(AS ALWAYS SPOILERS AHEAD)
So a friend of mine asked me to pen my thoughts on a familiar classic called Independence Day starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, and Jeff Goldblum. This movie as well as its sequel were written and directed by Roland Emmerich, it was his original story. The first movie came out in 1996, it is rated PG-13 and has a 145 minute run time. This and so many movies like it in the mid to late ’90s are a special kind of movie. Their action is top-notch for their time, the caliber of actors they attracted were best in their class and the comedic timing is so on point and so on the nose that they can’t be taken too seriously. It cannot be denied that this movie is hilariously entertaining, and having not seen it, I wanted to watch the sequel and see if that magic in a bottle could be recreated. Independence Day: Resurgence came out in 2016 and is also rated PG-13 and it has a 120 minute run time. It has a cast of mixed faces, new characters and old favorites. The likes of whom are Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe as well, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Judd Hirsch reprise their respected roles. One of the main differences I noticed about this movie upfront before the viewing was that Roland Emmerich was not the only one to write this newer iteration, and it wasn’t just one or two, but five different writers, which is noticeable. So here is my review of not one but two Independence Day films. Do they hold up to our current day? Should they be remembered?
The first film takes place in 1996 and is the story of an alien invasion that intends on destroying the earth and everyone on it. It takes the actions of a ragtag group to save the human race from extinction. The second movie takes place 20 years after the first and is set in a world where since the aliens were defeated in the first movie and left technology behind on earth, mankind advanced quickly and united together as one people. But were unprepared for the return of those same aliens looking for revenge. These stories are basic, which is good for them. It leaves time for us to know more about the characters in them. One of which does a better job than the other.
Let me quickly give a review for the first, then I’ll break down the second. I must admit that it has been quite a while since I have seen that first film. Probably over a year. Even though I revisit that speech every Fourth of July! “We will not go quietly into the night, we will” sorry I get distracted every time I think about it. As I shared off the top the mix of humor and action is in perfect balance in this movie, they seem to know right when to infuse character quirks and clever dialogue. It seems like all these actors are in some way just playing themselves in this movie which I think is awesome. The only thing that isn’t balanced as well, is the more dramatic moments that are less believable. But the chemistry between cast members makes up for those areas that lack emotion. I.E. the death of the president’s wife. I must say that watching it again this time I did not enjoy it as much as I have in the past. There are a lot of characters in this movie and it’s jumping around so much that we don’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked with some of the more interesting ones. It also makes the first half of the film drag some. There isn’t as much Will Smith in this as I thought I remembered. Maybe that’s because it was marketed as a Will Smith movie and the height of Will Smith entertainment. So the disparity because of lack of time is sad, but in turn that is why all the scenes where our characters are together interacting with each other are the best moments in the movie. A good example is Randy Quaid’s character, and for the first half of the movie I wished they would have just taken some of that out, it wasn’t until his interaction at the end that made that payoff worth the first half of the movie. Whereas almost the entire movie we had Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch together and their interactions propelled the story. All in all this was a fun movie to revisit and will always have a special place in my heart because of when it was released and growing up watching it. It is a perfect movie for its time, but not to be compared with movies that have come out in the last 10 years.
Independence Day 2, on the other hand, is a completely different story, well that’s kind of a pun actually, this movie is a beat for beat retread of the first story. But anyways this movie picks up 20 years after the last. Literally taking place in 2016. It brings us old characters and new ones (the children of all our main characters). All of whom became important people in the new post alien invasion world. Our new characters are skin deep and some are carbon copies of characters who died in the previous film. There is a character in this movie that is supposed to be the reincarnated version of Harry Connick Jr.’s character in the first movie. Only he’s far more annoying than Harry was, and our returning cast of characters that we loved from the first, minus Will Smith because he was to busy to do this movie. Lets be honest he could smell how bad this script was before reading a page, not like that’s stopped him before though, After Earth.
Captain Steven Hiller’s son becomes an incredible pilot. President Whitmore’s daughter becomes a presidential aid and Jeff Goldblum becomes uninteresting. Something about this late 2000’s era of action films really substitute creativity for lazy writing thinking that it’s giving us new and cool ideas. I’m talking to you Jurassic World. All the new characters have nothing truly interesting to say and our old friends seemed to have regressed instead of lived lives between the last movie and this one, and if they had lived lives why do the writers choose not to tell us about it. A big question I have from this movie is about Margaret Colin’s character, where is she? Why has David completely moved on from her and interested in other women when in the first movie they go out of their way to express to us that she was the love of his life and he wanted no one else. Just seems outside of his character. And other than that we do not learn anything new about him. The most interesting people in this movie were Brent Spiner because they give us back story that we didn’t know in the previous movie and Liam Hemsworth, even though as I said, his character wasn’t given any depth. This screenplay thinks that all the viewers want to see is sci-fi action. Which was okay, but at the end of the day that is not enough to sustain an intriguing story. They opened up with the speech from the original movie, given by a man that we cared about, Bill Pullman. “We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore” sorry again. It’s such a good speech.
This version follows the beats of the original movie which made it nothing but predictable. Unfortunately the speech given to us by William Fichtner who played someone with zero motivation in this movie, didn’t quite live up. Going back to the point I made off the top, having so many writers on the project it is obvious to see that this movie didn’t know what it wanted to be.
So for the few small areas that Independence Day lacks in makes up for it in all other areas. Still an enjoyable action alien adventure that I will go back to. But its follow up I must say I will not. And unfortunately I paid money to watch it. It is just sad to think about how some of these more recent films are given to us on the premise that we might not be able to understand something deeper than the surface. I would still like to see interesting relate-able character growth even in these fantastical films. So yes REMEMBER THAT MOVIE, but if you can help it don’t waste your time on its lackluster follow-up.
As always thank you guys for reading. Please leave a comment, let me know what I left out. What is your favorite part of that first movie?
“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:17-18