What is wrong with just calling it Independence Day 2?
Pre-warning here SPOILERS!!!
So I watched (as I’m going to be calling it from this point on) ID 2 recently and I thought it was pretty bland, uninspired, boring dreck.
Now here is where you get people pipping up with the “is a film about shooting aliens, what do you expect?”. I’ll answer that question by quickly covering the first film.
The original film is hardly high art. It’s a dumb action flick with impressive special effects and is really a thinly disguised remake of the classic War of the Worlds story.
But the original had something this sequel does not… characters.
I actually enjoyed and cared about the characters in the first film. Again, it was not exactly Shakespeare in terms of writing but the characters in the first film were written and acted perfectly for what the film was. It was an ensemble cast and every character had a part to play. Steven Hiller (Will Smith), President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch), Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), Jasmine Dubrow (Vivica A. Fox), Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner). All memorable even after 20 years, yes the original film is now 20 years old.
The original film had heart. As dumb and predictable it was, you can still tell the writers gave a shit. Just off the top of my head, the scene where the First Lady dies is pretty damn emotional and still leaves a lump in your throat now. It a brilliant scene well shot, directed and acted.
Patricia Whitmore: “Is Mommy sleeping now?”
President Whitmore: “Yeah, Mommy is sleeping now.”
That’s all, two simple lines of dialogue that hit you like a sledgehammer to the face.
Yes the original is dumb, but it did dumb well and in an entertaining way.
Onto this sequel…
The characters are bland, uninteresting and forgettable. Seriously, I can remember characters, their motivations and dialogue from the original film 20 years ago. But I’ve forgotten pretty much everything about everyone in this film 20 minutes after leaving the cinema.
I’ll quickly cover the plot here and try to remember as much about the characters as I can.
Okay, so it’s been 20 years since the aliens attacked Earth from the previous film. We have used their technology to help advance our own and world peace has finally become a reality due to everyone’s efforts during and after the alien attack before. The world is a much better place.
Then an alien ship appears on the moon where we humans have set up a defence platform in case of further alien attacks. We adopt the standard shoot first ask questions later and destroy this alien ship.
We take some of the wrecked ship back to Earth for analysis just as a HUGE alien ship is moving in towards Earth. This bigger ship is (I think) the same aliens from the first film returning. They come back to drill to the Earth’s centre to drain the molten core to use as fuel for their ships.
At Area 51, we discover the smaller ship we destroyed on the moon was actually the last of its species of another alien life-form. These aliens have been at war with the other aliens for centuries and this last of its species turned up at the moon to try to warn us about another attack by the original aliens. You know, ‘the enemy of our enemy is our friend’ kind of scenario.
Anyway, the HUGE alien ship parks itself over the Atlantic Ocean as the ship is said to be around 3000 miles wide and it begins drilling to the Earth’s core.
We try to attack and get demolished… standard.
Then its discovered that the HUGE alien ship with its millions of aliens and ships within it has another ship in it that contains the alien queen. Kill the queen and all the other aliens will die too. So a plan is devised to kill the alien queen. She does die, all the other attacking aliens die along with her and America saves the world yet again.
Leave the ending open in a really unsubtle way for a sequel and there you have ID 2.
That’s yer plot right there and to be honest, it was a better plot than I was expecting even if a lot of it is really badly written. But as I said earlier, this film’s biggest failure is its lack of characters or writing for those characters. Notice how in my plot synopsis there I didn’t mention any of the characters? That’s because I can’t remember any of them.
Doing this article here, I’ve just had to research to get character names just so I could cover them now for you…
Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) is the cocky, overly confident pilot you have seen hundreds of times before.
Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher) is ‘not Will Smith’ trying to be Will Smith as Steven Hiller’s son… even though the first film pointed out he was not his son… who is a pilot too.
Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) is the daughter of ex-president Whitmore from the first film who is also a pilot. (noticing a pattern yet?)
Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is a psychiatrist (I think) who had patients affected by the aliens from the previous film… and is not a pilot.
President Lanford (Sela Ward) is the new President and completely forgettable. She is also killed off screen and it means NOTHING.
The cast is filled out with equally forgettable characters too. I personally think that ‘not Will Smith’ was the worst of the lot. His acting was atrocious, the character was dull and completely flat, an utterly pointless character shoehorned in because Will Smith turned down the chance to return after reading the script and I can see why he turned it down too. Will made the right choice to do something hopefully better. This ‘not Will Smith’ actor has none of the charm, none of the charisma and certainly none of the talent to try to replace Will.
Also the film shows little respect to Will Smith’s character as he is killed off in an off screen crash. You know, one of the main reasons the first film is so much loved and why it did so well is just killed off and that is only mentioned in one very quick line in the film.
I want to talk about some of the returning characters from the first film.
I admit that it’s great to see some of the original cast back. Jeff Goldblum is great in this as is Bill Pullman (who I think is one if the most underrated actors working today). But that’s about all the good things I have to say about the casting here as everyone else is just so dull/pointless/annoying.
They bring Vivica A. Fox back for a about 2 minutes of screen time and then kill her off in a pretty stupid way. Yes, Brent Spiner is also back and just as weird as he was in the first film, but in the first film he was used sparingly and to great effect. Here, he is overused and becomes irritating. As is Judd Hirsch who is also overused and becomes irritating.
The idea of introducing other alien life-forms that may be friendly into the franchise is a great touch too. The film does have some good ideas, but you need worthy characters to hold the pieces together, and this film does not have them.
This film makes plenty of references to the first film and some work really well.
The scene where the White House survives put a smile on my face I admit and there are a few other little jokes and references that really worked too.
However, there was one thing that really annoyed me and this is big spoilers here. They reference Russell Casse’s (Randy Quaid) sacrifice when he took down the alien ship in the first film, and they do this by using ex-president Whitmore (Bill Pullman) in a similar way. Whitmore pilots a ship with cold fusion bombs into the alien queen’s ship to destroy her. The bombs are exploded while he is still in the ship and he dies… except he didn’t need to sacrifice himself. You are telling me that with the advancement of technology shown in the film that there was no way to get the bombs into the ship without sacrificing anyone? There is a part earlier in the film where they mention and use drones… so why not use these drones to deliver the bombs? Even more so, there was no reason why Whitman had to detonate the bombs while he was still in the ship either. Fly in, drop the bombs off and leave then detonate the bombs. In the first film, Russell Casse’s sacrifice made sense, was it a bit stupid? Yes it was, but it made sense within the film. Sacrificing Whitman in the film makes no sense at all, its a pointless death just to try get some emotive response and it doesn’t work.
Its not what I would call a terrible film, but its not very good either. It was just so damn boring and bland, one of the most boring films I have seen this year and I sat though Batman V Superman.
I really do love the original film and its only because of that I watched this sequel. But if a third film is made (going by the painfully bad writing at the end if this, that is their plan) and going off this film. I’ll avoid that one like the plague.
This sequel lacks the great characters, the drama, the tension, the emotion and everything the first film had in spades.
People often describe the original as a dumb film about killing aliens and in many ways they are right. But that film, as dumb as it is, still has a lot of gravitas to it for what it is.
This film really is just a dumb film about killing aliens… and nothing more.
The tagline for this film is: “We had twenty years to prepare. So did they.”
So did the writers, but I just don’t think they bothered.
If you haven’t seen the first film and want a dumb action film with aliens then you might enjoy this.
But if you are a fan of the original and expect a film of that quality… you won’t find it here. Save yourself some coin and just re-watch the first film instead.
Its about here where I normally end these things with a memorable quote from the film… but I honestly cant remember any quotes. IMDb to the rescue.
David Levinson: “That’s… definitely bigger than the last one.“