It’s only a matter of days until the long-awaited Roland Emmerich sequel Independence Day: Resurgence explodes onto cinema screens, a lengthy 20 years since Will Smith (a notable absence in this follow-up), Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman starred in the first. Promising something bigger and better than the original – if anything’s more epic than blowing up the White House, Empire State Building, and anything else within a 50-mile radius – its character-focused viral marketing and the adrenaline-pumping trailers and TV spots imply audiences are in for an emotionally taut, intense story.
Hollywood has shown a strange satisfaction in the destruction of world landmarks and famous cities, as seen in The Avengers, London Has Fallen, and San Andreas, with Independence Day kicking the craze off after its annihilation of Washington D.C. at the hands of Emmerich. He’s since become the go-to guy for similar CGI-fuelled devastation (Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012), using global disasters or alien invasions to unite humanity in an attempt to bring about world peace.
While his sequel may appear to be another big budget excuse for maximum carnage admidst a new threat to humanity’s existence, the director’s vocalized his support for the the film’s larger ideas and how it’s more ambitious than its predecessor. Yet this wasn’t always Emmerich’s intention, as he revealed to Empire, insisting his previous sequel idea was meant to be about humans and aliens getting along:
“It was after 9/11 and [writer/producer Dean Devlin] and I wanted to make the movie about peace, and it just didn’t work. There’s still an element of that in the new one, but that version was only about that. We shoot aliens down accidentally and then at the end of the movie they land on the White House lawn and say “we come in peace” and that was it. It was just too weak an idea and we didn’t really want to do it. It didn’t have an Independence Day feel. Only the alien ship was destroyed!”
You can see where Emmerich is coming from, especially from a film-making perspective: we’ve already seen non-violent alien invasion movies in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, plus it wouldn’t be in the spirit of what audiences demand from a $200 million summer blockbuster. On the other hand, it’s also difficult to avoid the helmer’s dismissal of anything out of his comfort zone: while there’s nothing wrong with a drama-based story and a less action-y film when it comes to alien invasions (see: K-Pax, Under the Skin, or even E.T.- The Extra Terrestrial), Emmerich’s intended demographic will expect more of what they saw in ’96 and what’s since become a staple for Hollywood disaster films.
If other reinvigorated franchise films such as last year’s Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road can make a sizeable dent at the box office, there’s nothing to stop Independence Day: Resurgence from doing the same this summer.
Independence Day: Resurgence opens in U.S. theaters on June 24th, 2016.