The aliens are back (both literally and figuratively)!
It goes without saying that spoilers are likely, so if you don’t wish to know any, stop reading round about now.
Still here? Then I’ll assume you don’t mind having the major plot points ruined for you.
I’ll swing back to my first sentence for a moment. It’s been 20 years, both since the first film and the in-universe events of the first film, and the world – both in-universe and in reality, has changed quite a lot since 1996. For us, as real people, we have become spoiled by fancy FX and explosions, and there’s been an unhealthy rise in cynicism over the years too. The feelgood factor that accompanied Indepedence Day 20 years ago has long passed.
In-universe, the world has rebuilt and alien technology has been instrumental in that effort, whilst humanity has become more united than ever before. The idea that the aliens could return is certainly a factor in that unity, as well as the efforts to build new, powerful weapons.
It has also made humanity harsh toward the outside world. A major plot point of this movie is the arrival of another species, and their rather sudden appearance triggers a violent reaction from world leaders, who have the craft shot down in a classic display of shoot first, ask questions later. It’s a reaction that’s understandable in the wake of what happened last time, but by the end of the film it’s part of a rather contrived set of events.
I mentioned just now contrived events, and this film sets up a few of them. By creating such a powerful enemy, the writers boxed themselves into a corner and ended up relying on a deux ex machina to get them out of it. This wasn’t actually necessary, in this ‘kat’s humble view. The time and effort was taken to show that humanity had rebuilt, and all of their efforts were for nothing. It was as though a giant reset button had been pressed.
The new characters were okay, but none of the characters, new or old, were especially noteworthy (with one exception). It felt like the original stars were going through the motions, and one character from the original film meets a rather hasty end.
I like Jeff Goldblum, but he plays himself in pretty much every film I’ve seen him in, and this is no exception. Former president Whitmore’s heroic sacrifice is telegraphed pretty early on, and the appearance of Doctor Levinson’s father led to a completely unecessary sequence of events that felt shoehorned.
This is a cheesefeast of a film in so many ways, but then, the first film was too, and I don’t mind that. The FX are brilliant and the staging and set-pieces are excellent. A lot of work has gone into showing what a world 20 years on from the first invasion looks like, and the destruction of said world is visually handled very well.
We get to see more of the aliens. They look quite menacing and are hard to kill, so they present themselves as formidable opponents.
Brent Spiner steals the show as Doctor Okun, reprising his role as the eccentric scientist from the first film. He injects a bit of humour into proceedings, but is not about comic relief. We were told in the original movie he was a genius – well, he gives us glimpses as to why in this film.
Could I say this is as good a film as the original? No, I can’t claim that. It is not (despite my reservations from earlier) a bad movie, and is an enjoyable way to whittle down a couple of hours. There’s a clear setup for a third film, so we shall see how that pans out.
All in all, 7.5/10