INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE – Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Independence Day: Resurgence is the sequel to the 1996 sci-fi disaster movie classic Independence Day, and sees director Roland Emmerich returning to the genre that made his name, him having spent much of the last decade trying to prove himself as a serious filmmaker in other arenas, with varying degrees of success. Twenty years have passed since the events of the first movie, and in the intervening period the world has used the technology of those defeated aggressive aliens to boost Earth’s military prowess. Scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is the man in charge of the EDS Earth Defense System, which has its headquarters on the Moon. Dylan Hiller (Jessie Usher), the son of Will Smith’s character from the first film, is a hotshot pilot in the EDS, along with his best friend and colleague Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth). The then-President of the United States, Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman), remains a close advisor of the current President Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward). When the alien forces return to Earth, this time with bigger and more powerful weaponry, and attempt to conquer the planet for a second time, all are called into action to face this new, even more terrifying threat to humanity.
The early reviews of Independence Day: Resurgence have not been kind but, then again, they weren’t especially great back in 1996 either. The original Independence Day is not a good film, by any stretch of the imagination. The dialogue is clunky, the acting is hammy, and some of the plot holes are big enough to pilot a spacecraft through, but what it did have was spectacle, heart, and buckets of good, old fashioned fun. The spectacle was provided via the astonishing visual effects, groundbreaking for the time, and the fun was inherent in the devil-may-care camaraderie between the lead actors, but the heart was entirely as a result of David Arnold’s score. Arnold wrote the best score of his career to date, and one of the best scores of the entire decade, for Independence Day, adding a level of energy, excitement, emotional release, and flag-waving patriotism that has not been replicated since. Emmerich and Arnold parted ways after their ‘professional disagreement’ on The Patriot in 2000 and have not worked together since; Emmerich’s composers of choice since then have been the Austrian-born composer/producer/writer Harald Kloser, and his countryman Thomas Wander, whose scores have entirely failed to emulate anything Arnold ever wrote. Such is the case again with Independence Day: Resurgence.
I always try to be fair in reviews, and only judge scores based on what they are, not what they are not, but the score for Independence Day: Resurgence is so disappointing it’s difficult not to make comparisons. Wander and Kloser have always been, for me, surface-level composers, technically competent enough to get the job done, but who never provide anything more satisfying than that in terms of thematic content, emotional nuance, or compositional excellence. They use a big orchestra, a choir, electronics, and all the bells and whistles that most composers have at their disposal these days, but their scores are instantly forgettable. I’m sitting here, right now, trying to recall a single note of The Day After Tomorrow, or 10,000 BC, or 2012, or White House Down, and I genuinely can’t do it. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that Independence Day: Resurgence will be exactly the same.
The score’s main theme is clearly modeled on Arnold’s theme from the original, featuring the same bright trumpet performances, Americana-inspired snare tattoos, and solemn-yet-stirring string accompaniment. It gets its first performance in “Great Speech,” and later appears prominently in cues such as “Fear,” “Welcome to the Moon,” “It’s Getting Real,” “Worth Fighting For,” and “Humanity’s Last Stand,” before receiving its final statement during the conclusive “Independence Day Resurgence Finale”. There’s nothing especially wrong with the theme; it ticks all the right emotional boxes, has a similar sense of broad boldness as Arnold’s theme, and even allows for some subtle variations involving lighter, prancing strings and woodwinds. The problem is that it’s just so unremarkable; I don’t like the word ‘generic’ because it’s over-used and often doesn’t fit the context when it’s describing something, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it. It sounds like a dozen other noble-patriotic themes from a dozen other films, without anything distinctive to make it stand out from the crowd.
The same goes for a great deal of the score’s tension and suspense sequences, which dominate the majority of the album’s middle section. String sustains, electronic tones, brass dissonances, and occasional groaning and whooshing sound effects typify cues like the opening “Traveling Through Space” and subsequent efforts such as “How Did They Get the Lights On,” “Inside the African Ship,” “The Only Family I Got,” “It’s a Trap,” and “The Queen Is Leaving,” among others. A couple of cues do feature some touches in the orchestration which make you sit up and take notice, like the unusual processed harp accents in “It’s Getting Real,” or the metallic sound effects in “The Sphere,” but these moments are few and far between. Clever touches in the orchestration, done purely at the whim of the composer to amuse him or herself, are things that can really elevate a score for me, and as such the comparative lack of ambition shown by Wander and Kloser in this regard is typical of the score as a whole.
