Independence Day 2 “is a worthy sequel”

Screenwriter Dean Devlin on why Independence Day 2 won’t disappoint

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In 1996, Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day became a global phenomenon. Blowing the White House to smithereens and leaving the rest of the world in ruin, it was the ultimate sci-fi disaster flick, instantly drumming home the totalitarian attitude of its antagonistic space-invader threat.

Sequel Independence Day: Resurgence will serve as an alien origin film as we learn more about what makes these extraterrestrials tick when they stage a retaliation after supposedly being completely annihilated two decades ago.

“The first movie was our first impression, and what we were able to deduce from what we studied. In this movie we now fill in the blanks, and it becomes a much larger canvas,” scribe-turned-producer Dean Devlin tells us.

He reveals that the sequel will be an expansion. “It can’t be a complete throwback. We really wanted it to feel like an organic sequel,” he explains. “We’ve brought a lot of the old characters back, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with them. Then there’s a whole new group of characters who are going to take the reins and move forward.”

Returning are Jeff Goldblum as plucky environmentalist David Levinson, Judd Hirsch as his verbose father, Bill Pullman as damaged former fighter-pilot/president Whitmore, Vivica A Fox as Jasmine – the now widowed wife of Steven Hiller (Will Smith) – and Brent Spiner as eccentric, seemingly back-from-the-dead scientist Dr Brakish Okun.

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This time, the destruction is somehow that bit more catalysmic

The new batch of characters banding together to overcome the latest threat include Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) as US pilot Jake Morrison, whose parents were a casualty of the events of the original film; It Follows’ Maika Monroe as former President Whitmore’s now grown-up daughter; relative newcomer Jessie Usher as Dylan Hiller, the stepson of deceased war hero Steven Hiller, and Sela Ward (Gone Girl) as the first female president of the United States.

So why has fearless pilot Steven Hiller been killed off in between films? “In the first draft we wrote [he] was one of the characters, and when Will Smith said he didn’t want to be in the sequel we had to do a pretty major rewrite of it,” he reveals regarding the role that helped launch Smith’s film career. “We actually found that was a benefit. He’s such a giant movie star now that even if you put him in an ensemble [it] still feels like he’s the lead, so by not having the character we kind of recaptured the ensemble feel.”

Devlin is also quick to dismiss rumours that Smith was unable to participate due to a scheduling clash with Suicide Squad. “No, definitely not. He didn’t want to do it,” he elaborates. “He’s done a few sequels to some of his films. I think he wanted to take his career in another direction.”

If the overly patriotic attitude to saving the world was a little hard to take back in 1996, it looks like Resurgence will take an all-nations-fighting-as-one approach. “Borders are no longer relevant in the same way,” explained Goldblum during the Resurgence press conference last year. “It’s my job to lead the way in making sure everyone is safe.”

Devlin told us this was always the intention. “To start with, there’s this idea that Independence Day is so related with an American holiday, but now it’s all humanity related against a common enemy. So we wanted that sense of patriotism to go beyond borders and [be] patriotism for humanity.”

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This time, Jeff Goldblum is joined by newcomer Liam Hemsworth

“We call it in the film ‘the War of ’96’,” said returning director Roland Emmerich. “It’s like a post-world generation that’s unified, and that’s amazing to see a world come together with a common enemy. That’s a resurgence.”  

During footage shown at a convention in Australia, an older, wearier Levinson boards a spacecraft with Hemsworth’s Morrison – flying off into the stars presumably to the rumoured new space-defence base set up on the Moon. This certainly tallies with the revelation in the trailer that they have used the aliens’ technology to strengthen the planet.

So why has it taken 20 years for a sequel? “For years, I didn’t want to do a sequel,” Delvin admits. “Not long after 9/11 I’d written a sequel that we never handed in because I didn’t feel it was worthy. I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to do one that is a worthy successor. I’m really proud of this movie.”

Independence Day: Resurgence will be released in cinemas on 24 June 2016. For more news about the latest movies, pick up the new issue of SciFiNow.