The aliens are back. But will "Independence Day: Resurgence," directed by German-born filmmaker Roland Emmerich, see as much success as its top-grossing predecessor from 20 years ago?
It's been two decades since the release of one of the top movies of all time, "Independence Day" directed by German Roland Emmerich. Taking in more than $800 million (705 million euros), the film is still considered one of the most successful films ever made. So it should come as no surprise that Hollywood wanted a sequel; it's only surprising that it's taken this long for one to arrive.
Roland Emmerich needed convincing
Yet director Emmerich is well-known for his dislike of sequels. He hates movies which pick up where the action left off, but with "Independence Day: Resurgence," he sees not "a second episode in a series but a whole new start," as he told the Munich daily newspaper, "Münchner Tageszeitung," in an interview last year. "We've expanded the universe."
Emmerich's blockbuster about environmental catastrophe, "2012," was supposed to have been his last disaster epic when it was released in 2009. The director referred to it as the "mother of all destruction films," and said afterwards, "I really don't know what else I should destroy after this."
In the meantime, he seems to have come up with a few ideas about what he could destroy, as "Independence Day: Resurgence" celebrated its world premiere in Los Angeles on Monday (20.6.2016).
The movie will make its way around the world in the coming weeks, with a premiere in Asia on June 22 to be followed by Europe and North America. Emmerich's hometown fans will need to be patient, however. In Germany, the film won't make its debut until July 14.
Box office success means a third act
Shortly before the premiere, Emmerich referenced the possibility of a third installment of the science-fiction spectacle. "If the film's a success, there will be a third one," said the director in a visit to Berlin, where he was promoting the movie. "Independence Day 2" cost around $200 million; producers have shelled out in hopes that the continuation of the catastrophe saga will see similar success as the first.
The 1996 film racked up just $75 million in production costs - a good investment with revenues of $800 million. "At the time we had no idea how big the film would be. We just made something that we wanted to see ourselves," recalled Emmerich in Berlin.
In that respect, "Independence Day: Resurgence" is hardly comparable to the original production. Technically speaking, the time in which the first film was produced feels like the Stone Age, said the director.
At that time, he had worked with models, something which in the meantime has been replaced with computers. With new technology, you can create whatever you want: "Unbelievable images can be created that are almost surreal."
Digital tricks on earth and in the heavens
Those who have seen the first scenes of the new film know what is awaiting global audiences: unprecedented warfare on the big screen, top-notch special effects, a digital fairy tale with all the ingredients modern Hollywood has to offer.
In the first "Independence Day," aliens attack Earth from their giant spaceship, targeting the White House - the house of power in the US. Only after three billion people were dead and half the planet was eliminated was it possible for the hero to conquer the aliens with the help of a computer virus.
Now in the sequel, the battle has taken up again as a new threat to the earth by enemy invaders appears. Once again, the world is at the brink of collapse; once again, a gigantic spaceship threatens the earth and leaves a large chunk of it in ashes.
Invasion from outer space
Emmerich and his special effects team have done quite a bit to show the destruction of famous world metropolises like Washington and London. And once again it is only a select few upstanding professionals - scientists and military professionals - that can bring an end to the spooks. All of this, of course, at the last minute.
There's no spoiler alert necessary: The aliens will be beaten and humanity saved, as all film fans around the world will find not the least bit surprising.
Several of the actors from the original have returned: Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are joined by new filmstars like Liam Hemsworth, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sela Ward, who are integrated into the ensemble. Emmerich had to do without Will Smith, who played Captain Steven Hiller 20 years ago; instead, they have created the character of Hiller's son, a part played by Jessie Usher.
Borrowing from film history
In some parts, "Independence Day 2" appears like a modern, hyped-up version of the original. As in the 1996 version, the 2016 film shows how well Emmerich and his producers have drawn on modern cinematic culture and expanded upon it to create something entirely new.
If the original 20 years ago was accused of borrowing from "Star Wars," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "War of the Worlds," and "Top Gun," the latest release will surely face comparisons to more recent action-packed role models.
Still, one thing is certain: The first "Independence Day" wrote a chapter in pop culture history. If a second film can be just as successful, perhaps even hitting the $1 billion mark, then Emmerich and his team can be very content.