“Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression or persecution — but from annihilation!”
Maybe you remember the patriotic climax of Independence Day in 1996. It was a doozy of a speech, but has it become iconic enough to resonate after 20 years? How many moviegoers recall that moment when Bill Pullman’s unshakable President Thomas J. Whitmore proclaims, “We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist,” as he sends a young squadron of pilots (and a drunken one played by Randy Quaid) to do battle with murderous alien invaders who have destroyed much of the planet.
Even if you don’t recall it, Roland Emmerich, director of the original as well as the new Independence Day: Resurgence, doesn’t care. “I’m always against sequels,” he said. “They’re exactly the same.” He sees Resurgence (out Friday) as a new film that just happens to be anchored by some of the same actors. But he was coaxed into Franchise Land by the tremendous advances in visual effects (the original won the Oscar in that category). “We had to wait for it to catch up,” he said.
For those who don’t remember the first, it earned more than $800 million at the global box office and made Will Smith, then 28, a worldwide summer brand. Its success kicked off the first barrage of big-budget disaster films since the early-’70s heyday of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Mega-grossers like Armageddon owe it some respect.
Still, 20 years between the same part is a challenge for an actor. Jeff Goldblum, who is reprising his role as the wisecracking scientist David Levinson, can’t remember many actors who have taken on the same role two decades later. “It’s like Paul Newman in The Hustler and the Color of Money,” he said. Even he had to rewatch the original film. “Making a ton of money and being iconic are probably not the same thing,” Goldblum admitted, adding blithely, “Who knows how deep an impression it really has made and how welcome it will be?”
What has changed on and offscreen will surely play a role in the film’s fate — if not the Earth’s — this time around. Here’s a sampling.
Plus: This one’s in 3-D and IMAX 3-D. The ships are bigger, the aliens scarier and more bloodthirsty, and the technology is more advanced. We even have bases on the moon and Saturn (briefly).
Minus: The notion of an Independence Day without Will Smith is, to some people, like Men in Black without Will Smith. He stole film 1 by punching out an alien (“Welcome to Earth!”), but he’s not around for this one. His character’s absence is explained in the new film, and his son (played by Jessie T. Usher) has taken over the family business of flying through space, but it’s certainly conspicuous.
Minus: “Ever since I was kidnapped by aliens 10 years ago, I’ve been dying for some payback, and I just want you to know, I won’t let you down,” Randy Quaid says when volunteering to pilot a jet in film 1. He’s gone this time around and is sorely missed.
Plus: Maika Monroe, star of the horror film It Follows, plays the former president’s daughter. And Liam Hemsworth’s fighter pilot, Jake Morrison, is Errol Flynn-like.
Plus: The glass ceiling has shattered. Not only is the U.S. president a woman (Sela Ward), but Vivica A. Fox, Smith’s wife in film 1, is no longer an exotic dancer. She’s a staid health-care worker.
Plus: Gay heroes prevail. Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) wakes from a 20-year alien-induced coma (“Did we win?”), and he’s loud, proud and armed with lasers. Okun greets a benevolent, super-intelligent orb with the Streisand-ian “Hello, gorgeous!”
Minus: But where is Harvey Fierstein, who played Goldblum’s colleague in film 1?
Plus: Supersize globalism. “Nations have put their petty differences aside” in the wake of the first round of devastation. Earthlings now live in a virtual one-world state. Americans share space stations with the Chinese, consult with the Germans and enlist the help of African warlords.
Minus: After 9/11, the tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina, is watching the utter destruction of cities on film as entertaining as it was back in 1996? Honestly, no.
At the movies
‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ was not reviewed.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language. 2:00. 2D and 3D: Fayette Mall, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Woodhill. 2D only: Frankfort, Winchester.