I’ve read a couple reviews of this movie after watching in which key plot points were soiled, and that’s not cool, so I am going to refrain from that. Despite the movie’s unfocused story, surplus of characters, and lack of the grounding that kept its predecessor enjoyable, the movie stays afloat with its funny moments and occasionally spectacular sequences. The movie, directed by Roland Emmerich, stars a handful of actors from the original cast as well as sprinkle of new actors.
Leading the cast is the new-comer Liam Hemsworth who plays a young army pilot and the fiancée of President Whitmore’s now-adult daughter. Hemsworth may not be the most dramatic ad talented actor in the movie and may not be perfect, but his tangible charisma keeps his performance alive. He is joined onscreen by Jeff Goldbum reprising his role as David Levinson ad doing it with just the same amount of wit and charisma that made his previous performance so exciting and fun. Goldblum however also manages to bring light to the fact that twenty years have passed with a new sense of maturity. Jessie T. Usher joins the cast as the son of Will Smith’s character and Usher brings the same level of energy and excitement that Smith did in the first film. However, Usher does lack nuance and creates a 2-dimensional character that doesn’t stick with the viewer long after watching.
Bill Pullman also comes back as President Whitmore, and actually brings a stronger performance this time than the last. His character in this film is much more intricate and nuanced and that reflects in his performance too as he pulls off a very strong portrayal. As his daughter, Maika Monroe also gives a very strong performance and creates one of the most compelling characters in the film (by far the most compelling out of the new cast members). Monroe works great with her onscreen father as well as her onscreen fiancée (Hemsworth). Sela Ward plays the new president in the film, and she simply doesn’t seem to live up to the tempo and heart that so many of the other characters have. Compared to the intricate and sweet performance by Pullman in the original, Ward’s performance is very wooden and lacks any sense of emotion.
Judd Hirsch also returns as Levinson’s humorous father and gives a very similar performance as what he did in the original. He’s funny, upbeat, and exudes sweetness in every scene. Brent Spiner also comes back as the flamboyant and quirky Brakish Okun and with a significant spike in screentime since the last film, it turns out hs character was much better by the sidelines and his character does take a little away from the film, but occasionally the viewer will get a good one-liner, a funny or awkward moment, or even a sweetly tender scene. Beobia Oparei, Angelababy, Nicolas Wright, and Travis Tope all feature as small supporting comical roles that have their individual moments, yet work well together as an ensemble.
The screenplay, written by Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, and James Vanderbilt is a significant step down from the first Independence Day as it seems to loose its footing. The story is fairly disorganized and features an unprecedented surplus of unimportant and irrelevant characters that add nothing to the film. The screenplay also seems to try to outdo its predecessor, yet ends up cutting the tension due to its over-the-topness. Personally I think the best part of the original film was the grounding, which it created by showcasing (at the time) regular people who were fighting or their own lives, but this film focuses too much on the president, politicians, generals, and soldiers. And by doing that it risks the thrill of relating itself to the viewer. One repeated line throughout the whole film is also something like “It’s much bigger than last time”, which just helps amplify the movie to a point at which it becomes too much.
Another thing that the film seems to forget is the powerful destruction scenes that the first film offered. If you scramble your mind and think back to the first film when the audience sees a traffic-jammed road of people trying to escape Washington D.C. and we see the gurgle-voiced NASA operator who we’d come to like being obliterated by explosion we realized that, “Damn, this stuff is serious”. And these sort of scenes were reintroduced several times throughout the original film to really show the damage being done to the world. But this new installment only really features one of these scenes, and they undercut the tension by doing a silly little gag with a teenager in a taxi that takes away from the tension.
This movie however is quite funny and offers up a few lines of dialogue that are witty and sweet. Hirsch’s character especially was good at keeping the viewer entertained even if the actual plot wasn’t as thrilling as it should be. Goldblum obviously also had his fair share of funny quips and humorous scenes that added to the film. I think that this movie is by far, funnier than the original and had potential to be a good movie if the screenwriters and director had realized what their film was a little earlier in the process. The soundtrack though is very nice and underscores the dialogue and action sequences very well and manages to incorporate several of the melodies from the original film, while still creating a new and interesting soundtrack.
The effects however seem to be a nice step up from the original film as the explosions are more realistic and the space-ships are cooler and cleaner. The best advancement however is the aliens. In the original film the aliens were not especially frightening or realistic, but in this film we get a few moments in which the aliens are actually quite thrilling to look at and quite terrifying. There are a few moments during the 3D screening when the aliens reach out at the viewer and actually seem kind of scary. There is however one scene especially towards the end of the film when a greenscreen backdrop turns out to be very unpleasant as it dulls down the entire scene and takes all realism away from the scene. The editing and cinematography both work fairly well in the movie as well, there is especially one piloting scene where the editing stands out as pretty exhilarating and fun.
This is probably going to be one of the bigger blockbusters this summer, and with the not-so-amazing summer movie season this year, it will probably manage to stay at the top of the box office for a week or two. The movie is no where as great as the first film and tries to pull off way too much in its fairly limited runtime and doesn’t manage to create enough tension to keep the viewer enthralled, but the quips, the quirks, and the smirks just manage to keep the movie watchable.
Best Aspect- Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch
Worst Aspect- The lack of tension