We will not go quietly into the night.
We will not vanish without a fight.
We’re going to live on.
We’re going to survive.
Today, we celebrate our Independence Day.
The teaser trailer to Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) overlaid President Whitmore’s (Bill Pullman) famous speech to the world’s militaries from the 1996 original to footage of the newest installment. Those words caught my socialized patriotism and pulled me into a sequel I had no idea had an original backstory.
The original Independence Day (1996) was released two months after I was born, so I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing it until now in 20th Century Fox’s double feature released the Thursday before it’s wide exposition. After leaving the theater I was so excited to write about this franchise, until I began research about the original and it’s sequel. My screen filled with every Hollywood critic ripping the film to pieces much like the aliens did to our world’s major cities.
They like to get the landmarks.
– David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum)
The films seemed like a Star-Wars-tech meets American-war-movie. It became especially apparent at Captain Hiller (Will Smith)’s line “Oh no you did not shoot that green shit at me!”
Although this disaster-esque 90s film does have it’s problems (one simply being the “disaster” part – you can find my thoughts on that here), but I did connect with the characters, enjoyed the cheesy one-liners, and felt a sense of pride after the world came together to defeat a threatening extraterrestrial species…until they came back.
IDR is revamped with more CGI than it can handle and stars “next-generation newbies” (1) and rusty, but iconic-as-ever returners. Dylan Dubrow (Jessie Usher), Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) and Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) are the young fighter pilots a part of the Earth Space Defense.
President Whitman and Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner) have been suffering from traumatic alien visions for 20 years, aging Whitman considerably and putting Okun into a coma. Suddenly Okun comes back from his alien-induced coma alongside Whitman to warn the rest of the world the aliens plan to return years after their first attempt to destroy the planet. After the extraterrestrials return in the middle of the 20th anniversary celebration, global forces got their act together and–with the help of David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), warlord Dikembe (Deobia Oparei) and a few others–eventually destroy the mother hen of the species. I’m only leaving out a few details, countries turned on its side, and pitiful one-liners, but you can enjoy those moments in the theater. The final scenes neatly set the table for a third installment in the franchise but leave us with more questions than answers. Despite its faults (common for the average blockbuster), it was all-in-all entertaining, but does not stand a chance next to it’s original.
IDR is one of many sequels released this summer – alongside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, Alice Behind The Looking Glass, The Conjuring 2, Now You See Me 2, Finding Dory, X-Men: Apocalypse, The Purge: Election Year, Ice Age: Collision Course, and Star Trek Beyond. Hollywood is obsessed with sequels and they aren’t getting any better. According to Box Office Mojo, “on average, the 16 sequels released in 2016 have done 18% worse in their first weekend.” Second and third installments are the industry’s plot line to exploit, but should director Roland Emmerich have tried to resurge a story that had made history in the late 90s?
Independence Day is regarded as a monumental piece of film for it’s time. The Academy Award winning summer blockbuster was applauded for it’s special effects, break-out casting and historic speech that would be commended even 20 years later. So, why did 20th Century Fox come back and toy with the cultural artifact that is ID4? Although IDR is an entertaining, stuff-your-face-in-popcorn flick, it’s simply an attempt at recreating the original’s cast dynamics and famous one-liners with a bigger boom. It is the epitome of sequels and is probably why it endured a full on attack from critics.
Every year Hollywood creates more and more second or third installments of a film franchise. Chris Heady from USA Today calls it “Sequel-itis” – a disease that “is spreading through movie theaters, resulting in poor reviews and weak box-office numbers.” Studios are focusing on possible franchises that can last for at least two to three years down the road. But, if sequels are historically gaining lower box-office numbers than their priors, why make more each year?
From the 194os onward less people have gone to the movies. Even though the industry continues to make millions, financial insecurity for studios remains high so they become reliant on big blockbusters. Studios play it as safe as possible which means pre-selling productions to pre-existing audiences. If a studio knows it’s film already has a fan-base, they are more likely to set up an adaptation or sequel because of its built-in audience. Adding a sequel to an original story also gives the studio a chance to open the story to new audiences, like me to IDR.
“Studios want to make absolutely sure they keep theater seats full.”
– Danielle Kurtzelben, US News
While studios are trying to keep American movie-goers at the box-office, they are changing their focus to international audiences as well. In 2014, 70% of studios annual revenue came from overseas markets.
“To put it in blunt terms, the big companies—Warner, Sony, Universal, Paramount, all those—they are essentially making movie for people who do not speak English…A film that involves lots of visual stimulation without thousands of words of reading, he says, will be more enjoyable for many non-English-speaking audiences.”
– Lawrence Turman, film producer
The box-office is not enough for studios to make their millions of dollars of revenue – they also rely on secondary income sources like soundtracks, merchandise and product placement. Money-making moves like this lead to franchises like The Avengers and Harry Potter the goal for the corporations.
Every studio in town is trying to do what Disney and Marvel is doing.
–Jeff Bock, box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations
Sequels can be great, but they also can be annoyingly unnecessary. Critics say IDR is the latter, but I encourage you to make that decision for yourself when deciding what to see this summer. After seeing both, I believe seeing the double feature was the best way to enjoy the sequel. Besides the fact that I wouldn’t have understood or appreciated the backstory or references strewn throughout the film, I think my excitement and emotion from the original’s powerful and iconic moments floated to the newest flick.
Maybe Will Smith’s sarcastic comments towards extraterrestrials in ’96 will help audiences crack a smile at Liam Hemsworth’s attempt in 2016.
See Independence Day: Resurgence in theaters now. If you have seen it, what did you think of it? Let me know if the comments!