This film is a strange one. Whilst it comes in at a welcome 129 minutes, the story arcs of the characters are touched upon and not fully explored. There could have been enough content for another fifteen to thirty minutes to expand on the characters and their reactions to the devastation going on around them and it wouldn’t have over-stayed its welcome. Yet, despite its brevity, it takes an age to get going. As the credits rolled I struggled to ascertain what I had been watching for the last two hours, as the story felt thin and overly stretched. It’s a pity as Director Roland Emmerich has tried his best to resolve the issue of this just being a shameless cash-in that offers more of the same seen in the first. He introduces some genuinely interesting ideas that if given the time to breathe would have made for a really interesting film, but it relies heavily on similar story beats from the first but lacks the heart that the original had in abundance. Independence Day gave us things we never saw before, so I would expect the same innovation from its sequel. Suffice to say I was disappointed.
This brings us nicely to the nods and winks this film makes to the original. Blimey, are these shoe-horned in or what?! There is a periphery character in the first film who has been brought back for an awkward cameo and he is clearly too ill to be on set. It makes for uncomfortable viewing to say the least and is inappropriate in my opinion. Whilst Independence Day was a great summer blockbuster of 1996, that was all it ever was and, I’m sorry to say, I didn’t care about the returning characters whose names I couldn’t even remember. This may have been different if they released a sequel within five years or so of the first, but the director seems to think we regard these characters as dearly as we do Han Solo. Having said that, Jeff Goldblum is superb as always and Bill Pullman is reliable as ever. Brent Spiner returns as Dr Okun from the first but for some reason they have changed his character from socially-awkward, eccentric genius to socially-awkward, eccentric comic relief and he is an irritating presence on screen. Mind you, the introduction of another comic relief, Floyd Rosenberg, makes Spiner’s Doctor look like the work of Peter Sellers! He is truly unfunny, grating and you hope the aliens kill him off as soon as he opens his gob. The supporting cast (those who aren’t the stars but have more lines then the extras) stink up the scenes to the point of nausea. Their acting would look wooden in a daytime American soap opera! There was one scene where a pilot sees her relative die and she looks happy about it yet the words of distress coming out of her mouth would suggest she was supposed to look distraught. The script doesn’t help them either as in places it is so dumb and clearly just exposition that it is an insult to audience’s intelligence:
“The ship has its own gravity!” says Goldblum.
“What does that mean?” says Doctor Marceaux.
Shocking, isn’t it?
I have this way of criticising a film that makes it sound like I hated it. Whilst the flaws in this are evident and with its predecessor being the far superior film, it wasn’t terrible. The introduction of Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie Usher is successful and the visual effects are stunning and do not suffer the same lack-of-impact that X-Men: Apocalypse was riddled with. When things go crash, bang, wallop you really believe they are going crash, bang and indeed wallop despite the level of destruction being far-fetched. It was a fun way to pass the time but it won’t be topping any “Best Blockbusters of 2016” lists. I would even go so far as to advise that you just re-watch the first film and wait for this to be aired on a terrestrial TV channel, but if you want to go to the pictures to see this then there are worse films that you could choose. It’s just a little disappointing, that’s all.
But please, Hollywood, I’m begging you, please do not make any more sequels to films that are twenty years old. I don’t want anything to taint my love of The Long Kiss Goodnight…