Cast: Joey King, Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe
Director: Roland Emmerich
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Running Time: 120 minutes
Synopsis: We always knew they were coming back. After Independence Day redefined the event movie genre, the next epic chapter delivers global spectacle on an unimaginable scale. Using recovered Alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the Aliens' advanced and unprecedented force. Only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can bring our world back from the brink of extinction.
For director Roland Emmerich, Independence Day: Resurgence marks a return to the universe he and co-writer and producer Dean Devlin created two decades ago. They captured cinematic lightning in a bottle"electrifying audiences around the around the world with drama, action, fun, unforgettable characters, and a presidential speech that's still quoted today.
In short, the film was nothing less than a game-changer: it became part of our pop cultural conversation, and reminded us why we go to the movies. Notably, the new film is Emmerich's first sequel. 'This world is very special to me, and I wanted to do right by it and the characters," says the filmmaker. 'Enough time has passed that it all felt fresh to me." Also nudging Emmerich back to the world of Independence Day was the chance to employ visual effects that were light years ahead of those available twenty years ago.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Release Date: June 23rd, 2016
Spectacle And Tone
Roland Emmerich is a master at mixing grandeur and fun. As production designer Barry Chusid notes: 'Roland Emmerich thinks big. When you dream up something big, he would think of something even bigger. He's always pushing boundaries of scale and scope."
How's this for spectacle: an Alien spaceship that's a super-structure of unfathomable size, and has a gravitational pull that wreaks havoc with the entire planet. The ship ignites an incendiary cloud that stretches across the sky, plunging the city of Singapore into darkness before everything"everything!"lifts off the ground and is sucked into an orgy of destruction.
Then a giant Buddha rips through Big Ben, as London's Ferris Wheel comes crashing into the Thames. (The Aliens like to hit the landmarks…) And an Alien ship's giant landing petals slam down into the Atlantic Ocean. Which part of it? The entire ocean!
Independence Day: Resurgence is that kind of boundary-pushing juggernaut at full throttle, mixed with a playfulness not typical for this genre. 'This one is so much bigger than ID4," says Jeff Goldblum, who reprises his starring role as scientist/world savior David Levinson. 'But the film's spirit of fun, wonder and delight is just as important."
In fact, as Roland Emmerich notes, the characters and fun are now taking center stage. 'Audiences really like these characters," he explains. 'We've expanded the universe of Independence Day, and I can't wait for people to experience it."
Screenwriter Nicolas Wright notes that he and writing partner James A. Woods wanted to capture the first film's 'innocent and honest humor and tone as much as possible," noting that since ID4's release, many other big studio franchises 'have jumped on that kind of humor. They have a great rhythm"intense action punctuated with humor and then underlined with emotion."
Adds James A. Woods: 'The dramatic moments and spectacle land that much better if they're supported by humor and great characters."
The War Of 1996 And Its Aftermath
Set twenty years after the alien invasion that nearly decimated the planet, Independence Day: Resurgence presents an alternate reality to our world today.
The backstory begins in 1996, during an ordinary summer day when, without warning, something extraordinary happened. All eyes turned upward and the question of whether we were alone in the universe was finally answered. In a matter of minutes, the lives of every person across the globe changed forever. With the fate of our planet at stake, the words 'Independence Day" took on an entirely new meaning. No longer was it solely an American holiday. It would be memorialized as the day the entire world fought back against a common enemy.
The aftermath of what became known as the War of 1996 saw half of Earth's population annihilated. Humanity had never come so close to total obliteration. Those who survived the Alien attack to rebuild our world would never forget the fallen and forever remember that unity is our greatest strength.
Aside from a small pocket of resistance in the African Congo, the Alien threat was neutralised"and the world began to rise from the ashes. Reconstruction started immediately as the great cities, monuments and landmarks of the world were slowly restored to their former glory.
The near destruction of humankind had an unexpected but welcome effect, as centuries-old conflicts and political distrust dissolved to create an unprecedented cooperation among the nations of the world.
