I see it in the science fiction forums, and the Facebook groups, the ones that say, “Don’t listen to the critics! See this movie!” They really defy reality sometimes, huh? Because I’m here, your resident critic, and I’ll do nothing short of plead with you.
I won’t tell you not to see this movie, or any movie; I would never deny a person their curiosity, or the right to scratch their own itch. But in this Independence Day 2 review, I hope to get something very simple across. It’s like a lot of sequels. So my warning looks more like: don’t see this movie expecting something good. Don’t expect it to live up to your memories of the first film from 1996.
You will get the inkling of a decent concept, a few gags, and perhaps a bit of nostalgia. But the movie at large is replete with self-centered characters, silly parts, and plot holes. It reeks of a lazy storytelling hand, and a team that didn’t take the movie seriously to begin with.
Ready to celebrate your critical independence with me? It was 20 years in the making.
The tagline went, ‘We had 20 years to prepare. So did they.’ My brother, who went with me to the cinema, is a funny guy. He said, ‘They only had 20 years to make a good sequel.’
While I was never one to put ID4 (the original) on the shelf next to Citizen Kane, or even a movie like Blade Runner, there are those who do. I count myself as someone who attributes cult classic status to it, at least, and who also attaches the sentimentality of youth.
With such a following, you would think that those with a stake would have treated it a bit more dearly. Independence Day 2 (or Independence Day: Resurgence to be exact) had the potential of being one of the most successful movies of the year, and perhaps the second in a major science fiction film trilogy. Instead, it seemed to take the easy way out in almost every way.
Beginning with Bill Pullman’s former President Whitmore, we see a beloved character given far too little screen time, and a take on him that made a much older, and senile man with visions of an alien apocalypse. Although he brings us probably the best moments of the film, the same cannot be said for his daughter, whose purpose would seem to be trying to prevent her father from doing anything useful about the aliens for much of the movie.
The cast of young hotshot pilots struck me as all right, but since they are not nearly as likeable as the original cast, I cared less about the fact they ended up saving the world.
Jeff Goldblum, another returning favorite, was not exactly a show-stealer, as in the first movie, but was never really in a position to save the film either. The viewer is expected to suspend disbelief when David meets African ‘warlords’ who fought a ground war with the aliens back in ‘96, actually hunting them with machetes (yes, really). Or when he’s revealed to personally know aforementioned hotshot pilots half his age.
Another regret is the treatment of Doctor Oaken, portrayed by classic TNG actor Brent Spiner. His level of crazy makes President Whitmore seem lucid, and I have yet to figure out why the scientist was reduced to slapstick comedy after waking up from an inexplicable (or just convenient) 20-year coma.
The movie also relies upon a major infodump that comes to us in the form of a Hal-like alien sphere, telling humanity of the long resistance against our alien enemies throughout the universe, and confirming one of the film’s biggest clichés, that the aliens are actually a hive with an all-powerful queen who must be killed. This plot sprinkles in a little bit of Ender’s Game, with the idea of alien bugs returning for an all-out war with us, but it was obviously handled much differently.
We are also told that instead of consuming our natural resources, our enemies are now in the business of ‘extracting planet cores.’
Can someone please call Bill Nye now?
For a production that had good special effects on the whole, the alien ‘harvester queen’ gives us the awkward and embarrassing visual of a giant kaiju bug running through a desert, brandishing a gun. Why? And why, after her destruction and all her soldiers and machines fall, did her stupidly large vessel move for the first time in hours, as it disengaged from the Earth?
Might it be because if it had ceased functioning like everything else, it would have crashed into the planet, killing more people than the invasion itself? Could it be that, like many other things, this just wasn’t thought through?
Missing was that element of reality the first movie had, what the country would look like at DEFCON 3 and so forth, or how the world would come together in an unprecedented crisis. In place of that we find a much more advanced human race with apparently half the ingenuity and fighting spirit.
Before seeing the film, I thought it was lousy of Will Smith, kind of an FU to fans even, to not return as Captain Hiller for this much anticipated sequel, but in hindsight I don’t blame him at all.
Not to rain on the parade of anyone who enjoyed this film, or who looks forward to seeing it, but it was as if someone’s fan fiction or a ‘leaked script’ somehow passed all alerts and got made into a movie.
I just don’t know.