Daring to go where no other incarnation before it has dared gone - into sequel territory - War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, once again stars C. Thomas Howell, who also directs this go-around, (script by Eric Forsberg and David Michael Latt, cinematography by Mark Atkins) as the astronomer who survived the original invasion a couple of years earlier and has now, along with the rest of society, started to regain some sense of normalcy. C. Tom has been reunited with his son (his wife has died between films) and together they've begun to settle into domestic hum-drum, post-apocalypse-style, eager to put the aliens behind them. That is, until the aliens return.
C. Tom gets hip to the impending re-invasion and takes this info to the culture's last scientists (Kim Little and magician Jonathan Levit), the three of whom together proceed to engage in a bunch of science-talk that's way over my Creative-Writing-MFA head; stuff about atmospheres and viruses and rates of speed, all spot-on, I'm sure, just beyond my intelligence level at the hour I popped this one in. Bottom line, if the aliens are indeed coming back, mankind is probably more prepared than we were the first time.
This theory is put to the test - with mixed results - when alien scouts land and begin to pave the way for invasion, killing every little pest that gets in their way, namely us. C. Tom finds himself again a cursed soul wandering the landscape alone until he is captured, along with others, by an alien paddy wagon where they are intended to be cocooned and drained to feed the invaders. Thus the shit hits the fan.
The story splits here between the scientists' battle on Earth, and the crew aboard Spaceship Suck trying to avoid drainage; both situations get worse before they get "better" - on Earth it gets all Independence Day-esque and in space it just gets gross. Long story short - C. Tom and crew return to Earth just as our defenses push the invasion into deep space, chasing after, and from here the path to resolution is paved in spoilers, so I'll step off.
Overall, I found this to be a strong, sharp film, helmed expertly by CTH the director(Da Vinci Treasure, The Day The Earth Stopped), who managed a satisfying balance between sci-fi-action and character-driven chaos. As an actor, C. looked better here than he did in the original, the grizzle is working for him now, not against. He's a little more empowered, crafting a progression in character from the last film and its unseen aftermath that finds him harder now, more capable, more adept, more adaptive, not because he wants to be, but because he has been forced to be. In this world, scientist also means warrior, and C. Tom comes ready to scrap. As good as he was in part one, he's twice as good in part two. Quite frankly, any part Kevin Bacon's up for, CTH should at least be getting a callback.
Kim Little (Supercroc, 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea) as a scientist of some sort affects her best Southern accent - Savannahan, I believe - and turns in a very austere, even-tempered and thus controlled performance, even in the face of crisis. (it should be noted that Ms. Little is not reprising her role from the first film)
And finally there was Christopher Reid. I read the name on the box*. I knew I knew it. I saw it in the credits. I knew I knew it. But in my head, the people this name conjured weren't this person. I thought it would be Christopher Atkins (100 Million BC) for a while, but he never showed up. Then I though it was Jonathan Levit, but it wasn't him either. Then a man came onscreen, and I knew I'd known that name. Christopher Reid is fucking Kid, as in Kid 'n Play, one-half of the dopest duos in the history of hip-hop, and one-half of the star power behind the ridiculously successful House Party film franchise. The massive flat top is gone, so it took me a minute to place him. Fucking Kid. He's awesome.
The FX for this film were taken over by Tiny Juggernaut, and the difference is astounding (noting that I liked the FX in the first film): the alien craft look far more formidable than they did, the blast-scenes were fast and furious, the mass destruction tangible and the dogfights between jet and spacecraft were exquisite, all totaling up to the finest work I've seen from TJ in an Asylum film.
It's a daring risk The Asylum took here, treading on holy ground and staking an acreage of their own. Ultimately, though, it seems to pay off: what you get is a film that retains the paranoia of the original while extrapolating believably into a world where the nightmare recurs. If you liked the first film, the second will more than suit your fancy.
I'd actually be up for a third.
* looking at the box again at the head of this post, I see it actually says CHRISTOPHER "KID" REID. so then, i'm just an idiot.