Harvesting recovered Alien technology from the aftermath of the War of 1996, the unified nations spent the last two decades rebuilding and collaborating on an immense defense program to protect our planet from off-World invaders. The Earth Space Defense (ESD) program served as an early warning system and a united global defense unit.
While test-piloting the ESD's first Alien hybrid fighter, an unknown malfunction causes the untimely death of Col. Steven Hiller. Hiller's valor in the War of 1996 made him a beloved global icon whose assault against the Alien mothership in 1996 led directly to the enemy's defeat. He was survived by his wife Jasmine and son Dylan.
After years of research and development from ESD scientists around the world, the next generation of Alien-human vehicles and weapons systems were introduced. One of the standouts was the H-8 Global Defender Hybrid Fighter, boasting unprecedented speed, maneuverability and offensive capabilities, utilizing anti-gravity engines, anti-air/space cannons and other weaponry.
As President Lanford, the first woman to hold that high office, settled into her job, scientists and engineers continued to refine the hybrid technology, producing even more advanced fighters and protective systems"the culmination of twenty years of preparation for the invasion we knew was coming.
But is it enough? Because the Aliens have also been readying for a new assault….
A New Generation Joins The Returning Heroes
Independence Day: Resurgence expands the mythology of the Independence Day universe by putting the band back together"reuniting original cast members from the first film"as well as introducing new players from around the world.
For director Roland 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."
Dean Devlin notes: 'The most rewarding part of the project is being on set with these actors again and seeing that they are not just as good as they were then; they've gotten even better. When you're writing the script, you wonder, -What's it going to be like 20 years later?' Then, our returnees work on this film, and they just light up the screen and our new team shines, as well. It's the perfect mix."
Liam Hemsworth heads the cast of newcomers, portraying Jake Morrison. Raised as an orphan, Jake Morrison is a hotshot heroic fighter pilot of Alien-human hybrid jets. Liam Hemsworth says he jumped at the chance to be a part of Independence Day: Resurgence, because the first film is one of his all-time favorites, although he was only six years old when it was released. 'Battling an Alien invasion fleet in this film was a dream come true for me," says the actor.
Liam Hemsworth particularly enjoyed exploring the character's motivations to be at the front lines of this new battle against the Aliens. 'Jake's parents were killed during the War of 1996, so he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder in this fight."
The chip on Jake's shoulder impacts his behavior with authority. Lia, Hemsworth elaborates: 'Jake can be a little outspoken, because he's always been the underdog who had to fight for every scrap. As a result of growing up as an orphan, Jake became resentful and jealous of other people's positions."
Jake's outspokenness, as well as his fearlessness and occasional disregard for authority, land him in hot water. He gets his wings clipped and is relegated to piloting a Moon Tug, which is more or less like working a giant forklift or tug boat, transporting weapons to the military's moon defense base. The outpost is a first-response center in the event of another Alien attack. 'The Moon Tug is a lot slower than the jets Jake is used to flying, and basically his day consists of moving heavy parts around from point A to B, on the moon," says Liam Hemsworth. 'It's not the most exciting job for Jake, who knows he belongs in a fighter jet. And he will end up in a fighter jet."
The looming Alien invasion may just do that for Jake, just as it changes the life of David Levinson, again portrayed by Jeff Goldblum. In Independence Day, it was David Levinson who figured out how to stop the Alien threat in the great War of -96. In doing so, he was propelled into the spotlight as a world hero. After the war, David Levinson spent 20 years trying to prepare us for the next attack he always knew was coming, using the Alien technology acquired during and after the first invasion. He was appointed to be the first Director of the Earth Space Defense program (ESD).
'David Levinson knows that another Alien invasion is not a question of if, but of when," says Jeff Goldblum. 'He is thrust into this position of responsibility of defending all of Earth against another attack, which is even more massive than the one in '96. So David Levinson tries to come up with a plan that will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He is trying to help everyone understand what's happening with this new invasion. And even though the invasion creates a horrible couple of days, there's an opportunity for humans to develop an even greater connection with one another. New, incredible, paradigm-shifting, soul-cracking light is shed on the nature of the universe and our place in it and with whom we share it."
