Who says the 1990s are dead? Not Roland Emmerich, that’s for sure, considering that the German filmmaker – nicknamed “The Little Spielberg from Sindelfingen” – is planning to resurrect his two sci-fi properties from the decade: Independence Day and Stargate. The latter franchise is getting what is nowadays a commonplace reboot treatment (paving the way for a potential new trilogy), while the former will be given a good old-fashioned sequel that will include returning cast members like Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum and maybe Will Smith (if negotiations work out).
Emmerich has the superhero/sci-fi movie Singularity in development, but odds are in favor of him making the Independence Day sequel next (following the box office disappointment of his Die Hard-esque thriller White House Down this year). In a new interview, the writer/director took a break from devising new ways to blow up U.S. national monuments (cough, onscreen) and updated the state of affairs for Independence Day 2, also referred to as ID Forever.
20th Century Fox has claimed the 2015 Fourth of July weekend as the launch date for Independence Day 2, but during an interview with Empire, Emmerich echoed the words of Sam Mendes – back when he talked about preset release dates for tentpoles like The Avengers – and said that the scheduled premiere date has little connection to where his big-budget extravaganza is actually at in pre-production. To quote:
“You have to set a release date otherwise another film moves into it. [But] Independence Day  is my next movie, if I get the right script. I should get the script pretty soon, then I’ll try to get it into good shape for one or two months, and if that happens, we’ll announce it and start production.”
White House Down screenwriter James Vanderbilt and Emmerich’s longtime collaborator Dean Devlin will put their finishing touches on the current script draft for the Independence Day sequel, before they hand it over to Emmerich for additional revisions. However, although he paints a rosier picture of the situation in the Empire interview, earlier this month Emmerich admitted that he thinks a 2016 release date might be more realistic, given the current pace at which the project is moving forward.
Paramount’s decision to move the Terminator reboot‘s theatrical premiere back a week – putting in on a collision course with Independence Day 2 during opening weekend (until further notice) – suggests that Fox’s rival studio may be banking on Emmerich’s followup being delayed. The latter’s box office prospects have become all the more dubious with each passing year (especially now that destructive set pieces and spectacle-driven blockbusters are no longer “events”), which might also be a contributing factor in Emmerich’s decision to not film the second and third ID4 movies simultaneously.
Here is what Emmerich told Empire, with regard to that matter:
“We’ll only do the first part, because we want to have the audience decide if they want to see the second, otherwise it feels arrogant. But I’m pretty confident, with the right script…”
“Arrogant,” that decision may be, yet Emmerich calls attention to a more relevant point: sequels produced back-to-back historically don’t have a strong track record in terms of quality; which, in the past, has resulted in the third installment not making as much as the second movie (see: ticket sales for The Matrix Reloaded vs. Revolutions). Creative burnout is another problem that usually crops up with these extended periods of principal photography, so that’s all the more reason for Emmerich to not press ahead with ID4 part 3 quite yet.
There’s another issue that ought to be considered: do the moviegoing masses care enough about seeing the world of Independence Day fleshed out in another film? For example, the first installment in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy got mixed reviews, yet there’s a vested interest from so many J.R.R. Tolkien fans to see the most beloved aspects of the author’s source novel brought to life in the next two movies. Independence Day 2 & 3, by comparison, don’t have that built-in sense of security to offer their studio investor (in the case where audiences aren’t still clamoring for more by the end of the second movie).
Finally, Emmerich reiterated to Empire what he’s said in the past: that Independence Day 2 takes place in an alternate present-day where humanity has cultivated the invading extraterrestrials’ technology. In addition, the sequel will provide more background details on the not-so-friendly visitors from another planet:
“It’s a parallel history. Humans rebuild whatever they have – bigger, newer, shinier – and then they forget. Maybe, 20 years later, [the aliens are] never coming back…
“We’ve created a mythology around these aliens, which is really cool. You have to create a mythology because people want to see a bigger picture.”
Upcoming projects like Independence Day 2 and Jurassic World (a.k.a. Jurassic Park 4) call attention to another valid concern: besides financial motivation, is there a good reason to continue expanding the mythos of these decades-old sci-fi properties? After all, the previous Jurassic Park sequels have long been criticized for doing little but piggybacking on the success of the first movie, in terms of its (back in the day) innovative thrills, special effects and self-contained story/themes – can the Independence Day sequel(s) manage to avoid repeating that mistake?
Independence Day 2 is currently scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on July 3rd, 2015.