Independence Day: Resurgence - A Bad Movie for America

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.

Captain Steven Hiller — Will Smith brought Steve Hiller to life as a great pilot and a great American. He was funny, he was loyal, and he was a strong friend, father, and soon-to-be husband. He was engaged to a stripper, something heavily frowned upon by the conservative military culture, particularly for officers with NASA aspirations. But Steve didn't care. He loved Jasmine. And based on her quick thinking in the face of absolute disaster combined with her kind heart and protectiveness of total strangers, we can see why. We were rooting for the Hiller family from 'kick the tires and light the fires' to his 'fat lady sings' cigar. He promised us fireworks, and he did not disappoint.

David Levinson — Not all heroes are soldiers. David is the nerd in all of us, the good man who works hard and does right. He is smart, he is driven, and he will not allow lesser minds to bully him into silence. He is divorced from a woman he loves, and who loves him, because she simply didn't understand what was in his head. We can all relate to that moment when his ex-wife asks him, "Didn't you ever want to be a part of something special?" He slams down his bottle and quietly responds, "I was doing something special." And we, the audience, know that. We know it was David who saved the president and his daughter from death and who knows how many other people. And now his ex-wife knows it too. She finally sees what was there all along.

Russell Case – PTSD-afflicted veteran, problem drinker, and loving father who can't quite get his shit together. Russell is the guy we hope we will never be. The one who loves and feels so deeply and reacts wrongly in almost every situation. His children are sick to death of not being able to rely on him, sick of being the parent. But when it all goes to hell, when it really matters, Russell is there. He gets his drunken ass in gear and protects his children. He helps a wandering Marine get to Area 51. And then he saves the entire planet, giving his life in the process, knowing that for once... his children will be proud of him.

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.
This guy
The fact that these Africans had to fight off these aliens alone, without benefit of the really awesome stuff shown earlier in the movie, and without the new planetary unity spoken of so many times, is very confusing to me. Also confusing to me is why I had to spend more than two hours looking into the vapid, empty stare of the less handsome Hemsworth brother instead of following Dikembe's story and that of his dead brother and crazy ass father. Seems like it would have been a better movie.

So who did we hear about instead?

 Hiller Jr. – As Will Smith had the good sense to stay away from this stinker, the powers that be decided instead to give us the worst actor in human history to fill his shoes. The characters is Steven Hiller's adopted son, the cute little boy from the first movie. He is now a hot shot pilot just like his dearly departed father. And that is literally all we know about him. Watching him recite his lines as if they were a shopping list, I envisioned the hundreds of other actors who auditioned for this role having epileptic seizures at the injustice of it all.

 Bad Ass – William Fichtner is one of America's finest actors. He has gravitas, comic timing, and a killer bod even in his 60s. I love this man. He is one of those actors who makes every movie he is in better just by being in it. He gives it his all here. He is a general, who then gets sworn in as president after our lady-president and her whole line of succession gets killed by aliens. We don't care when that happens, cuz we don't care about her. And General Bad Ass doesn't either. Because after he is sworn in as president, that is the last time it's addressed. He just goes on with being a general. No one calls him Mr. President, no one asks him presidential questions. Kinda weird. But I love his face.

Hemsworth – He is a pilot who is not well liked. Why not? Who knows. It's never really addressed. But he works on the moon, he pretty much does what he wants, putting billion-dollar weapons at risk, mind you, and he gets a stern talking to here and there. And he is engaged to President Whitmore's daughter. That's pretty much all we know about him.

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Review of the Demon Cycle Series: When Ideology Ruins a Good Story

The Boys: Amazon's Aptly-Named Meditation on White Men

Maximum Harm: The Toxic Maternal Instinct of Therapists in Daredevil and The Punisher