Jeff Goldblum loved further exploring the character's many nuances. 'David Levinson is complex. He's a wildly romantic person with an abiding love for the planet and for all living things. Most of all, he's humble and curious. So all these things come into play as he receives jaw-dropping, life-changing, species-changing information about where we are and who else is out there and what could happen to us."
Jeff Goldblum further notes that while the Alien invaders have more advanced weaponry and vehicles than humans, they lack a fundamental trait that could mean hope for the brave men and women taking the fight to them. 'The Aliens are advanced militarily, but in some ways they reflect some of our own smallest stupidities. They have a disregard for a living planet's inherent beauty, and a need to exploit resources at the planet's expense. That could be their undoing, as it could be ours in our real, non-movie world."
While David Levinson is shouldering new and impactful responsibilities, he remains at heart the character we met in Independence Day. But his former commander-in-chief has undergone some seismic changes.
Bill Pullman reprises his role as former U.S. president Thomas J. Whitmore, who led the planetary defense in 1996. Due to his close encounters with the Aliens at that time, Thomas J. Whitmore has undergone what medical professionals refer to as Alien Residual Condition. Severe internal changes have left Whitmore haunted and disturbed, and 'knowing" what the Aliens know. He has visions of their impending return and dark premonitions of the Aliens' plans for Earth.
'Thomas J. Whitmore has been exposed, in an unfiltered way, to the entire consciousness of the Alien fleet," Bill Pullman explains. 'It's like a shockwave to his brain. But he's still a hero to the world, even though he's been sequestered off by his daughter Patricia and a close circle of associates, because Thomas J. Whitmore is convinced, through his visions and intuitions, that the Aliens are coming back"and no one believes him."
Roland Emmerich adds that Thomas J. Whitmore 'has lost himself. In classic drama, this character would be referred to as the fool, a crazy person. The Aliens still occupy his mind. Whitmore was changed by this experience and is now connected to the Aliens' huge hive-like mind. He knows they're coming back, and he thinks this time we cannot beat them."
Says Devlin: 'I always loved this idea that the bravest, most heroic leader on the planet has seemingly lost his mind over the past 20 years because the Aliens have been in his head. To see Bill Pullman reach down deep and explore this new facet to Thomas J. Whitmore, and at the same time bring back all the strengths and power of the character we've come to know and love, is a joy."
Thomas J. Whitmore's signature moment in the first film was his delivery of a rousing speech to rally the nation's forces against the Alien invaders. Twenty years later, in our real world, those remarks remain iconic, and were even quoted in a recent Super Bowl spot. When Forbes Magazine compiled a list of the best-ever presidential speeches, President Whitmore's rhetoric was at the top.
'The popularity of this speech blows my mind," says Devlin. 'When we were writing the original movie, we wanted to do a scene like the Saint Crispin's Day speech in Shakespeare's Henry V, where the king sees his men all ready to go to battle but they're nervous. And he knows he has to rally them if they're going to succeed…"
Roland Emmerich interjects: '…so we only had to write a speech as good as the Saint Crispin's Day speech? No problem!"
Devlin continues: 'I said, -Look, let's not get hung up on it now. Let me just go in the other room, I'll whip out something in a few minutes as a placeholder. Later, we can rework it and spend serious time and get this speech right.' In a stream of consciousness, I wrote a speech in about five minutes. I put it in the script, and we moved on with making the rest of the movie. Well, the day comes to shoot the scene and I suddenly realized, -Oh, my God. We never really worked on this speech!'
'So I came running down to the set to see if I could fix it and work on it, and as I got to the set, Roland was in mid-rehearsal with Bill. As he performed the speech, everybody on set started cheering and applauding. And I was like, -I… think that works. We'll go with that.'"
The filmmakers knew that recreating that soaring oratory in the new film would be difficult, if not impossible, so they went in another direction. 'It's never a good idea to try and replicate something that's so perfect, like that speech," says James Woods. 'So, in a wink to the audience, we decided to take a different and more subtle approach," instead having Whitmore give a kind of pep talk to David, who's despairing at Earth's chances of stopping the invasion. 'Thomas K. Whitmore has to motivate the fixer"David"and the fixer is his best friend," adds James A. Woods.
