When I think of “Independence Day,” I don't feel any particular nostalgia for the film. I didn't care for it when it came out, and I think it's aged horribly. However, I do have a fondness for the moment it represents, as that was the beginning of my time online.
You may or may not be aware of my checkered past as a spy with a nom de plume, but if you're unaware, I started my career writing about movies as “Moriarty” over at Ain't It Cool News. In the days before that site was launched, I discovered newsgroups, and the idea that I could spend my time yelling at nerds all over the planet about whether or not Rick Deckard was a replicant seemed earth-shattering to me.
One of the arguments I distinctly remember from those early days was between me and someone else who seemed to have access to screenplays. Even in those pre-Internet days, I had a network of friends in LA who provided me with scripts for things that were either in development or in production. Within a very close period of time, I read both “Mars Attacks!” and “Independence Day,” and just based on what was on the page, I didn't think there was any comparison. The “Mars Attacks!” script was insane, silly, and a total goof on '50s science-fiction film tropes, while the “ID4” script seemed to be a pretty straight-faced version of what the other script was mocking.
The argument I got involved in was over which of the films was going to be bigger, and I remember thinking how much I fundamentally disagreed with the guy I was arguing with and how completely wrong he was. That person was just some other guy who posted to the same newsgroup, and I didn't know him at all. That dynamic was part of what made Ain't It Cool interesting since that person turned out to be Harry Knowles, and to be fair, he was right about which of the films ended up being bigger. He called it on “Independence Day,” and while I may not be a fan, I can certainly acknowledge that it was a huge box-office sensation when it was finally released.
Part of the reason “ID4” was huge was because 20th Century Fox marketed it brilliantly. When Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin sold the spec script to the studio, that marketing was already part of their plan, and I salute Emmerich and Devlin's shrewd sense of how to sell that film to the public. The film itself seemed like it was less of an event than the trailers were.
Now there's a trailer for next summer's “Independence Day: Resurgence,” and while it's got some big imagery, it doesn't really have the same kind of fiendishly simply hook that the original film's trailers did. They lean pretty heavily on Bill Pullman's rallying speech from the first film, and they have a few shots of shadows falling over things, all of it building to Jeff Goldblum's last line in the trailer. But it doesn't really make the case that this is going to be different than a lot of the FX-heavy visually noisy blockbuster fare that comes out these days. It's a brutally competitive summer in 2016, and Fox is betting big that people are going to turn out, even without Will Smith as the film's anchor.
I would never discount just how much Jeff Goldblum brings to the table, though. He almost single-handedly salvaged “The Lost World,” and when he's given the right material, he can be absolutely deadly.
We'll see when “Independence Day: Resurgence” arrives in theaters June 24, 2016 because Fox presumably lost their calendar.