Thursday, May 19, 2016

Beyond the Credits: Independence Day #2

The following is my review of Independence Day #2, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Sci-fi movies love to give us an overly simplistic view of how alien invasions play out. The sequence of events is so standard it might as well have its own checklist. The aliens invade, things start blowing up, people scream in terror, all hope is lost, and the human race miraculously rallies to defeat the evil invaders. After that, the credits roll and the audience is left to assume that the world becomes one big utopian paradise in the mold of an old Coca Cola commercial.

It might leave a movie audience feeling satisfied, but overly simplistic resolutions rarely make for greater intrigue. Few movies embody this spirit more than 1996's Independence Day. In terms of alien invasion movies, it is the gold standard by which others are measured. It doesn't just perfect the formula for sci-fi movies. It pours time and money to create a sense of scope and scale that just can't be achieved without a generous CGI budget.

This movie is complete antithesis of the B-rate sci-fi movies of yesteryear that were made on budgets that only Roger Corman could use. In the colorful history of the sci-fi genre, Independence Day remains a defining movie of its time, but it also falls into the same trap of simplifying the aftermath of an alien invasion, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks.

Enter Victor Gischler and Steve Scott, who pick up where the end credits of the movie left off in Independence Day #2. This series, which initially comes off as another shameless promotion tool for an upcoming summer blockbuster, crafts an entirely new narrative around the aftermath of this iconic movie.

This narrative doesn't include familiar names like President Whitmoore, Captain Steven Hillard, or David Levinson. It introduces a new set of characters in the first issue and sends them on a mission to search a crashed alien ship at the bottom of the ocean. Independence Day #2 gives these characters a chance to show their worth and while it might not be the same worth of Will Smith, they prove they have plenty to offer.

These characters begin as generic military types, but given the overall narrative of Independence Day, it's perfectly appropriate. Captain Joshua Adams and Dr. Jessica Morgan are the architects of this post-credits adventure. They decide, with the blessing of President Whitmoore, to investigate one of the crashed alien ships at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It goes about as smoothly nearly every other venture in the Independence Day world. That means aliens attack and humanity is at a woeful disadvantage.

The action and spirit of the movie is definitely there. It certainly becomes heightened in Independence Day #2 and since the first issue took the time to establish the characters, the plot has a level of dramatic weight. That weight, however, becomes a bit too familiar when this action-packed investigation fails to deliver the same level of drama as its big screen predecessor.


While it's unreasonable to expect a comic to have the same impact as a movie with production budget bigger than some countries, it's reasonable to hope that the foundation left by the movie gives the narrative plenty of room for refinement. That refinement is lacking in Independence Day #2. There are times when the plot has the depth of a generic video game. If Independence Day had been a video game, this might have been appropriate. Instead, it just feels too generic and it has no dazzling CGI to make it memorable.

This is also where the overly simplistic assumptions about the aftermath of an alien invasion catch up to this story. The end of the movie gives the impression that shooting down these big, city-sized space ships effectively ends the alien threat. It doesn't broach the possibility that some aliens survive, some ships manage to fight back, or these highly intelligent aliens realize that they just got hacked by a '90s era Apple laptop. Well that possibility is more than just a passing concern and there's no time for President Whitmoore to give another inspiring speech to address it.

The aliens, apparently, are just that determined to destroy Earth and every living thing on it. If they can't do it with their fleet of city-sized space ships, they'll do it with a more subtle fleet of underwater ships. In the context of the movie and the themes it conveyed, it makes these highly advanced aliens seem somewhat inept, giving the species they're trying to destroy huge targets when they just as easily could've tried a more covert approach. Then again, being so advanced, their concept of ineptitude might be alien as well.


Whatever their tactics, the story maintains a strong, concise plot that carries the characters through an alien ambience that feels perfectly in line with what the movie established. It doesn't have quite the same visual impact as the big budget CGI, but Steve Scott manages to convey the same themes and at only a fraction of the cost. That might be good news for the accountants working for 20th Century Fox, but it's not going to have the same bedazzling impact that make blockbusters like Independence Day so iconic.

There are alien environments, armed clashes, and intense action sequences. There is even an intriguing plot that builds on the ending of the movie. It just doesn't build enough to make it the kind of spectacle that'll make people feel better about overpaying for a movie ticket. Independence Day #2 has the basics, but lacks the refinements. It does enough to generate intrigue, but not enough to inspire awe and that's often the difference between a successful blockbuster and an egregious waste of popcorn.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

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