Thomas K. Whitmore's visions and behavioral changes are being kept under wraps to all except the former president's inner circle, which includes his now-grown daughter Patricia. She and her close friend Dylan Hiller, son of the late fighter pilot Steven Hiller, who had helped save the world during the first invasion, have been famous since childhood. Says producer Harald Kloser: 'Patricia and Dylan grew up as kids in a post-War of -96 world with two of the planet's greatest heroes, President Whitmore and Col. Hiller, as their respective fathers."
But her 'royal" status hasn't prevented Patricia from forging her own path. 'Patricia is tough, says Maika Monroe, who takes on the role. 'She's a warrior but also has a big heart, which you see through Patricia's relationship with her father. She will do anything for him.
'She's concerned about her father, but comes to realise that, -Maybe he's on to something about the coming invasion,'" adds Maika Monroe.
While Patricia grew up with Dylan, she loves and wants to marry Jake. But Jake's impulsiveness, which had once nearly killed Dylan during a test flight exercise, complicates their relationship. If they can work through their differences, this trio represents the new generation on the forefront of the resurgence.
'Patricia met Jake in flight school," Maika Monroe explains, 'and she kind of fell for the -bad boy.' But they're really in love. At the same time, there's a little bit of tension with Dylan, because the world assumed that they would end up together. But the heart wants what the heart wants."
Dylan, portrayed by Jessie Usher, is following in the footsteps of his father, Col. Steven Hiller. Possessing a dazzling display of aerial fighting skills, Dylan is a member of a new generation of Alien-fighting heroes and the leader of the flying Legacy Squadron. His chief rival, as both a pilot and love interest for Patty, is Jake. That dynamic pays off, says Wright, thanks to 'Liam Hemsworth and Jessie Usher's great rhythm and natural comedic skills, which provide their characters' swagger. It's very much in the tradition of what Will Smith did so well, as Steven Hiller, in the first film."
'Like his friend Patricia, Dylan is like royalty," says Jessie Usher. 'After all, his father was one of the most famous people in the world. Everybody thinks Dylan was handed everything on a silver platter, but he's very good at what he does. And that's precisely his problem. Dylan has to somehow go above and beyond to prove himself, to escape his father's shadow, and make his own way."
Adds Jessie Usher's on-screen mother, Vivica A. Fox, who reprises her ID4 role of Jasmine Dubrow Hiller: 'Dylan questions himself: -Am I man enough to walk in the same footsteps as Steven Hiller?' Jasmine is there to let him know that he's about to start his own journey, and not to be afraid. Be all that you can be!"
Vivica A. Fox's Jasmine Dubrow Hiller is now a health professional working in a hospital. She is both worried and proud that Dylan is at the forefront of the battle. 'Jasmine Dubrow Hiller still has a lot of fire, but she's done working as an exotic dancer [her profession in ID4]," says Vivica Fox. 'She's now saving lives, delivering babies"and still doing a lot of running.
'That's life in the Independence Day universe," she says with a laugh. 'People ask, -How's it going on set?' My answer is always: -You run. You run a lot."
Another of the film's many strong female roles is U.S. President Lanford, portrayed by Sela Ward. Having previously faced a global catastrophe in Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow, Ward was ready to tackle another massive threat, but this time as the commander in chief.
Ward's Lanford is a very different kind of president from Whitmore, a war hero who had rallied the entire world with his stirring speech. Lanford is politically motivated, assertive and will not flinch from those who disagree with her. Most of all, she is determined not to let history repeat itself. Lanford is a strong president because she has to be. 'Lanford is decisive and is not afraid of using force," Ward elaborates.
Regarding the country Lanford now leads, Ward explains: 'Twenty years since the first attack, each nation has been building its defense reserves. Their entire budgets have been going to defense spending, so everyone has had to compromise and sacrifice. Now, people are weary of sacrificing so many resources to defense. So, as this story opens, Lanford is saying it is time to put the people first again. We've put in place our global defense systems, and she thinks we are ready to rock and roll if we have another Alien visit."
