This is not so much a review as an examination of flaws. Normally I would warn of spoilers, but as I stated on my post-movie Facebook post, you're better off just rewatching the original than sitting through this tripe, so I am not spoiling anything; I am saving you.
Like many people, the first Independence Day was an emotional experience for me. I was 14 and saw the movie twice in the theaters; the first time in opening weekend in San Antonio, the second at the theater in Tinker Air Force base. Both times, the audience was made of military families and veterans, which made it all the better. There was laughter, there were tears, there was raucous cheering at several points. The cheers were so loud, in fact, that my father's non-American friend actually asked him if the audience understood that the action onscreen was not real (European audiences are much more subdued). But here's the thing—in a way, Independence Day was real to us. It was real not just because of the awesome special effects or the tightly written plot, but because of the characters. So before I deconstruct what made the sequel awful, let's reflect on what made the original great.
These characters were the heart and soul of the movie, as were the supporting characters like Judd Hirsch as David's father who rediscovers his Judaism and helps others with humor and with spiritual guidance; Harry Connick Jr. As Hiller's friend and fellow Marine with his true friendship and ridiculous levels of charm; Robert Loggia as the bad-ass General who will do what it takes to get the mission done; even the under utilized Adam Baldwin as the steady, stoic Major Mitchell who ran Area 51 like a boss. These people, some with only a few lines, made Independence Day the great movie it is.
Now let's look at what the sequel included. Before I get to the characters, let's address some other issues:
First, the special effects were great. Watching Hong Kong be ripped apart was terrifying and oddly beautiful. The science was questionable. Having a 3000-mile spaceship sitting on top of the planet like a hat... and there's no effect to our orbit or the moon's orbit? Really? I'm not Neil Degrasse Tyson or anything, but I have questions.
The plot was AWFUL. They spend a lot of the first part of the movie establishing that thanks to reverse engineering alien technology, we have great stuff now. We have a moon base. There are pilots there. We have lots of cool stuff. You would not believe how much time they devote to this. We also have a lady president played by Sela Ward. They do nothing with her, but they just want you to know we have a lady president. There are dog fights, there are half-hearted arguments, shit gets blown up, and then there is a weird, ant-climactic ending.
There was one bright spot, and frankly, I think this was the movie they should have given us. Apparently, one of the alien ships managed to land successfully in Africa after the destruction of the mother ship. Of course we know, the alien ships were the size of cities, so the ship was chock full of aliens. So for ten years, I repeat... 10 years... the people of this unidentified section of Africa lived their lives fighting aliens, seemingly without outside assistance. We hear all this when David Levinson goes to speak with Dikembe Umbutu, a warlord who has spent the last decade being an alien killing machine and setting up his own kingdom.
So who did we hear about instead?
Patricia Whitmore – You may remember Bill Pullman's daughter from the first movie. The adorable little girl who grew up to be the delightful Mae Whitman. So why did Mae Whitman not return to her iconic role? She is a working actress, a beautiful and talented young lady with a large portfolio of work. So why not? Because apparently, the director wanted a vapid stick insect with the acting skills of a sex doll. Seriously, this wooden, blank-eyed abomination actually had a role to work with. She was given backstory and a life external to the movie's plot, unlike most of her co-stars. But what did she do with it? Nothing. Bitch watched her dad sacrifice his life (pointlessly, I'm afraid) and all she did was walk around in a tank top looking the way I do when I hit rush hour traffic. AWFUL.
All art—movies, music, even stupid paintings—are designed to evoke emotion. This movie failed at its mission, spectacularly. It did not make us feel good to be human and/or American. It did not remind us that our weird family members are actually the cornerstones of our lives. It certainly did not make us believe that, in a similar circumstance, we too could rise to the challenge, come together, and protect our lives and our way of life. Instead, it just made us wonder if we should have gone to see Central Intelligence. Because The Rock never disappoints.