The sequel to 1996’s biggest blockbuster has arrived. The question at hand is, ‘yeah, but is it any good?’ That answer takes a bit of unraveling. The first “Independence Day” is a fun and cheesy sci-fi romp that doesn’t necessarily age well, but it knew what it was, namely brash and bold in its own certainty of itself. This film doesn’t quite hold to that charming confidence, but it does have some aspects that really do shine through.
This film starts off slow. Slow compared to the first film that is. I didn’t have that immediate sensation of dread like the first film with the alien spaceships invading right off the bat. Be that as it may it kind of makes sense now that this film’s universe has been dramatically altered from our own with the advancements that the alien technology has brought. Which while this is actually a pretty fun idea, it does separate the audience from the immersion that the first one had just by the very nature of the fact that aliens were invading our planet, this version of earth is very similar to ours, its just not quite ours. However once the invasion begins the film doesn’t really drop its pace which is both welcome and necessary in this sort of movie.
Lets get the easy stuff out of the way now. Jeff Goldblum is great here and is one of the best parts of the film, in fact he and the other returning characters from the first film help to instill that 90’s sense of fun that you’ve been looking for. Throughout the runtime Jeff Goldblum is having a great time and getting even weirder with his character, he’s a joy to watch onscreen again. However, the rest of the cast has some issues. Jesse Usher in particular was simply a poor shoe-in to replace the void left by Will Smith’s captain Steven Hiller. We all knew we’d feel the loss of his presence in the sequel, but when the character that is supposedly his son happens to not only be uncharismatic but also noticeably bad at acting, we notice that lack of charisma that much more. His lines aren’t exactly Oscar worthy to begin with but he doesn’t do much with what he’s given. Liam Hemsworth is serviceable here and does a fine job with his material but never really becomes a fan favorite, he’s just there to fly ships and shoot aliens, and he does a pretty good job at it. Judd Hirsch on the other hand.. he probably should have just been a cameo at best, his arc was the least essential by far and just distracted from the rest of the film. I have to take the time to mention Deobia Oparei’s character here, he’s an African warlord that hunted down aliens after a ship landed in central Africa during the first film. He’s got a little bit of that 90’s inspired characterization of what an African warlord would look like and act like, it wasn’t too overdone, but almost. Anyways, his inclusion was honestly pretty cool, his backstory of hunting down aliens and killing them with dual machetes would be one intense story, fan fiction anyone?
Then there’s Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner. Bill Pullman has an interesting arc here, but it never quite reaches the heights that you want it to. There is no fist pumping moment of rousing integrity and grit here.When the first film had that unbeatable speech it would assuredly be hard to top, but how they handled a certain moment in this film speaks to the unique issue that this film has. Bill Pullman’s former president Whitmore has a scene in a hangar where he begins to give a speech meant to inspire, and at first it does, but all of a sudden, it just ends. Wait.. why? His best line is also undercut by the sense that the film doesn’t know what to do with itself. Pullman’s Whitmore meets a giant alien face to face and proclaims “On behalf of the people of Earth, happy Fourth of July!” That line should have been exciting and quotable until the end of time, but the way the film handled it leaves the audience with a whimper when it should have easily been a bang!
This is a film where some actors and ideas are meshed within the world that the first film inhabited while the rest of the film and actors are in this new world where blockbusters are now grim and dour. Long gone are the quips of the past or that sense of fun. In fact Brent Spiner’s character, Dr. Brakish Okun, is the one that embodies the spirit of the first film the most! He was just a side character we all thought died in the first film, but he really nails the inherent cheese and knowing charm that is missed in the rest of this film. This is captured perfectly after he wakes from his twenty year coma and finds out we have integrated the alien technology and giddily exclaims, “We have alien guns now?!” with wide eyes and accompanying grin. The film would have benefited greatly by including more of that.
The things I enjoyed most in this film where some of the world building that came with the advancement of time and technology. The giant mothership clasping to Earth’s side like an enormous tic was just the right amount of ridiculous “The Ship is landing in the Atlantic ocean!” “Which part?” “All of it!” That, that’s just great, exactly the right amount of cheese for me personally. They also give a reason as to why the aliens are invading and the scale of their galactic threat. I personally quite enjoyed that there were reasons behind the alien’s actions now, I don’t believe the first film touched on that and I approve. There’s also a lot more alien action in this one, you see them up close and they have more of a physical threat in this installment. My absolute favorite moment of the entire film however was a quick nod to the White House moment from the first film. Of course they rebuilt the capitol building, and as soon as I saw it I expected something. Just know that it pays off in a short comedic beat. More charm like that and the film could have been much greater.
The film ends with a pretty direct tie in to another sequel and at this point I would see it. This installment didn’t do enough to tarnish the franchise for me and it got enough right that I found myself enjoying more than not. They just need to connect with the spirit of the original more than copycatting the more current blockbuster tropes.
Final Score: 3/5