It’s been 20 years since Independence Day came out, as hard as that is to believe. The first movie featured a sort of “happy” ending. It was happy enough at the time but certainly left a large number of unanswered questions, well the people involved with the film noticed that and jumped on it. To mark 20 real years the film is also set 20 years later. Humans have used the technology from aliens to reverse engineer their own. That combined with the fact that man kind is dedicated to one unified Earth, and technology has increased by leaps and bounds. In fact so much so that it’s fairly unbelievable. This glaring problem sticks with the movie from start to finish. While it makes sense to a degree, it also feels at moments like it’s just too much. It’s especially too much when later the movie smashes in fairly basic technology on the backs of these boosts. I digress. Technology and mankind has advanced, but most leaders know the aliens are coming back. And come back they do.
The movie opens showing the fate of most of the major players of the first movie. David (Jeff Goldblum) is now an adviser on all things linked to the aliens. President Whitmore is falling apart, haunted by visions since the first invasion. Dylan (Will Smith’s son) and Patricia (Whitmore’s daughter) have grown up to fill important roles of their own. And shockingly Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner) survived his experience in the first film, though locked into a coma. There are some notable people absent in this film, Will Smith perhaps standing out the most.
The introduction to various characters stands out as being similar to the first movie. There is a slightly slower build up to the actual action, and a chance for us to come to care about who the major players will be. However, while this introduction has an important purpose it doesn’t have the same impact. There are significantly more characters and they are more stale. A conflict between Dylan and newly introduced Jake is set up, though ultimately unneeded and unfinished. Multiple other characters such as Charlie, Floyd, and Rain are all thrown in, but are never fully developed. Catherine is given to us as David’s new romantic interest and some sort of expert, who is entirely forgettable and doesn’t seem to really use her expertise in a meaningful way. It should be noted I don’t think any of these people had bad actors attached to them, I think it just speaks to a core problem with this movie. It has way too much of everything but heart.
There is too much cast without compelling characters, too many action sequences without meaningful suspense, too much implied scientific development without any meat. It’s fitting that the movie ends with the implications of yet another sequel, because the whole thing feels more like a set up rather than a complete story. Too many moments that want to really grab you, but fail to make an impact.
That is not to say it’s bad, it’s not. There are many laughs, a few intense moments (though nothing to the degree of the first), solid enough action, and a few sad moments. Everything just feels very flat though. Even the stirring speeches feel like a pale imitation of what we once had before. Through and through it’s a clear sequel. It tries way too hard to capture the feeling of the first, while adding a whole lot, but leaves you disappointed. It’s entertaining, but ultimately easy to shrug off.
Hardly a bad movie, has some solid action sequences and acting. However where I felt that the original really hit the summer blockbuster, this one just hits entertaining but fairly forgettable.