It’s no stretch to say that Independence Day forever changed the Hollywood blockbuster. From its unprecedented (at the time) marketing campaign to the scope of destruction, the original film rewrote the rules of acceptability for a major summer release, spawning a decades-long obsession with big and bold action set pieces, alien invasions, and, oh yes, the benefits of the Hollywood hype machine. Back in 1996, all of this came together to catapult the film to the top of the box office charts and solidify its place as a classic in the hearts and minds of generations of moviegoers.
No surprise, that success led to immediate calls for sequels from both fans and the studio, and two decades after its release fans will finally see the second installment when Independence Day: Resurgence hits theaters this week. While the movie is notably absent its breakout star, the band is largely back together as stars Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and even Brent Spiner return to assist newcomers Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) and Jesse T. Usher (Survivor’s Remorse) in fending off another invasion. With excitement high for the sequel, the question of what took so long is still firmly on the minds of fans - with a surprising answer.
In an interview with ComicBook.com, director Roland Emmerich addressed this question bluntly: the reason for the two-decade gap between movies comes down to the fact that... he's just not that into sequels:
“It's like my first sequel in a way and I tried to make it as little a sequel as possible because I don't like them very much. I tried to make this a new and original movie as possible. It was great fun to work for these great actors again. I just love actors, especially that group. I think back 20 years ago and it's so special to work with these guys.”
That doesn’t mean Emmerich wasn’t happy with his eventual decision to come on board, which mainly seems spurred by the commitment of his original cast, all of whom, Smith notwithstanding, were excited about the prospect to revisit the world they created two decades ago. In the end, according to the director, it wasn’t pressure from the studios but the desire of the cast that finally led him back to the movie:
"I'm happy I did it because it's a great celebration of something. Independence Day, in a way, put me on the map in a big way and get me to do a lot of movies. The studio always kept saying, ‘Do a sequel, do a sequel,’ and I said, ‘I don't like sequels. I don't like sequels.’ Then after 20 years and you get older, you know that you owe it to the studio and you owe it to the actors because the actors were very interested in doing it. I don't know.
"You come up with something and you try and give your best and it's interesting, but will I do this more often? I don't think so because I have all these new ideas for original movies and I try to be one of these directors who still does original movies. When you look at our film industry, it's pretty sad what you see around you.”
Emmerich brings up some good points here that reflect a lot on both the artistic and business processes of the movie industry. In a lot of ways, he was right to wait for the perfect time for an Independence Day sequel, refusing to kowtow to studio desires until a decent story was in place and his original cast was entirely on board. Coming as it does on the 20th anniversary of his original movie, Independence Day: Resurgence offers the chance to revisit in a celebratory fashion that also hands the film off to a new generation of characters (much the same way the movie itself has been handed off to a new generation of fans).
That alone allows both films in the series to stand as stalwarts of their respective eras of filmmaking history, with each representing the culmination of the trends that led to their making. It also allows for the meaningful expansion of the story by presenting the world of the first movie in a naturally evolved manner that reflects the natural process of societal evolution.
It's certainly a unique idea for a sequel, and one that could go where few others do in this day of mega-franchises, shared universes, and reboots (although Independence Day 3 is most definitely set up in Resurgence). Mainly, honoring the original story by growing out of it when the story was good and ready. Emmerich’s reticence to allow a sequel makes sense in this context, and the fact that he waited until the time was right—i.e., there was a legitimate reason—to make a sequel bodes well for fans who’ve long waited to return to this world.
While early reviews of Independence Day Resurgence have been largely mixed, that hasn’t yet hampered excitement for the film, which is expected to hit at least the top two spot at the box office this weekend behind, perhaps fittingly, another sequel, Finding Dory.
Independence Day: Resurgence opens June 24 in theaters everywhere.