For Lanford, the battle against the Aliens is also a personal one, because she lost almost her entire family in the War of '96. 'Of course that took a toll on her," says Ward. 'It made Lanford more resilient and, sometimes, a little ferocious on the inside. That is what makes her such a strong president. Lanford only wants to protect the planet."
Also essaying a strong female character is Chinese model and actress Angelababy, who joins the 'next generation" cast as Rain, a tough-as-nails member of the elite squad of fighter pilots. Having appeared in several hit Asian action movies, Angelababy was well prepared to play a character on the front line of the new battle, and who is determined to not let emotions"and the romantic overtures of a wisecracking fighter pilot, and Jake's best friend, Charlie (Travis Tope)"affect her mission. 'Rain sees Charlie more as a younger brother than a boyfriend," says the actress.
Rain's uncle, General Lao (Chin Han) is the head of moon base. Lao demands discipline and order from his pilots, so of course he locks horns with Hemsworth's Jake Morrison. 'Lao is a task-oriented leader who wants things the right way. And then in comes Jake, who can't live by the rules that Lao lives by. So they have a very interesting dynamic."
Back on Earth, we are reintroduced to two ID4 veterans who provide much of the original film and the new picture's humor. Judd Hirsch returns as David Levinson's father, Julius, who is now schlepping his self-published book about his heroic exploits during the first Alien attack, until he once again finds himself caught in the crosshairs of cataclysmic events. In fact, it is through Julius' eyes that we get our first glimpse of the invaders.
Whatever catastrophe is unfolding, Julius is still…Julius. 'Over the past twenty years, nothing has changed for him," Hirsch says of the lovable senior. 'I mean, nothing. Sure"the world has Alien technology, a base on the moon, and super-Alien-hybrid fighter jets. But Julius is still looking for his son, David, and he's still narrowly avoiding disaster. Only this time, instead of finding David, at least right away, he finds a couple of kids, who Julius takes under his wing. Or maybe it's the other way around."
It's definitely the latter. Playing the two kids are Joey King, as Sam, and Garrett Wareing, as Bobby. As King explains, 'They actually rescue Julius, and form this remarkable relationship with him, and become a new family. Julius and Sam develop a really beautiful bond, and he sort of becomes like the dad and grandpa that she needs in this moment."
Even more eccentric than Hirsch's Julius Levinson is Dr. Brackish Okun, the highly excitable, somewhat unhinged scientist who was in charge of research at Area 51 during the time of the initial attacks. As a result of his encounters with the Aliens in the first film, Okun has been lying comatose for two decades within the top secret confines of Area 51. Now he's back, and like President Whitmore, and others who have Alien Residual Condition, Okun has unique insight into the Aliens and their plans. 'Okun has emerged fully preserved, from '96," says Woods.
Brent Spiner, also beloved for his role as the android Data in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series and motion pictures, returns as Okun, was pleased to rejoin the Independence Day universe, noting: 'I always hoped I would be coming back, and the fact that it's been 20 years, well, I think it's cool because who else gets to play a character they haven't played for 20 years?
After a moment of reflection, Spiner concedes, 'Ok, Harrison Ford, right? And, I guess, Stallone. Ok, Schwarzenegger, too. But it's still exciting to come back and do this guy again. I'm thrilled that Okun is still alive!"
Alive…and somehow, even more peculiar than when we met him in the first film. 'He was already a wild-haired anachronism in 1996, and now he's even more because, being in a coma, he hasn't changed, at all," says Spiner. 'But Okun is still a genius, and he's determined to figure out a way to stop the Aliens."
Across the world from Area 51's Nevada base, in Africa's Democratic Republic of D'Umbutu, a small group of Alien survivors from 1996 waged a decade-long war against the nation. Despite repeated offers from world leaders, the country's warlords refused aid in eradicating the Alien presence, which led to a hard-won ground war. Much of the land is still marked by totems built of Alien skulls and bones, and the majestic sight of the city-sized and by the still mostly intact Alien Destroyer ship that crashed there in 1996.
