When Independence Day Resurgence arrives in cinemas on June 23, 20 years (almost exactly!) will have passed both on screen and off since the first film. That’s a long time, but for co-writer and director Roland Emmerich, the wait was a necessary evil.
After the original Independence Day became the biggest blockbuster of 1996, everyone began clamouring for a sequel. Emmerich had some ideas but quickly realised those ideas were so big, they weren’t yet possible. In fact, it wasn’t until 2009, when Emmerich made the disaster film 2012 with digital cameras and a lot of bluescreen, that he realised he could finally bring his ID4 sequel ideas to life. Technology had caught up with his vision.
“I had one big idea [for the film] which was to create a totally different world that’s enhanced by alien technology and that the whole world was united,” Emmerich told io9. “Secondly, I said ‘OK, so, the Mothership this time, comes down to Earth and it’s as big as the Atlantic Ocean.’ These two ideas pretty much drive the film.”
Several members of the original film’s cast have also returned to help bring Emmerich’s vision to life. Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner and Vivica A. Fox all reprise their roles. Unfortunately the star of the first film, Will Smith, declined to return for the sequel, so Emmerich had his character die in the interim between the two movies, which was explained in a viral campaign.
Though he obviously would’ve loved for Smith to return, Emmerich isn’t concerned by the actor’s absence. It’s not a big part of the movie. “We tell the story of the stepson [played by Jessie Usher], who grew up in the shadow of a very prominent father,” Emmerich said. “That is the story.”
Usher will be joined by fellow newcomers Liam Hemsworth, playing a fellow pilot, and Maika Monroe as the daughter of the former president played by Bill Pullman. (A very young Mae Whitman played the role in ID4, but declined to return this time because she didn’t want to read for the part, according to Emmerich. Messages to Whitman’s representatives went unanswered as of press time.)
Will Smith aside, another huge change from the original is that Resurgence lacks the rah-rah patriotism that gave the first ID4 film much of its heart. “This time we tried to stay away from as much of [that patriotism] as we could,” Emmerich explained. “It’s a little bit more complicated than other films, structurally, and naturally we have more characters than in the first one, because we have some sort of a hand-off from older to younger generations.”
So will this new generation eventually make way for an even newer generation down the line? Emmerich doesn’t deny more Independence Day films could be on the way.
“OK, so it could be a franchise but I’m not planning the next one already,” he promised. “Maybe in another 20 years!”
And though the 20 years since the first film allowed the world to catch up to Emmerich’s ambition, it seemingly put a lot of pressure on him. A sequel to Independence Day brings a massive level of expectations, but that doesn’t phase the director.
“I just make my movies,” Emmerich said. “You shouldn’t think too much about that kind of stuff as a film-maker because it only screws with your head. I’m just trying to tell a good story and make my movie.”
Independence Day Resurgence opens in UK cinemas on June 23rd, 2016.