I was going to see the new X-Men movie, but the glut of summer movies means it was already down to one showtime, and I didn’t get to the theater in time. Tarzan and the new Purge movie open today, but presumably due to weird box office math rules, the first showings weren’t for a few hours. That basically left Now You See Me 2 and Independence Day: Resurrection. I enjoyed the first Now You See Me well enough, but it’s not really the kind of thing you need to see on a big screen. So I decided to see Independence Day: Rebirth. It wasn’t so much that I really wanted to see Independence Day: Reloaded, more a sense of obligation to see it. Besides, Roland Emmerich blowing stuff up needs a big screen a lot more that Mark Ruffalo Ruffaloing around.
I’ve only seen the first Independence Day a couple of times, and it was a long time ago, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether certain characters (other than the obvious ones like Goldblum and Data, of course) were from the first movie or entirely new. Since it’s a Roland Emmerich movie, there are way too many characters and subplots, so I’m just going to go down the list. There are spoilers ahead, but it’s a Roland Emmerich movie so it’s not like there were a lot of surprises. Here are the protagonists we’re dealing with in Independence Day: Redemption:
- Lil’ Thor: He’s the loose cannon hot-shot pilot, and one of the more likable characters. I bet a movie about that guy fighting aliens for more than 10 minutes would be a lot of fun. He’s dating The President’s Daughter.
- Jeff Goldblum Science Character: You know, the guy from the first movie, and all those other movies. He does science and falls in love with That Woman From All The Lars Von Trier Movies*, mainly due to proximity.
- Thankfully Not Jaden Smith: Since Will Smith passed on this, they killed him off in a lame way and tried to make his character’s son the Will Smith in this movie. The guy playing the son is no Will Smith. He’s mad at Lil’ Thor about something that happened in a movie that was never made, but probably would have been more interesting than this one. It could have been a Starship Troopers kind of thing, I bet.
- President Pullman Not Paxton: The President’s gotten all old and busted and crazy, but he still manages to give an inspirational speech and save the world. It was nice.
- The President’s Daughter: She’s engaged to Lil’ Thor and went to pilot school with him and Thankfully Not Jaden Smith in that probably better unmade movie, but had to give up piloting to take care of President Pullman Not Paxton. Now she works for Sela Ward. In the first movie, The President’s Daughter was played by Mae Whitman (Egg from Arrested Development), but apparently alien technology allowed ID4 world to do amazing things with puberty, because this time she’s played by Maika Monroe (from It Follows). Good to see that Monroe managed to get a part that doesn’t involve running from slow-moving ghost herpes.
- Sela Ward: She’s the new president and does some president stuff, but very little Independence Day President stuff.
- William Fitchner: William Fichtner becomes the president about halfway through the movie. I assume he was chosen for the role because you know shit’s gotten bad if presumably rational people have decided that it’s ok for a William Fichtner character to be the president. He also gives a speech to the world right before the final battle, but his is more “we’re probably all fucked” than “this is our Independence Day.” But let’s face it, inspirational Fichtner would be too weird even for science fiction.
- Jeff Goldblum’s Dad: Judd Hirsh is back, and this time he’s got a school bus full of orphans. That would probably work better as a Bad News Bears movie, but Judd Hirsh is always fun, so I won’t complain.
- Albino Data In A Wig: You know that movie with Lil’ Thor as an alien fighter? Brent Spiner would make a great mad scientist in that movie. He’s been in a coma since the last movie, but wakes up to reunite with Data’s Special Science Friend* (it’s unclear whether they’re a couple or just hetero lifemates) and do a bunch of entertaining science stuff.
- Chinese Pilot Girl: She’s mostly there as a proximity love interest for Lil’ Thor’s Sidekick*.
- African Warlord: This guy (and his unwanted sidekick Nerdy Government Guy*) are just sort of there. I assume the they were included because Roland Emmerich has a contractual minimum on the number of superfluous characters that must be included in his films.
*These characters don’t get their own entry, because there’s really nothing else to say about them.
If you know your Roland Emmerich movie, you’ll notice that there are obviously some things missing from the standard fill-in-the-disaster script. No, not Randy Quaid. Randy Quaid has gone batshit crazy and probably thinks the first Independence day was a false flag operation or something. Also, he might have died in the first movie, that seems kind of familiar. The point is, I think we can all agree that it’s best not to risk provoking Randy Quaid by offering him a movie role. No, the two things that are missing are children and romantic rivals for parents on the verge of divorce. For the first time in Roland Emmerich movie history, not a single parental romantic rival dies conveniently and not a single nuclear family re-unites after they get split up and improbably all end up in the same place thousands of miles from where they started. The only kids are that schoolbus full of orphans Judd Hirsh picks up, and their parents don’t miraculously show up alive or anything.
Don’t get me wrong, though, there are still plenty of improbable reunions with a backdrop of shit blowing up and American exceptionalism, so it’s not a huge departure from the standard Emmerich script. It’s just this time the improbable reunions are between couples rather than families. Since the movie basically ends with Spiner saying “let’s do another movie!” I assume that Independence Day: Regurgitation is not really a Roland Emmerich sequel so much as a Roland Emmerich prequel. All these couples are getting together so they can begin the nuclear families who can be on the verge of breakup at the beginning of Independence Day: Triangulation. Presumably all the parental romantic rival deaths and improbable family reunions will happen in the third movie.
I’ve got to admit, I was a little disappointed with Independence Day: Restitution. Most Roland Emmerich movies are really fun to watch while you’re watching them. You only realize that they’re unbelievably stupid once you leave the theater. During this one, I got bored during several of the action/shit getting destroyed scenes that are usually the main selling point. I think it’s because I’ve already seen these aliens blowing the world up before, and really the only difference between Roland Emmerich movies is how stuff gets destroyed, so this felt repetitive. At least they didn’t defeat the alien menace with a computer virus this time. That’s something.
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