In 1996, director Roland Emmerich took the world by storm with his action packed disaster epic Independence Day. Calls for a sequel were loud and continuous, but this doesn’t mean that the franchise was lying dormant. 3 novels were released in 1996, 1998 and 1999 with an Omnibus Edition featuring all 3 in 2016. The first – Independence Day – was a novelisation of the film including the previously unseen original ending. The second – Silent Zone – was a prequel focusing on the life of Dr Brackish Okun (portrayed by Brett Spiner in the film) as a scientist in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. The last – War in the Desert – focuses on the two Royal Air Force officers seen receiving morse code in the film on July 3rd. There were also several video games on several different devices released during this period, including the now defunct Independence Day: Online which billed itself as a direct sequel to the film. Then in 2011, news came that Emmerich was returning to the world he had created with a two-part sequel that he had tentatively titled Independence Day Forever. Despite Will Smith not returning due to salary disagreements and only one part of this epic being greenlit by Fox Studios, work began on what would soon become Independence Day: Resurgence.
Set 20 years after the first film, we find humanity under attack from the very same alien race as before- having received a distress beacon from the previous mothership. This mothership comes with a much bigger and deadlier ship known as a Harvester which immediately obliterates a large section of the Earth just by landing. It is up to our new team of heroes and some of our old favourites to, once again, save our planet from extinction. Much like its predecessor, Independence Day: Resurgence sets up the main characters before wreaking havoc. This includes Dillon Harper and Patricia Whitmore, who are the children of the previous protagonists Captain Steve Hiller and President Thomas Whitmore as well as Patricia’s fiance Jake and his best friend Charlie. This is a perfect amount of characters to focus on, and I think the film would have been less plot-heavy if it had focused solely on them. However no sequel would be complete without some returning faces so we welcome back ex-president Whitmore, Dr Brackish Okun, David Levinson and Julius Levinson. On paper, this may seem like a lot of characters, but Independence Day: Resurgence manages to divide its time equally between them. The returning characters actively drive the plot forward instead of hindering it, except for Julius who is just here because we’d miss him if he wasn’t, while the new characters do most of the actual alien fighting. This film also never uses the original movie as some kind of crutch by making constant references to keep yo invested. There is the obligatory Will Smith cameo via painting and a nice little gag where the White House isn’t destroyed (which looks a little silly but is worth it to me) but that’s about it. The film manages to stand on its own.
There were several large complaints levied at Independence Day and not all of them are unfair. Mae Whitman portrayed a young Patricia in the original film but she is replaced by Maika Monroe for this instalment. They are both solid actors and media outlets proclaimed that it was industry beauty standards that were to blame, although Emmerich has stated that Whitman opted not to read for the role. Whatever the case may be, it would have been nice to have her back. There are also claims that this film is dull and and lifeless, which I disagree with. There is no facts to spout here, it’s just personal opinion and mine happens to differ from the majority. There are two genuine issues with Independence Day: Resurgence and the first is the treatment of Dr Brackish Okun, who is joined this time around by his life partner Dr Milton Isaacs. The issue here isn’t that they’ve put gays in my alien movie (obviously), the issue is that you can’t really tell they’re gay. I can tell that these two men are an item through their affection and uses of “babe” but a straight person could easily spin this as two campy bros. This would be enough of an issue itself, but the novelisation states their relationship explicitly in the books second chapter. During Milton’s visit to a comatose Brackish, which is present in the finished film, we are given this:
“They hadn’t been open then- in 1996 it was a different time, and fraternization among staff was frowned upon no matter what gender the fraternizers may be. To be gay at Area 51 was to be discreet.”
The second issue is the character of Charlie who is given a love interest in the form of Chinese pilot Rain Lao, however I am using the term “love interest” very loosely. Charlie seems to feel like Rain owes him a relationship and is very quick to suggest that they “get a drink, maybe fall in love” which is not how you should talk to someone you just met. He comes across as obsessed and Rain makes it clear that she has no interest, but at the end of the film she agrees to date him anyway. Women are not some prize to be won and I don’t see how Emmerich felt okay adding this sub-plot.
I adore the original Independence Day and I’ve revisited it every July 4th for over a decade, despite being British. I have a soft spot for this sequel and have taken to also watching it every July 4th. Sometimes I wonder how much more I’d enjoy the latter if they’d just let gays be gay, but perhaps that was something the threquel would’ve explored. Sadly that third film never arrived to to this film being considered a box office failure and now, with the acquisition of Fox by Disney, I suppose it will never happen. That sucks.
Until Next Time…