Only occasionally do Wander and Kloser make any attempt at real, exciting action music. “More Stimulation” emerges into a dense action cue full of relentless string ideas, rampaging brass hits, and an action variation of the main theme at the end goes some way to developing a thematic core. Later, “The Friendly Spaceship” eventually emerges from its grating opening into a sequence for strident cello chords, aggressive and threatening, surrounded by some cool spacey ambiences that are well conceived. Towards the end of the score, “Bus Chase” harnesses the orchestra in its largest and most powerful statements, complete with choral chanting, trilling brass triplets, and even an unexpected allusion to Arnold’s 1998 Godzilla theme, although this is likely to be temp-track bleed-through. As good as these cues are, they are very much the exception rather than the rule, rendering far too much of the score inert and in need of an injection of adrenaline.
In “What Goes Up” Wander and Kloser introduce what appears to be a leitmotif for the alien invaders, a repetitive throbbing idea clearly modeled on James Newton Howard’s score for Signs, and which features some contemporary electronic textures, moments of cool interplay within the string section, and some all-too-brief woodwind ideas. This same motif appears later in “Flying Inside,” although its effectiveness here is undermined by the predictability of the suspense scoring elsewhere in the cue. There doesn’t appear to be a prominent theme for the film’s core romantic relationships – the closest it comes to having one is the quite pretty cello theme at the end of “Fear” – and its absence is keenly felt; the lack of this type of emotional content leaves the score feeling somewhat one-note, interested only in the action sequences and the heroic bombast, with no real human element to make the fight worth fighting.
Unfortunately, the score’s piece de resistance is also the thing which cements it’s final judgment: the inclusion of David Arnold’s full Independence Day theme into “We Are Rich,” and the score’s finale, “ID4 Reprise.” The outstanding quality of Arnold’s music throws Wander and Kloser’s score into sharp relief, underlines its shortcomings, and reminds the listener just how inferior this version is when compared to Arnold’s original. Compare the couple of themes in this score to the rich thematic depth of Arnold’s score. Compare the orchestrations here to the intricate and interesting arrangements that Nicholas Dodd brought to bear. Nothing in Independence Day: Resurgence comes close to the vivid intensity of action cues like “Firestorm” or “Base Attack,” or the tear-jerking heroism of “The President’s Speech,” and it’s a damning indictment when the best thing about this score is the music for its predecessor.
Taken on its own terms, parts of Independence Day: Resurgence are enjoyable enough. Some of the action music is compelling, and the main theme enjoys a few moments where it rises to the fore and spreads its valiant wings. Unfortunately, for far too much of its running time, the score is forgettable, predictable, and – shockingly, for a film of this nature – quite dull. Twenty years from now I highly doubt that Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser’s score will be enjoying expanded collectible CD releases, or will be performed live-to-picture in front of an enthusiastic orchestra, the way David Arnold’s was earlier this year. Again, I fully acknowledge that it was highly unlikely that any score would come close to surpassing the original 1996 masterpiece, and to judge it on those terms may be a little unfair, but for it to be this inferior is disappointing in the extreme.
Buy the Independence Day: Resurgence soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Traveling Through Space (1:26)
- Great Speech (1:37)
- Hostile Territory (1:23)
- How Did They Get the Lights On? (1:13)
- Inside the African Ship (1:22)
- More Stimulation (1:50)
- Fear (2:06)
- The Friendly Spaceship (3:18)
- The Only Family I Got (1:01)
- Welcome to the Moon (1:17)
- What Goes Up (2:11)
- It’s Getting Real (3:06)
- Flying Inside (2:00)
- It’s a Trap (2:36)
- Worth Fighting For (1:12)
- The Sphere (3:37)
- The Queen is Leaving (1:09)
- Whitmore’s Choice (1:59)
- Humanity’s Last Stand (1:10)
- Bus Chase (3:08)
- We Are Rich (1:05)
- Independence Day Resurgence Finale (3:14)
- ID4 Reprise (2:27)
- Electric U (written by Jesse Perlman, Josh Conway, and Lennon Kloser, performed by Kid Bloom) (2:50)
- Bang Bang [My Baby Shot Me Down] (written by Sonny Bono, performed by Annie Trousseau) (2:57)
Running Time: 51 minutes 30 seconds
Sony Masterworks (2016)
Music composed by Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser. Conducted by Tim Davies. Orchestrations by James Seymour Brett and Adam Langston. Additional music by Thomas Schobel. Original Independence Day themes by David Arnold. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands and Casey Stone. Edited by Oliver Hug. Album produced by Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser.