1. This is gonna’ be a long-ass review because I’ve waited a long-ass time for this this short-ass sequel to the long-ass-but-awesome original…
2. There’s gonna’ be spoilers. For both of them. So if you haven’t seen the original in the last twenty years, a certain big-box store has it for like $10, so go get your ass caught-up…
3. I have no idea where I was going with number three, so…
Independence Day – one of the biggest flicks of 1996.
I love it.
My friend Bethany loves it.
My mom loves.
Just about everyone I know loves it.
I’m always a sucker for alien invasion flicks and Independence Day (abbreviated from here on out as ID4 because I’m lazy AF) hit all the right cinematic notes, what with its 70’s-era disaster film-feel blended with cutting edge (for its time) visual effects.
Looking deeper (but not too deep, because these waters are kinda’-sorta’ shallow), ID4 took a star-studded cast and presented the audience with a “Who will survive?” script that was, though simple, ripe and peppered with both humor and drama. In its science fiction it weaved in some “real” (heh) UFO lore elements such as the alleged government alien research laboratory, Area 51 as well as the great granddaddy of all flying saucer cover-ups, the Roswell landing.
In a blend of both marquee of star power and not-quite-household names we had three main cast members in Computer Expert-turned Satellite TV technician David Levinson as played by Jeff Goldblum (Dude – The Fly & Ian Malcom from Jurassic Park!); a taciturn, former jet fighter of a U.S. President Thomas J. Whitmore (a nod to veteran actor and sci-fi alum James Whitmore, perhaps???) portrayed by Bill Pullman (DUDE! Lonestar from Spaceballs!) and a young Marine hot-shot pilot aspiring to join NASA, Captain Stephen Hiller in a breakout role for Will Smith (DUDE!!!111oneeleven – the Fresh Prince & Agent K from Men In Black).
It was also Director Roland Emmerich’s first theatrical smash-hit and a follow-up film, another a science fiction favorite of mine, StarGate (expect a retrospective article for this awesomeness), though he had also directed 1992’s Universal Soldier, which pretty cool and 1990’s Moon 44, which, I never saw. Or plan to.
The story? In a nutshell, almost lifted verbatim from the TV series “V” (remember that one? About the lizard-aliens-in-human skin come to enslave and eat us?!), giant flying saucers appear over the major cities of the world on July 2nd. President Whitmore tries to calm the public while Captain Hiller’s holiday leave is cancelled and he’s called back to base, the military on high alert. David Levinson is the first one to figure out what’s up when he finds an alien countdown embedded in his station’s satellite signal which keeps going on the fritz. The President calls an evacuation upon learning this and the aliens zorch all major cities is a blaze of lasers and glory and we lose half the supporting cast.
July 3rd, the aliens launch smaller attacks with their nimble, smaller attack crafts. The Fresh Prince gets to punch an alien out, literally, while Goldblum and father (Taxi’s Judd Hirsch) hitch a ride on Air Force One with the President to Area 51 where we meet the slobbish Dr. Okun (Data from Star Trek, and you know which one so I’m not typing all that out, even though this is much longer).
Data introduces President Lonestar, to the alien knocked out and dragged back to Area 51 by Captain Hiller, and the alien gives them, the Prez and Data, an aneurysm and lets them know that they’re pretty much intergalactic leeches who use up a planet and move on to the next one. Brundlefly gets the idea to give the giant alien mothership a virus to work around their superior technology; technology that prevents us from fighting back fairly with nukes and stuff. Also… we lose another 1/4 of the supporting cast.
On July 4th, President Paxton (wait, Bill Pullman), gives an awesome speech that is actually recited in speech classes to this day, IRL! No, seriously, it is. Everybody gets excited, the planet unites and Agent K & Malcolm take the old Roswell ship to the mothership in a convenient plot-point that both shows that the aliens tech apparently doesn’t age (seriously, look at a Ford car from 1947 and 1996, and we’re the primitive ones) and that the Apple MacBook is capable of interfacing with an alien mainframe. The fight ensues, Goldblum & Smith are successful and the aliens start getting asses kicked back. Oh yeah – Randy Quaid was in this too, as an alcoholic crop duster named Russell Case, who was abducted by the aliens decades back. He gets his comeuppance by flying his jet into the aliens big-ass, super-zorch canon-thing (technical term) and saves the base. The smaller ships explode, the mothership explodes, the whole sky explodes and the surviving cast live happily ever after.
And it was awesome!!!
WHICH BRINGS US TO…
Independence Day: Resurgence (ID:R from here, because again, laziness).
Twenty years passed already? I remember watching the first film on video with my girlfriend-the-time Katie (also a big fan of the movie. Me, not so much, as you’ll find out shortly), thinking “Yep! This woman will be at my side for the rest of my life and we’ll be seeing ID4 2 together a couple of years from now.
TWENTY YEARS LATER…
Nope. I saw it with my brother, who may or may not have seen with it me out of sympathy for my singleness (probable), or because he loved the original (most likely) or he’s a rare fan for Set Decoration by Jay Hart (improbable but not impossible).
