Friday, July 1, 2016
Those Butt-Ugly Aliens Are Back, and There's Gonna Be Trouble!
I loved the first Independence Day movie. I loved the characters, the story, the special effects. It all worked. So when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I couldn't wait to see it--in spite of bad reviews from movie critics and warnings from everyone I know who already saw it. Tuesday afternoon, after our regular physical therapy session, Collin and I headed across the plaza to the movie theater. Didn't even stop for lunch, as we usually do. He got popcorn shrimp at one of the concession stands; I got French fries. At least we didn't fall asleep in the theater, as we did during the movie we saw the day before!
We did enjoy it, but it doesn't measure up to the original in a number of ways. This story takes place in the present, in 2016, twenty years after the first alien invasion, now knows as the War of 1996--but the setting looks a bit too futuristic to be present-day Earth. We have a military base on the moon, for crying out loud!
The notorious Area 51 that figured so prominently in the first movie is now the main facility for ESD (Earth Space Defense). David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is the director of ESD, which has used the technology taken from the alien ships to build our planet's defenses against any future alien attacks. The first glaring plothole in the story involves Levinson's ex-wife in the first film. Connie (Margaret Colin) supposedly reconciled with David at the end of the first film--yet she is nowhere to be seen here, nor is she even mentioned. Judd Hirsch returns as David's father, Julius--but for reasons never explained in the story, the two men now see little of each other.
The absence of Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is explained by a brief mention of his death in an accident in which he was test-piloting a new space-worth craft. His wife, Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) does appear, but it's little more than a cameo. Their son, Dylan (Jessie Usher), has followed in his stepfather's footsteps, a pilot and captain in the ESD). Bill Pullman returns as former President Thomas Whitmore, whose daughter, Patricia (Maika Monroe), is an ESD pilot engaged to fellow pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth, the lead in ID4:R), whose parents died in the 1996 attack.
A training facility is named for Steven Hiller and a medical facility is named for Whitmore's deceased wife, Marilyn--but it would seem someone at Centropolis doesn't know how to spell "Marilyn." Oops!
Brent Spiner, whose quirky character Dr. Okum was presumed dead in the first movie, is back, awakening from a twenty-year coma as the aliens approach Earth. Though it was never mentioned in the first film, Okum has a gay life partner, Dr. Milton Issacs (John Storey), who turns out to be the sane one in the relationship.
The late Robert Loggia appears in one scene (his last film before his passing in 2015) as General Grey, who served one term as President following Whitmore's Presidency. Even Siri gets a cameo (no, it's not really Siri!) as an alien AI sent to help the plucky Earthlings defend their home from those nasty aliens holding a grudge.
We enjoyed the film's action and humor--my favorite scene involved Jake Morrison giving the aliens a single-finger salute before relieving himself on their ship. Guess the aliens weren't familiar with all of Earth's moons! We also liked the special effects--the hive-minded harvester aliens' queen makes Star Trek's Borg Queen look positively gorgeous (yep, she's really that ugly).
The downside: too predictable. We knew early in that one prominent character would make the supreme sacrifice in much the same way Randy Quaid's Russell Case did in the first film. ("I'm not saving the world. I'm saving you.") Also glaringly absent was character development in the new characters, including Patricia, Dylan, Jake, Milton, Rain Lao--and Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei), a Congolese warlord and leader of a band of African resistance fighters).
This was planned as the second of a trilogy. I'm guessing if the third movie is made, it will involve intergalactic war.