Director Roland Emmerich's 1996 sci-fi action blockbuster Independence Day became one of the defining big-budget Hollywood movies of its era. The global stakes, large-scale CG destruction and faceless alien enemy horde are aspects that can be found in a number of blockbusters since. In this age of decades-later follow-up entries into major franchises (e.g., Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys), it seems fitting that Emmerich's long-in-development sequel Independence Day: Resurgence is finally on its way into theaters.
The film's first trailer gave us the broad strokes of the story and reintroduced audiences to the original's major characters, such as David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), the scientist who identified the attacking aliens' countdown signals and Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), the United States president who rallied the worlds' survivors to fight back.
What happened in the decades following the alien invasion of the ID4 universe? War of 1996, a new viral maketing site exploring the sequel's timeline and backstory, should help answer many fans' lingering questions, including the main one concerning the fate of Will Smith's character Steven Hiller. The timeline begins on July 2nd, 1996, with the arrival of the aliens and the battle for the planet. Here is a breakdown of the timeline leading up to Independence Day: Resurgence:
- By November of 1997, the world had begun to rebuild. The alien invaders had been neutralized, with the exception of "a small pocket of resistance in an isolated area of the African Congo"
- 3-17-1998: the leaders of the world's major nations united, putting aside decades-old rivalries in the wake of the invasion
- 5-25-1998: the United States creates the Earth Space Defense program (ESD) as an extraterrestrial early warning system and global defense initiative. David Levinson (Goldblum) is named as director
- 1-8-1999: the ESD adapts alien shield technology to the F-22 Raptor, moving towards the creation of full Hybrid Fighters
- 6-22-2000: the city of Las Vegas, NV was completely destroyed in the war, and its ruins remain untouched as a reminder of all that was lost
- 8-10-2001: an isolated group of aliens in the African Congo -- survivors of a downed City Destroyed -- continue an underground war. The Congolese government continually refuses aid
- 10-23-2003: the U.S. Army fully adopts recovered alien weaponry for military application, quelling controversy with impressive displays of the weapons' effectiveness
- 4-27-2007: Col. Steven Hiller (Will Smith) dies during a test flight of the ESD's first functional Hybrid Fighter, and the world mourns the passing of one of the War of '96's heroes
- 2-21-2009: the Earth Space Defense Moonbase opens and is monitored from Beijing, China. The base has both offensive and defensive systems and is the first of several planned planetary bases
- 6-4-2011: ESD Director Levinson highlights the advances in consumer technology inspired by alien tech, including "the touchscreen smartphone, bladeless fans, drones, and airport security scanners"
- 8-19-2014: the next generation of Hybrid Fighter is unveiled -- the T4 Global Defender, the most advanced alien-tech hybrid vehicle yet
A lot of clever world-building went into the original Independence Day, and the two decades-later sequel has a lot of story to catch fans up on. The viral site is useful as a primer on the overall backstory, but the biggest question most fans have revolves around Will Smith's character and why he is not featured in the sequel. In the ID4 universe, Smith's Steven Hiller was killed during a test flight of an alien hybrid fighter due to an "unknown malfunction." The posthumous legacy of Hiller is bound to be one of the main elements of his widow Jasmine Dubrow-Hiller's (Vivica A. Fox) story and her relationship with their son Dylan (Jessie Usher, Survivor's Remorse).
There is also a good chance that lingering questions about his death and the experimental fighter he was flying will tie into the sequel's plot. Beyond the formation of the Earth Space Defense program, the Moonbase and the integration of alien technology into military weaponry -- all elements introduced in the film's first trailer -- the most intriguing detail of the timeline is the surviving alien resistance still waging war in the Congo. The government there is said to have aggressively rejected aid from the ESD and other nations over the years. How does this factor into the new invasion? Are the Congolese working with the aliens?
Either way, we're not going to see Independence Day: Resurgence for the political and economic aspects of this universe two decades after the War of 1996. The film has a lot of spectacle to live up to -- not just the original, but also blockbusters Star Wars 7, Batman V Superman, and Captain America: Civil War, all of which will have been released before ID:R.
Independence Day: Resurgence hits theaters on June 24th, 2016.
Source: War of 1996