So I’m a little older, have a few grays in my sideburns, and FINALLY THE FUCKING SEQUEL CAME OUT!!!
But that’s okay because in a cool viral marketing campaign, they explain the film exists in real-time from the original, and that it’s twenty years later!
Twenty years have passed and the planet has recovered and now thrives! We reversed-engineered the alien technology and we own that bitch! In twenty years, we went from THINKING about going to Mars to having a fully-staffed space station on Saturn’s moon Rhea! We have established a permanent colony on the moon as part of the newly formed “Earth Space Defense” force of which David Levinson is a civilian director of. President Whitmore, who was succeeded shortly after the first film by General Gray (Robert Loggia) is now a hermit, having constant acid trips, thanks to the aliens mind-meld with him. He’s like an old Roy Neary (from Close Encounters of the Third Kind – do you even movies?!), constantly drawing symbols all over the place. His daughter (not played by Mae Whitman from the first film, who’s now a stunning young actress in her own right, but, instead played here by Maika Monroe because, well, sex sells), while not taking care of him, works as a presidential aid to the latest president, Lanford (Sela Ward), though she misses her days as a fighter pilot.
Did I mention we have badass new alien-tech-hybrid fighters in this flick? Because there’s TOTALLY new alien-tech-hybrid fighters capable of space travel and shit in this flick! Will Smith didn’t return to fly these awesome things; officially because the timing wasn’t right. Unofficially because 20th Century Fox wouldn’t meet his $50 million demand. The nerve of them! Captain Hiller has died off screen in a tragic test flight so, his step-son (Jessie T. Usher, also not from the first film) has taken his place as one of the young fighter pilots. He has a grudge which happens off screen with our unofficial main character, Jake Morrison played by Thor’s younger brother, Liam Hemsworth. Him and Fresh Prince Jr. have a grudge because Not-Thor Thor almost killed him.
Jumping ahead, Brundlefly is in Africa exploring a downed alien ship from 1996 that just recently got won by the local villagers (I guess the aliens put up one helluva’ a ground fight) and – surprise – the damned thing came to life a few days ago, which conveniently is when Lonestar’s dreams got worse!
At Area 51, which is the command center for the ESD, Captain Nathan Adams (played by the awesome William Fichtner – seriously. He’s the blind dude in Contact, the Accountant in Drive Angry and, fuck, man he was the Bank Manager in the first five minutes of The Dark Knight, okay?! Dude rocks) is called in when a sphere appears in a wormhole just outside Moon Base Alpha (I forget what it’s called, but this works, also MBA for short) or whatever, and we shoot it down because…
Brundlefly is mad we did so because, obviously, it wasn’t the same aliens and we may have just started a new war of the worlds with our Wild West approach.
David gets a ride to MBA by Thor Jr. to investigate the sphere we blew up and wouldn’t you know it, an even bigger mothership (a MotherFuckin’ ship) than the last film shows up. So big it’s landing gears set down on separate continents. It’s gravity alone starts sucking shit up as it displaces all sorts of shit on the Earth. “They like to target the landmarks.” Goldblum quips upon re-entry during the chaos. Of course this all done in the spectacle that is Roland Emmerich. The MotherFuckin’ ship pretty displaces Asia to where Britain was. Ponder that.
Also David’s father is alive and well and on a fishing boat when the MotherFuckin’ ship happens! Chaos happens and we send the awesome alien-hybridstrike fighters out and more shit happens. The aliens all start screaming, only we’re told by Data (who didn’t die in the first one like we thought from his own Close Encounter (heh), but went into a coma) “They’re not screaming; they’re celebrating.”
Also, there’s a Chinese fighter Pilot named Rain-something played by somebody named Angelababy who, I think is very important in China. I say “I think” because I write these things for free and therefore I cannot be assed to research this stuff. I can tell you, though, that she’s a love interest to one of the characters that’s a BFF to Thor Jr. but again, I forget his name, character and actor, so skipping ahead.
The Sphere (not the Michael Crichton one) is actually an alien and the last of its race which transcended a physical body many millions ago. It came to warn us that the Harvesters were coming. The Harvesters are the new “official” name for the aliens. Anyfuck, the Harvesters go planet-to-planet sucking out their molten cores for… reasons, I guess and that many alien worlds have been destroyed. She (it has a girl’s voice) has a planet sanctuary that’s building weapons and that the Harvesters don’t know about where they are planning a big showdown and she wanted the humans to join them, but she tells them, sadly, we won’t be able to because the MotherFuckin’ ship is here and it’s drilling and once the Queen finds out she’s here (yep, aliens ALWAYS have a queen) it’s game over, man.
So we use the Sphere as decoy to kill the queen, because once we kill the queen, the alien shit magically will shut down. We lure the queen out and by golly she’s the size of Godzilla because… of course she is!