At the heart of the action here is the country's new leader Dikembe Umbutu, an imposing warrior of quiet intensity, portrayed by Deobia Oparei (Game of Thrones). Oparei notes that the character defies potential stereotyping. 'Dikembe is Oxford educated, so he speaks with a British accent. He is now the leader and wants to free his people. Dikembe and David Levinson and others find their way into Jake's tug spaceship, and venture into space, this ragtag bunch of characters"all with their separate missions"and it's fascinating."
As a result of his close encounters with the invaders, Alien Residual Condition has a strong effect on Dikembe, as it has with Whitman and Okun. Helping him understand and deal with ARC is a French psychiatrist, Dr. Catherine Marceaux, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, the acclaimed British-French star of Nymphomaniac and Melancholia, who makes her U.S. major studio debut in IDR.
But Catherine's principal connection is with David Levinson, with whom she once had a romantic relationship. While they've been apart for many years, David feels that certain spark when they're reunited in Africa. 'Catherine is a very smart person but deeply mysterious and intriguing," says Jeff Goldblum. 'She's uniquely fascinating, and quite compatible with David, who shares her interest in science."
Other newcomers to the Independence Day universe include William Fichtner, as General Adams, who heads the global military defense initiatives in a post-War of -96 world; Patrick St. Esprit as Secretary of Defense Tanner; screenwriter Nicolas Wright as Rosenberg, a federal accountant out to slash EDS' galaxy-sized budget"that is, until the Aliens' arrive; and screenwriter James A. Woods as Major Ritter, who is second-in-command to General Adams.
'That's…Definitely Bigger Than The Last One."
Those six words, spoken by Goldblum's Earth Space Defense director David Levinson as he does a quick comparison of the 1996 and 2016 Alien invasions, pretty much sums up the visual scale of Independence Day: Resurgence.
Here are four more words that punctuate that idea: 'Dubai falls on Paris." Oscar winning visual effects supervisor Volker Engel notes, with a laugh: 'That can only happen in a Roland Emmerich movie!"
Roland Emmerich humbly credits advances in computer generated imagery in helping him create these spectacular scenes, with producer Devlin adding, 'The beauty of what Roland did in the first film is that he has married old-fashioned visual effects techniques with digital techniques. Today, the only limits are your imagination, and Roland has an incredible visual imagination."
Another key player in bringing the fun and epic scale to life is production designer Barry Chusid, who worked with Roland Emmerich on The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. 'Roland is one of the bolder directors I've ever worked with," says Chusid. 'He allows you to take chances that you might not take and sometimes you end up dangling over the cliff but most often you end up on a wondrous road that you never even imagined."
Under Roland Emmerich's direction and vision, Barry Chusid approached the design of IDR as a stand-alone film, and not as a sequel. 'Roland loves sci-fi, as do I, and one of the best things about working with him is he will push the boundaries of what the shot can be," notes Barry Chusid. 'The scope is so vast that it's not fathomable. When you're trying to quantify things, you're tasked with making them plausibly live in the world that now has issues with light, darkness and gravity."
Barry Chusid notes that he particularly embraced the Alien-human hybrid designs. 'Early on, we had the idea that humans had harvested the technology from the downed Alien Destroyer ships," he explains. 'Humans can understand some, but not all of it, which they've used to help them in the coming Alien invasion. Whether humans are building a jet or a tug or weaponry, like a cannon or just a rifle, they can use that Alien technology and it's like a spice… it just makes everything better."
Humanity's utilization of Alien technology points to one of the film's bigger themes. 'One of the things we are trying to portray was the idea that all the world's nations are now united against a common enemy," Barry Chusid adds. 'They've done it once before; they will do it again. Moreover, there's no longer a divide between civilians and military, and between countries. We will use whatever we can get our hands on to fight the Aliens."
Independence Day: Resurgence
Release Date: June 23rd, 2016