I am fascinated by certain things in movies regardless of other cinematic merits. Spaceships. Aliens. Ray guns. Cities being blown up. Mysterious conspiracies. Brent Spiner.
The original Independence Day met all of these criteria and more my 19-year-old self hadn't even thought of. It was the first movie I spent my hard-earned money seeing multiple times. Yes, in retrospect (maybe even while watching it), the movie is flat-out ridiculous. The plot holes are large enough to fly one of the floating death frisbees through with plenty of shoulder room to spare. The speech from Bill Pullman (President Whitmore) is more than a little cringe inducing and Randy Quaid's character annoyed the hell out of me.
But that movie did have considerable heart for all of its silliness. And, perhaps because of the limitations of budget and special effects, the movie suggested way more than it actually showed. We never got an unobstructed view of the aliens or their mother ship or much of their society. The movie was 100% better because of that. I rewatch movies that leave places for imagination.
I think that's precisely where the sequel Independence Day: Recrudescence (possibly mistaken title) falls down the hardest for me. The characterizations are basically as thin and superficial as the original and the ending is way, way too pat (almost to the point of self-parody) but the part that took me out of the movie the fastest was simply the sense that we were seeing all there was to see. A whole new alien species is introduced early on and we basically learn all we need to know about them by the half-way point in the movie. There was some fun stuff about how earth has adapted the alien's technology for its own purpose but the sense of a lived-in reality for the characters is undermined by scenes where soldiers point to glowing infrared dots and say stuff like, "each one of these dots is an alien."
'Aliens' -- really?!?
Not Greys? Or Squids? or Slimy Bastards?
Let me expand upon that because of all the ludricuous things this movie asks us to swallow this is the one that really bothered me. According to the movie, in 1996, a huge swatch of the planet was destroyed, a substantial portion of the population disintegrated, and yet two decades later people are still calling them 'aliens?' And then when another alien race shows up, they call them aliens too? Have the creators of this movie ever met actual human beings? There is literally no way we would call the saucer people 'aliens' after all of that carnage.
Anyway, this is one of those movies that I am condemned to watch even if it scored far, far lower on Rotten Tomatoes. You are not me and I hope you draw more lessons from the past than the humans in this movie did.
Do not watch this movie, especially in the theaters. If you absolutely have to watch cities get blown up and aliens get punched in the mouth, just watch the original movie. I guarantee you will have a better time.