Oh, I almost forgot (again) there’s a fishing boat in the Atlantic that was treasure hunting but they’re monitoring the MotherFuckin’ ships drilling and they discover David was wrong, we have a lot less than the 8 hours he predicted, we have like, an hour? Forty-minutes? Something like that.
Then President Lonestar does something as a decoy, a radio truck on a space ship or something. Something involving the Sphere’s unique signal. I think. His daughter gets pissed because she wants him safe, he dies luring the queen out, the current President dies when their base is zorched, and… this is sounding a lot like the first film, isn’t it? Minus the realistic Apple Compatibility subplot.
We kill the queen, the Sphere is saved, the sphere we live on is saved and the MotherFuckin’ ship leaves (on autopilot I assume; OnStar or something when your intergalactic plan fails, it phones home).
Dr. Okun shows up LITERALLY at the very end to announce the Sphere has a crazy-ass plan and that we can take the fight to the Harvesters! YAY! EXPLOSIONS AND SHIT!
Now I’m not pretentious enough to think you give a shit about what I thought of the movie. But let me tell you what I thought
I liked it.
I liked every clichéd, been-there-done-that, ham-fisted goodness of it!
Literally everything in this movie has done before except for Brent Spiner’s ass hanging out of his hospital gown when he wakes up from his coma. That hasn’t been done before and God-willing, won’t be again. Also – the overly stereotyped Gay relationship he has. I’m all for diversity and gay characters in film, but, this is redonkulous. If I were a Gay person, I’d be furious at this one-note stereotype portrayal.
The alien fighters made from recovered alien technology? An old (awesome) anime called Macross did it first. You know it as Robotech here in the states (and a subclass of fellow nerds will call me names if I don’t explain that technically Robotech was two ADDITIONAL shows combined with Macross for 65 episodes to meet the TV syndication packages it was marketed to… sigh)
The aliens coming back due to a signal from their own craft? Macross.
Aliens wanting to plunder our planet? Um… most of them? War of the Worlds?
Large-scale disaster? Shit, Emmerich has out Emmeriched himself; his 1998 Godzilla? 2012?! Fuck, only Michael Bay, I think, can make crap explode as best or better than he can.
My point is, this movie isn’t breaking new ground. There’s a lot of touching moments that recall you to the first one. In opening alone, we see a memorial wall and the first name shown engraved is that of Russell Case as it pans out. The first invasion, you see, is now known as “The War of 1996.” During a commemoration to the July 4th events that Lonestar interrupts to bring his message of doom, we’re treated to a shot of 85-year-old Robert Loggia reprising his General Gray in Marine Dress Blues. Little moments like that.
However, there’s a lot of “What the fuck?” questions asked as well. Goldblum makes flirty with a fellow scientist who studies the aliens played by French fox Charlotte Gainsbourg in a rare American outing. But what happened to Constance Spano? Y’know, Brundlefly’s wife in the first one with whom he was separated because he punched out the President (he thought they were having an affair because of her long work hours as head of his campaign).
Did she leave him again?
Did he leave her?
Did aliens abduct her like they did Russell?!
Well, you have to read the novelization (I.E. the book adaptation of the movie, because… merchandise). Actually, no you won’t. She dies in a car crash. But they don’t take the fucking five-seconds it would take to answer this in mere dialogue! All it would’ve taken is Judd Hirsch saying “David! So good to see you with another woman so long after Connie’s passing!” This shit isn’t rocket science.
Why isn’t Major Mitchell still running Area 51? Remember Adam Baldwin’s appearance? And why is a Major running a Military Installation, and not like a Colonel or General or some shit? Is this like the early G.I. Joe episodes where Grunts can boss Warrant Officers around and stuff?
The effects are hands-down awesome, but, we’ve seen it all before. It all has that Transformers-type look to it, like Battleship had.
And the music score doesn’t match because apparently, the original composer, David Arnold, wasn’t asked back to score this film for some insane reason. Say what you want about the importance of an underscore, but his music, especially his rousing main theme heard during the film’s final dogfight and climax (and used as Russell Case’s entrance when he flies in to the aerial battle) got you excited for what you were seeing! It made you cheer! There’s none of that here. Sure, some of the simple themes are recycled, but the rest is all meh.
I hate to say this.
It burns me to say this.
It causes me pain to say this.
Wait for DVD or Blu-ray.
While it looks awesome on the big screen, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. Sure I’ll buy it to sit next to the original because I’m a completest and I love the characters – especially David Levinson, whom I relate to the most. He’s smart and neurotic and such a warm character. I truly didn’t miss Will Smith, though. I found him too arrogant in the first one and I disagree that idea the reason the movie isn’t performing well without his presence. The movie isn’t performing well because it’s not 1996 and a movie can’t get by on effects alone anymore. Not without bringing something more and special. I’m hoping Fox goes ALL OUT with the third film (it’s done well enough, so far that a third film inevitable) with the intergalactic war route.
And please don’t make me wait 20 years, Fox & Emmerich. I doubt I’ll give a shit.