Time to strike up the band and get Glenn Close singing "Star Spangled Banner," this year we are clawing yet another film out of development hell with Independence Day: Resurgence. The latest trailer rehashes the usual disaster stereotypes and meme-able catchphrases, but at least we have some familiar faces back on board to save Earth (and the film). A new story set 20 years after the original sees Vivica A. Fox, Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum once again face off against an intergalactic menace... but wait, where is Captain Steven Hiller? Surely the man who saved us last time is here to once again save the day.
Maika Monroe tells new hero Liam Hemsworth that they wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her father, Bill Pullman's former-POTUS; not to burst your bubble Maika, but if it wasn't for Will Smith you wouldn't be here. Not to be a psychic or anything, but here's betting that Independence Day: Resurgence should remain in a NASA time capsule, never to be opened...and here is why!
Big Willy Style
The year is 1996, a young Will Smith is fresh out of Bel Air and stepping out into the world of action films. He has already been Mike Lowrey in Bad Boys, but the ideas of Men In Black, Wild Wild West and Hancock are all pipe dreams. This is before he was a stereotyped "awww hell no" and an eyebrow raise.
Smith's inclusion in Roland Emmerich's Independence Day set him up as a blockbuster star even giving him the nickname Mr. July. The return of Smith to his role for an Independence Day sequel was a no brainer, so what went wrong? Money, that's what - Smith demanded a $50 million paycheck and the studios declined. The result? Viral website The War of 1996 revealed:
While test piloting the ESD’s first alien hybrid fighter, an unknown malfunction causes the untimely death of Col. Hiller. Hiller’s valor in the War of ‘96 made him a beloved global icon whose selfless assault against the alien mothership lead directly to the enemy’s defeat. He is survived by his wife Jasmine and son Dylan.
Not that people would watch the film particularly for Will Smith, but his name does carry a fair amount of kudos with it. How many of you have seen Home Alone 4? I imagine not many...but if Macaulay Culkin had reprised his role, wager is you would have at least given it a chance. The same is said for this year's direct-to-video Kindergarten Cop 2, swapping Arnold Schwarzenegger for Dolph Lundgren. It is natural for audiences to think, "If it isn't good enough for them, then why should I watch?"
Whilst Hiller may not be there in physical form, 20th Century Fox have done a reasonable job of putting their differences aside and at least giving us a nod to the fallen hero though. As Jeff Goldblum's David Levinson says:
Your father was the bravest man I've ever seen.
All positive signs, but when history looks back on Resurgence, people will ask, "Have you seen Independence Day?" and people will respond, "The one with Will Smith, or the one without?"
Sadly, a lack of Will Smith is the least of the film's worries. An Independence Day sequel of sorts is something we have been watching for twenty years with films surrounding smart mouthed flyboys and alien invasions. To go one step further, Resurgence even has Jessie Usher as Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, filling in with the sound bite captions:
It's the fourth of July, so let's show them some fireworks.
As early as late 1996 we were retreading old ground. Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!, (a.k.a. the satirical Independence Day) may have parodied War of the Worlds, but its timing came off like a comedic Independence Day. A cast of Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames and even Tom Jones may have lost out to ID for all the awards that year, but it also showed us we didn't really need another Independence Day. Aliens come to earth, Aliens attack America. Americans defeat aliens, society rebuilds. Nothing has changed in twenty years and this seems to be the same with Resurgence too; to quote Jeff Goldblum (again):
They like to go for the landmarks.
From The Day After Tomorrow to Olympus has Fallen, we have seen some pretty big collateral damage to the U.S.A. across a whole genre of films. Independence Day's iconic blowing up of The White House is cemented in the minds of a generation of moviegoers, but when a film duff like Adam Sandler's Pixels can destroy the Taj Mahal, you have to ask, do we even care anymore?
Oh, okay, well I bet the film has a pretty unique premise right? WRONG! Since we were last invaded we have turned the alien tech into a weapon of good to protect Earth. Jeff Goldblum heads up the Earth Space Defense (ESD). Token buff blonde Liam Hemsworth is the 'new' Will Smith, serving alongside Goldblum to once again take on the aliens. A blonde military type taking on an alien race with their own technology...hmmmm, Alexander Skarsgård in 2012's Battleship anyone?
Even the scenes of Resurgence mirror the original. We see Brent Spiner miraculously resurrected from the dead and reprising his role as Dr. Brackish Okun, whilst Bill Pullman suffers a similar fate to Okun from the original. We get the same aliens, who still resemble Pilot and the Jim Henson puppets from Farscape, and there are even glimpses of a newly rebuilt White House.
If they blow that up again...I'm walking out! A few nods to an original is fine, Scream is well known for mocking inferior sequels, but the worry is that the inclusion of Will Smith in Resurgence would just have been another way to shoehorn in hopes that this could be as good as an original. Bets are on that had Hiller survived, he definitely would have uttered the line, "Awww hell no, here we go again."
Back To The Future
Why wouldn't you try and make a sequel to the 51st highest grossing film of all time and the blueprint for the modern sci-fi film? Originally two sequels to Independence Day were planned, called ID Forever Part I and ID Forever Part II. The sequels were to be shot back-to-back, but at this point we must point out that it was in the Will Smith era of negotiations. Last words were that Emmerich had only signed up for a standalone sequel and plans for a third look sketchy to say the least. A sequel was already abandoned in 2004 when original writer, Dean Devlin, as well as Emmerich, couldn't find a way to continue the story, so has anything actually changed?!
We might be being too harsh though, Resurgence could be a surprise hit we want and lead into the planned 'threequel' of the series. Admittedly long awaited sequels like Tron: Legacy and Dumb and Dumber To aren't exactly known to set the box office alight, but there is always a glimmer. Rocky Balboa came sixteen years after Rocky V, and you only have to look at Jurassic World to see how the formula worked. If Bryce Dallas Howard can become a female lead of a disaster franchise, then I say out with Smith!
Who knows though, if Dr. Okun can come back from the dead, why can't Captain Hiller? We salute your sir, rest easy on Will Smith's giant bed of money.