For some 1996’s Independence Day is a corny overly patriotic plot hole filled mess, and if you fall into that category the sequel simply is not for you. If you didn’t enjoy the original it’s hard to image the sequel winning you over. For those that despise the original about the only way you will be any more satisfied with this one is if you felt the first one should have dropped the pretense, and embraced its cheesy B movie aspects. For others, despite its flaws people of a certain age and taste think pretty highly of the movie. Of Roland Emmerich’s many films Independence Day tends to be considered his best and is more or less responsible for solidifying Will Smith as an A list actor. As such there is certainly an audience for a sequel. But that audience is likely far smaller than the film makers realize. If you did not like the first one this one almost certainly is not for you.
If you only enjoyed it because of Will Smith you should also pass. If for all the original’s campiness you felt there was some gravitas to seeing the White House destroyed, the wide spread destruction, and the character deaths this one may not be for you either. For better or worse the sequel opts to embrace a much less serious tone. Whereas before you may have felt a little bit of a punch at seeing the death and destruction this time they decide to throw slightly amusing jokes at you almost seconds after what are meant to be serious moments.
The film is also rather predictable. One can likely call all of the main story beats well in advance of when they occur. The cast is also likely too broad with several characters treated with importance but given little introduction leaving viewers to wonder if they were in the original. The over abundance of CGI sci-fi tech compared to the original may also take you out of the movie. Finally even if one is inclined to give the movie a fair shot they will likely judge one of the few genuine twists as painfully silly.
All that being said though there are enjoyable aspects to the movie. If a more campy tone doesn’t bother you it is fun to see what our heroes from the first film are up to all these years later. Will Smith’s character passes away off screen test flying the Air Force’s new hybrid alien aircraft. Jeff Goldblum is now the head of Area 51,while his father is a modestly successful writer. Will Smith’s stepson is now a celebrity pilot and Vivica Fox meanwhile is now a healthcare worker. Finally Bill Pullman seems to be less of a Jimmy Carter style elder statesmen, and more of a recluse whose mind may be slipping.
The alternate 2016 of the film is also an interesting enough setting with the world seemingly at complete peace and society heavily militarized due to the prospect of the aliens returning. Viewers are also informed of a few very interesting stories that would have made good films in their own right that took place off screen.
For instance while most of the aliens seem to have gone in stasis some established toe holds in remote regions which lead to years of conflict. For example the story begins with an African Warlord opening up his territory to the US government after a long struggle to cleanse the area of invaders. Now the story of rebels engaging in a drawn out guerrilla war with the invaders in a remote part of Africa sounds like a story worth seeing. One fun aspect is that this time the combat is not simply limited to the air. The viewer gets to see some ground combat including said Warlord taking on aliens with his machetes. Additionally if one is a fan of giant monster movies you get a little bit of that in this one to further mix up the combat.
As for the cast some of them are pretty entertaining. Liam Hemsworth is a decent successor to Will Smith’s character. Jeff Goldblum is a lot of fun particular because we have not seen his brand of weird charisma in a blockbuster in some time. While he was likely over used Brent Spiner’s return was a fairly entertaining treat. You may also get more than a few chuckles out of the self referential humor such as Goldbum noting how the aliens always go for the big landmarks and Hemworth’s surprise that his friend the films Harry Connick Jr. stand in survives a close call. All in all if you just go in looking for a fun light hearted action flick you may be satisfied enough. If another installment of Starship Trooper style military science fiction devoid of the satire appeals to you, give it a shot. Even in a forgiving mood though the film is hardly a worthy follow-up and really has no business being carried forward into a trilogy.