnold’s music is directly quoted, briefly during the body of the score and then a cut-down version of his end titles to close it, but almost inevitably that only serves to further heighten just how dull and bland everything around it is. And bland’s the word – it’s not offensively bad or anything like that, its fundamental crime is that it’s hard to see exactly what it’s supposed to be doing – it’s music for the sake of having music, not for the sake of making the film better or (god forgive) grander. I’ve no idea whether Wander and Kloser write music like this because it’s the kind of music they like to write and what they think the film needs, or if it’s Emmerich driving it – but whichever way, it is truly very hard to understand – and very disappointing.
See also: Independence Day David Arnold