About a week ago, I was at a coffee place celebrating a friend’s birthday. I’d had a rough day, and when I spotted a dollar theater next door, I impulsively texted my boyfriend, “Want to drive over and see a super late movie with me?” He did, and we saw Independence Day 2. It was decent, for what it was, though not nearly as good as the first. But it reminded me of the review I wrote back when I first viewed the original, so I thought I’d dig up that review and share it for your reading pleasure.
Something’s coming — something big, heading for Earth.
A young president trying to make the right decision for the country. An Air Force captain torn away from his vacation because of a national emergency. And a divorced everyman who has discovered a pattern that shows that the alien invaders are counting down to a massive attack.
All three must try to hold their families together while working to find a solution — before all of Earth’s population is destroyed.
Two philosophical aspects of this epic and well-made film were particularly interesting to me — family, and peace.
In the midst of all the action and the danger, all the extra-terrestrials and politics, the film essentially centers around four families. President Thomas Whitmore, who escapes the White House with his young daughter while his wife is trying to get out of Los Angeles. Air Force Captain Stephen Hiller, who lives with his girlfriend and her little son. David Levinson, who has to work closely with his ex-wife whom he never stopped loving. And alcoholic crop-duster Russell Casse, who lives in a trailer with his three kids.
There is something special about the story of each of the families. The death of the president’s wife illustrates the difficult weight of leadership. Because she was representing him in L.A., she ends up getting out too late to escape fatal injury from the alien attack. As the president cries with his daughter in the hall outside the hospital room, the burden he bears settles on the mind of the viewer. He failed to protect his wife, the most precious thing in the world to him. Can he protect an entire nation?
Captain Stephen Hiller on the other hand is unmarried, living with his exotic-dancer girlfriend. In the beginning of the film he is preparing to marry her and take on the care of her son, despite the danger to his job and the urging of his mates. While I do not appreciate his girlfriend’s occupation or their decision to live together outside of wedlock, I do appreciate his desire to do the right thing in the end, to become a father to the child, and a husband to the woman. In the end, he apologizes for not having taken the step a long time ago.
Then there’s David Levinson, just an ordinary guy. His wife left him for a job in the president’s cabinet, because she didn’t feel that he was going anywhere she could follow. But after three years of divorce, he still wears his wedding ring, to the consternation of his father. As the story goes on, the couple admits that they still love each other, and their recommitment at the end shows that they’ve both grown and learned in the years they’ve been apart. Love may not be enough, but they can find enough to respect in each other that they can commit to being together again.
Finally, there’s the former service pilot, Russell Casse. His alcoholism and crazy stories cause his children hardship and frequent embarrassment, but they never give up on him. In the end, it’s their belief in him that gives him the strength to step up and fight, and to give his life to save not only his family, but all of mankind. His last words, “Tell my children that I love them very much,” as he crashes into the alien spacecraft, show the viewer what he’s truly fighting for.
Why do families play such a strong part in science-fiction stories? Why are there so many stories of couples or parents and children hidden in stories that are mostly concerned with alien invasions or the exploration of strange, new planets?
Here’s why. How often do most men have to ward off extra-terrestrial attacks, or pilot a starship to the outer reaches of the galaxy? Such stories, though cool, are not particularly relatable. But every man can relate to this simple feeling: I love my family. I want to protect my wife, my girlfriend, my children. Every woman knows what it’s like to want to support her man, and to be afraid for her children. With the family element, people can be drawn into an otherwise outlandish story.
We may not understand UFOs, but we understand loss. We may not care much about alien mind control, but we care about relationships. We may not have experienced world invasions, but we’ve all experienced love.
Despite the fact that all the film’s main characters are American, the ending depends largely on the coming together of all countries around the world to defeat the aliens. The implication is that if mankind only had a common enemy, they would come together to fight it, forgetting all their difficulties and becoming one in the fight for their planet.
I would like it if this were true. As much as anyone else, I’d love to see humanity stop fighting and come to peace. But the reality is that even an alien attack, if such a thing were possible, would not be enough to draw everyone on Earth into unity. Every single person on Earth is selfish, everyone has their own agendas, no one has the capability, in and of themselves, to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the good of all mankind.
Even with the threat of annihilation, people would not trust each other. Each country’s government would distrust the others. There would be those who doubted the honesty of their nation’s leadership. Many, if not most, would run and hide, not stand shoulder-to-shoulder and fight. This is the reality, because the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things.
It will take more than giant, destructive UFOs to bring humanity together. The one and only means of peace is the blood of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. Without Him, we’ll go on fighting each other to the end of time. Our only and best hope lies in His plan for us, and no matter how much we dream of uniting under a banner of peace, it will do us no good unless the banner bears the emblem of the Prince of Peace.