Roland Emmerich loves to blow things up. Or at least make films that has things blown up to smithereens. And by things we mean historical buildings and landmarks, and by smithereens, yeah, we mean you can kiss them goodbye.
Guess what? It is no different in Independence Day: Resurgence. Twenty years after the first movie Independence Day was released, Emmerich proves that he still fanboys over Irwin Allen (The Towering Inferno) and that blowing up buildings, aliens, and blowing up aliens that blow up buildings, never get old.
Resurgence is also notably Emmerich’s first sequel – though he doesn’t really like referring to it as a sequel. “It is rather a continuation, actually. I am not a fan of sequels because it is very rarely that you find sequels which are good movies. I think this film is very different from the first,” says the 60-year-old filmmaker during an interview in Sydney, Australia, where the cast and crew kickstart the movie’s promotional tour.
But Emmerich has finally accepted that Independence Day is probably his legacy; what good would it do to deny it otherwise.
Besides, the movie made over US$1.1bil (RM4.48bil) – becoming the highest-grossing film of all time before Titanic invaded its top spot the following year.
Another factor that nudged Emmerich back to the world of Independence Day was the chance to employ visual effects that were light years ahead of those available during the first film.
“You get to do so many things now. Anything you imagine, you can make it come true … and it doesn’t take as long as it used to,” he adds.
But Emmerich says that there is also a downside to advanced computer tech-nology – he doesn’t get to go on location shoots anymore because everything is shot against a blue screen.
“I miss it and hopefully on my next movie, I will get to do a bit more of location work,” he says.
Is that next film the third Independence Day movie? Emmerich doesn’t shoot down the idea although he promises that it won’t take another two decades to complete the trilogy.
Resurgence is set 20 years since the aftermath of what is known as the War of 1996, when half of Earth’s population was annihilated. Now, “Independence Day” doesn’t solely mean an American holiday, it is also memorialised as the day when the entire world fought against the aliens. (Of course, the entire world was led by United States because that’s the law of Hollywood after all.)
Those who survived the attack harvested recovered alien technology to rebuild a better world and collaborate on an immense defense programme to protect our planet. But is it enough when the aliens come back to finish what they started?
Resurgence reunites the original cast members from the first film, namely Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Judd Hirsch, as well as introduces new players like Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, and Angelababy.
For Emmerich, the ensemble is a dream team. “It’s exciting to see this handover from one generation to the next,” he notes. “We have veteran heroes from the first film making way for a team of new ones. With the original cast on set, and off, it’s like a 20-year class reunion – the class of ‘96.”
One actor obviously missing from the reunion is Will Smith, who made his indelible mark in the first movie as the fast-talking Captain David Hiller. Emmerich doesn’t shy from the topic during the interview and is in fact the first person to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
“Will Smith is not in this movie. I sent the script to him when he was doing After Earth, and he wanted to start his own science fiction series. It was also another father and son kind of story, and he couldn’t commit to this movie,” explains Emmerich.
To prove that there is no bad blood between them, the director shares that Smith “skyped” him during filming just to see how he was doing.
“He must have missed working with us,” jests Emmerich.
But one fan-favourite character does return and the actor playing him didn’t even need much persuasion.
“They wrote me a nice part and working with Roland is terrific – I adore him. He’s a very sweet, generous, authentic and talented director and wonderful person,” gushes Goldblum who reprises his role as the scientist/world-saviour/unlikely hero David Levinson.
“Roland and Dean Devlin called me a few years ago and said they have been encouraged to return to the story for some time, but they wanted to wait until they had the right script, right idea and the technology was a little bit different,” elaborates Goldblum.
“They took me to dinner and told me the story and I thought it was a good idea and then, the cast they got was something to look forward to. Sela Ward plays the first female American President, which was an exciting idea – just like real life, we hope.”
Hemsworth heads the cast of newcomers, portraying Jake Morrison, a hotshot fighter pilot of alien-human hybrid jets. “Jake’s parents were killed during the War of 1996, so he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder in this fight,” tells the 26-year-old Australian.
Morrison’s disregard for authority gets him in trouble at the beginning of the movie, but it could very well be what saves the world at the end of the day.
“Audiences really like these characters,” says Emmerich. “We’ve expanded the universe of Independence Day, and I can’t wait for people to experience it.”
And when Goldblum’s character comically mouths the word “That’s definitely bigger than the last one,” – yes, that’s what he said – it doesn’t just ring true for the spaceship, but also the action sequences, Emmerich’s vision, and the movie overall.