Twenty years after a first lot of space bastards left large swathes of the planet a smoking ruin, Roland Emmerich has unleashed another swathe of aliens on our planet in Independence Day: Resurgence. These ones, presumably good friends with the first lot, are even more hellbent on unleashing an apocalypse. We spent a chunk of time with the writer/director to find out more about the alien plan, as well as other key plot points and Easter eggs.
WARNING: there are multiple spoilers for Independence Day: Resurgence throughout this article.
1. The aliens have a bigger agenda this time
While the class of 1996 had invasion and colonisation in mind, this lot of aliens have darker ambitions. “This is a harvester queen, not a colonist alien,” explains Emmerich of their new leader. “These ones are uber-queens and they have a massive ship. For me, that was always the interesting part of continuing it: what would happen if an even bigger ship came down to Earth?” Nothing good, it turns out.
2. The new aliens are massive frackers
Environmentalists, look away now. The aliens, explains Emmerich, have pioneered a means of refuelling by sucking up planets’ resources like a Slurpee through a straw. “The alien queen wants to drill to Earth’s molten core to refuel her ships and grow their technology. She also got a distress call from the first aliens. It’s not a revenge mission though. Revenge is a very human feeling."
3. ... But the good alien wants to train us to fight back
The first, sphere-like alien humanity encounters has benign intentions; although humanity, having some cool new weapons it hasn’t had a chance to fire yet, shoots it down. “The sphere is the culmination of a whole species,” says Emmerich. “There could be a couple of million consciousnesses in there.” The alien vessel – deliberately designed to look like an Apple product – has been travelling the galaxy, training other species to defeat the malevolent aliens like an intergalactic Mr Miyagi. With all those smarts, why does it allow itself to be shot down so easily? “Well, there’s always plot holes,” he laughs.
4. There’s a huge intergalactic civil war taking place
Paving the way to a possible Independence Day 3, Emmerich points to a much larger conflict being waged beyond the stars. In Star Wars terms, the aliens are the Empire, the benevolent alien is Obi-Wan and we are… the rebels? Ewoks? Uncle Owen? “There’s maybe thousands of species involved [in the war],” says the director. “‘Countless’ is an even better number. There’s a refugee planet and that’s where they get trained by this being.”
5. The death toll is lower in this one… (but it’s still pretty high)
Because the alien craft are so huge, they don’t need to use death rays this time. They just park. “They don’t even have to destroy anything,” says Emmerich, “because the landing process already destroys a big part of the world.” Still, the three billion fatalities in Independence Day dwarf the early death toll here, albeit the long-term prognosis still looks bleak. “By drilling to the Earth’s core," points out Emmerich, "she’ll destroy the planet". So not all good news, then.
6. Dubai was originally going to land on Paris, not London
“They like to get the landmarks,” notes Goldblum’s boffin as the aliens vaporise another lot of tourist attractions. In the first script, the space invaders had a bead on the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but the Paris terror attacks of November 2015 led to a change of heart from the filmmakers. “After the attacks, we felt it wasn’t right to have the Burj Khalifa crashing on the Eiffel Tower, so we dumped it on the London Eye instead,” says Emmerich. "The English can take it.”
7. The planet Saturn isn’t so lucky
A brief early glimpse of Saturn’s gaseous rings in a state of disrepair has a deeper back story. “There was originally a scene where a wormhole appears that's so massive, it affects Saturn’s rings,” remembers the director, “but the opening was too drawn out, so we went on mystery instead.” The further outlier of humanity's new Earth Space Defense system, pioneered using repurposed alien tech, is actually under construction on Rhea, Saturn’s moon, rather than on the planet itself. “But we called it Saturn instead of Rhea so people didn’t get confused."
8. Brent Spiner was badly misdiagnosed in Independence Day
Like Monty Python’s Norwegian parrot, Brent Spiner is not dead, he’s only resting. “The writer of one of the [Independence Day] follow-up novels asked us what had happened to Brent,” says Emmerich of that bit where Brent Spiner seemed to be death-choked TO DEATH by a hugely powerful killer alien. “(Producer) Dean Devlin and I looked at each other and said, ‘Coma!’" But... but... "Sure, that guy touched his neck and said ‘he’s dead’, but come on! He was a military person, not a doctor."
9. There’s an extended cut
Although his sequel is shorter than Independence Day by 25 minutes, Emmerich has an extended edition planned for those who aren't as into the whole brevity thing. “It’s only about seven minutes longer,” he reveals. “It’s interesting for fans to see which scenes we cut, although I like it when movies are short."
10. Fear not, the White House will be destroyed… eventually
The Prez’s abode is spared in Independence Day: Resurgence – a crash-landing alien ship practically scraps its roof tiles off but, in tongue-in-cheek style, doesn’t knock it down – but Emmerich is rectifying that in the extended version. “One of our designers said, ‘You have to destroy it!’,” laughs the director, “and when I asked him how, he suggested a huge piece of rubble could obliterate it.” Although the shot is in the extended version, the director was keen not to duplicate the same beat in his theatrical cut. A shot where Marine One is destroyed was also discarded. “They were good decisions,” reflects the director. “Everyone would have said, ‘Oh, you destroyed the White House again’."
11. Boomer is in the great kennel in the sky
This being two decades on, Independence Day’s canine survivalist Boomer was unavailable for the sequel. To continue his record of dog-based disaster beats, Roland Emmerich used a new, if slightly less professional mutt. It’s safe to say the little guy, Ginger, will never work in Hollywood again. “He belongs to a friend of mine who lives in my guesthouse,” says Emmerich of the casting process, “and he talked me into using him.” Aside from delivering one bark that should have awards season bigwigs sitting up, the experiment did not go well. "It was terrible to shoot with him," laughs Emmerich. "I kinda regret that one."
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Independence Day: Resurgence is in cinemas now. Look out for the full ID:R Empire Podcast Special, due soon.