When I first saw the original 1996 Independence Day, I was around 5 or 6 years old. Needless to say, I remember being blown away by the sheer spectacle of the destruction presented in the film, I remember being enthralled by the characters – be it Will Smith’s courageous Lt. Hiller or Bill Pullman’s inspiring President to Jeff Goldblum’s erratic Goldblum-isms as Dr. Levinson, The characters were a big part of what made the movie work. The original Independence Day is a film I grew up with and it is one of those films that, along with the original Jurassic Park and the 1987 Predator film that helped shape my understanding of what a summer blockbuster should be.
In fact, since then, I’ve always enjoyed Director Roland Emmerich’s other disaster-laden films, albeit none of them ever came close to the experience I had with Independence Day. So when it was announced that, almost 20 years later, a sequel was going to be made, I was both apprehensive and excited. Apprehensive because hollywood generally doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to sequels and excited because, well, it’s a new Independence Day film.
Further news that came out wasn’t all that encouraging as Will Smith (One of the breakout stars from the original) departed the sequel owing to his acting fees being too high but again, on the flip side, the rest of the original cast was set to return with Roland Emmerich once again directing. Then the movie comes out and the big question is :
How is it?
Well, short answer – it’s a good movie.
Not a great film, not mindblowingly amazing, but it’s satisfactory. I will say that unlike some other sequels out there (*cough* Transformers 4 *cough*), this film doesn’t tarnish the original. In fact, there’s enough reverence shown here to the original film that it’s actually endearing. The effects in the film are thoroughly astounding although it was very surprising to see a Roland Emmerich film (and an Independence Day sequel at that) and not see a ton of destruction. There’s only a single extended sequence here that showcases any sort of worldwide destruction here and even then, it’s a sequence that’s pretty limited in scope.
Now, given all the recent obsession with destruction that recent blockbusters have had, it could have been a conscious decision on Emmerich’s part to reduce the amount of CGI-induced carnage onscreen (Hell, you can’t blame the man for doing so when we live in a world where a Superman film has more destruction in it than an actual disaster film) but somehow I feel that the decision to do so works in this film’s detriment as such a brief sequence doesn’t allow us, as the audience, to truly feel the overwhelming stakes that the world is currently facing.
In the first Independence Day, we had perfectly paced and timed sequences that along with showcasing the devastation, also relayed a sense of scale that the alien invaders in the film possessed and also, conveyed visually what they were capable of.
This brings me to my next problem with this film – There’s way too much telling, and not enough showing. We have a lot of sequences here where a lot of important people are talking about the overwhelming odds and threats they’re facing with not a lot of visual representation of said overwhelming threat. This would be fine, if, like “Jaws” or to a lesser extent, even the first Independence Day, the characters were compelling and had great rapport; but sadly the same sort of charisma that Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith shared in the first film is not to be found here and all the non destruction/ dogfighting sequences suffer all the more for it.
Speaking of Jeff Goldblum, he was probably the best performance in the film; with his quirks and classic mannerisms contributing a whole lot to him being the heart of the film. Liam Hemsworth is in the film as well, as an ace pilot, and he’s pretty serviceable (I couldn’t stop thinking throughout the film as to how similar he was in looks and acting style to his brother Chris).
Unfortunately, Will Smith’s absence here is well and truly felt, with the actor playing his son doing a decent but unmemorable job in continuing the Hiller legacy. One of the things that I truly loved seeing here was the aforementioned sequences of destruction and alien/jet fighter dogfighting. Truly, even after years of destruction laden movies (courtesy of Michael Bay and Zack Snyder), the sequences shown here just prove that when it comes to wreaking havoc, nobody does it quite like Roland Emmerich.
Now, I may come across judging this movie that I called “good” initially a bit more harshly than I intended, but that’s only because there was so much potential here to make a film that’s better than it currently is, which is merely good. I wanted to relive the same experience that I had watching the first film, I wanted to have been shocked and awed more than I did and I wanted to get goosebumps during scenes of patriotism and freedom fighting.
Sadly, I didn’t get that with this film. What I did get was a film that was an entertaining enough sequel that while, it may not have lived up to it’s predecessor, still provided for a fun time at the movies.