For almost twenty years, I have told the following story to my students as an illustration of a listening technique: When I took my family to see “Independence Day” for the Fourth of July Weekend in 1996, I waited in the lobby after the movie was over while the girls used the restroom. As the heavy crowds were milling around, I heard one fellow complaining out loud “Yeah right, like some alien computer is going to link up with a Macintosh”. I thought to myself at that time, “Dude, you just saw a movie about an alien invasion of the planet, and the story point that bugs you is that the computers might have incompatible operating systems, lighten up!” I tell my students that sometimes you have to use a little imagination as you listen, to make what another person is telling you interesting or meaningful. The big picture is often more important than the details. After today, I will have an addendum to the teaching anecdote, “Sometimes the devil is in the details”.
This movie fails on so many levels that it is hard to fathom. The overall plot might make some sense but it will only work if the pieces fit together and make the implausible plausible for two hours, that never happens. There are characters here that are in the movie only because they were in the original, they have nothing to do with the plot and they don’t do anything interesting. New characters are introduced and we never get a chance to connect with them, they are cardboard cutouts and without any emotional investment, it is hard to care about what happens to them. The coincidences that happen in the span of the story are so unbelievable as to be laughable. The ideas that are developed to engage in combat with the aliens are sometimes nonsensical. Finally, the multiple plot threads don’t hang together enough to make anything feel remotely possible. I get that there is a new timeline and history for the planet, but the twenty year interval hardly seems sufficient to build the community that exists in this film and still have some of the elements they want to sell us. This movie is a candidate for Mystery Science Theater 3000, and maybe by next week.
Let’s talk about stuff that should work but doesn’t. Jeff Goldblum is the biggest asset there is in the film, and he has almost no funny lines or quirky moments that hit. Part of the problem is that there is no Will Smith to play off of, and part of the problem is that he now does things in a casual everyday manner that would have been the butt of one of his comments in the original film. He is back and forth from the moon in a five minute segment, that of course happens after he makes a trek to Africa to deal with a warlord of his acquaintance. He is a hero in the story and has been given substantial power in his new job, and then nobody listens to his advise in a key moment. Bill Pullman was a heroic fighter pilot, turned President, turned war hero again, and here he is portrayed as nearly addled with some form of alien communication that is not decipherable to anyone else. Brent Spinner’s character comes back from the dead, going from a short cameo in the original to a major component in this film, and unfortunately for us Star Trek fans, that was not a good thing. Robert Loggia has a wordless appearance and because he died last year, I thought his face might just have been planted in CG form onto an actor on set. It turns out he was in the film but I suspect, only because they were trying to connect the first movie to the second as much as they could. I think William Fichtner is a terrific actor and presense in movies, in this he is nearly an non-entity.
While I was watching this, I was surprised how uninteresting all the special effects looked. I flashed back to the Superman Movies of the late seventies and eighties and I remembered how great the first two films looked and how cheap the second two looked. This sequel looks like the crappy end product of a franchise that is exhausted itself, not like a revived reboot with state of the art technology behind it. It may be that because the film is designed to play in 3D, that standard screenings like the one we attended won’t have the same shiny sheen to them. I can tell you I will not be going back to a more expensive 3D screening to find out. I admittedly have no musical talent but I can appreciate film music. I might be the wrong person to cast aspersions on the score for this movie, but I can tell you what my reaction to it was ass a viewer. Eh. There is not a theme or a motif that is memorable. The music cues don’t seem to synch up with what is on the screen. I’d have preferred a stronger sound design than most of the score I heard in the theater today.
|The best thing about this movie is the poster here|
There are several incomprehensible parts to the plot line, and the wanton destruction of large patches of the planet have no horror or awe in them as they have had in other Roland Emmerich films. Every piece of destruction is done on such a massive scale with such speed that it does not feel believable. There is no iconic moment in the film like the destruction of the White House in the first movie. In fact, we appear to have simply reconstructed the White House in the same spot so it could be destroyed along with the rest of the East Coast in this movie. By any chance do you remember the scene where the dog escapes the destruction of Los Angeles in the first movie? This time the dog has been replaced by Judd Hirsh, and it is even less plausible. The original film was no piece of classic screenwriting, but at least in made sense and built to a climax. This film feels like it is all second act and the climaxes are so uninteresting that you wonder what does any of it mean. My answer to you is that it means 20th Century Fox was so focused on getting the franchise up and going, that they neglected to make it audience friendly. The rush to get to the second sequel means this film feels unessential. They spent a ton of dough making this and they were wise to skip paying Will Smith his requested Fifty Million Dollar Fee. It may not make Fifty Million on opening weekend and it will be out of theaters in three weeks or so. Someone at the studio should be losing their job over this catastrophe.