Whoever said “good things come to those who wait” was clearly not referencing blockbuster sequels. Last year’s record-breaking Star Wars hit is, technically, 32 years in the making and would certainly buck a trend of disappointment were it not for the three largely ridiculed prequels bookended by 1982’s Return Of The Jedi and JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens.
The forgettable second and third instalments of the Jurassic Park franchise, too, scupper any chance last year’s summer smash Jurassic World has of being as closely linked as it would like to be to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original.
But now there’s Independence Day: Resurgence, bringing alien invasion back with a bang and a $200million budget, exactly 20 years to the week since Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman sent the extra-terrestrials packing from Earth.
It’s a genuine sequel, too, with a real arc linking both. Smith is really the only missing link, his character Steven Hiller ‘killed’ in the intervening time on a training mission (the star is on record as having said a Suicide Squad schedule clash, plus a recent spate of personal sci-fi flops played a part in his decision to snub Emmerich’s advances).
Stepping into the breach, although not directly, and inheriting a significant chip on his shoulder, is Liam Hemsworth as Jake Morrison, channelling that enigmatic, if a little lacking the cheeky chappy, persona that made Smith’s character so likeable.
“I didn’t really try to recreate anything he did directly in the first one, but there is one bit where I have a physical altercation with an alien which wasn’t in the script - I asked for that,” the Australian explains to Time Out, with a nod to Smith’s iconic “Welcome to Earth” moment.
Very much in the fray, though, is Goldblum, the awkward and unlikely hero of the original is now the world’s pre-eminent scientist, charged with preparing everyone for the inevitable strike back that forms the narrative of the new film.
“A few years ago the guys called and said, ‘Hey we’ve got an idea’, and I thought it was fantastic,” he tells Time Out during a whistlestop tour of the Middle East.
“They’ve really paid attention to, and were passionate about, making it satisfying to people in the same way the first one was. To have that spirit of gripping drama you can believe in even though it is far-fetched, that’s special. And then there’s humour and a sense of strength in diversity.”
Goldblum is equally effusive about the underlying message of unity, a tricky feat when the spine of the movie is the eradication of humanity.
“Earth’s people have come together. It’s peaceful, nobody has fought among themselves... they’ve transcended their petty political, religious, national differences and realised they are part of the same family...
“It is my pleasure to be in a leadership position in that situation. ‘Look after each other and look after the planet’, yes, yes yes. We must stop fighting among ourselves [and] embrace science.”
His director holds the same sort of values – “Yes it is for entertainment and yes it should be a riot, but it can also teach people something” - But, perhaps rightly, he holds a more clinical movie-making view.
“It was first determined by technology,” he tells us. “That, for me as a filmmaker, is the main reason to try another Independence Day. I thought so much has changed in 20 years. Back then I felt very limited, but more and more things have caught up to my imagination. In the first one we had some ideas we tried but couldn’t do them, so we had to cut them. Not so much now.”
Emmerich has pioneered the disaster movie genre. The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla and 2012 were made by his fair hand, and all, he says, using the 1996 crash, bang, wallop template, sprinkled with a smidgen of comedy.
“In all my films I try to deliver some humour. These movies, I think you shouldn’t take them too seriously,” the German explains. “It’s not Shakespeare, who is a little better than a lot of Hollywood writers,” he adds with a chuckle.
No surprise then, Resurgence appears packed with those glorious one-liners and exchanges that stand the original out even now. So for 1996’s “Now that’s what you call a close encounter,” we have “They like to get the landmarks”, which, Emmerich reveals, was improvised by Goldblum.
“In the first one there were lines written but sometimes the actors were riffing on it and making it even funnier,” he adds.
“Roland makes these films epic,” says Hemsworth, “it’s what he does. He pioneered this genre, and when you have someone like that behind it, you can trust that everything will come together. However small the line, it will come with epicness [sic] behind it all.”
Maybe good things do come to those who wait, after all.
Independence Day is on screens across the Middle East all month.\
Three more huge sequels
Toy Story 3 (2010)
You’ll be hard pushed to find a trilogy as faultless and as continually exceeding itself as this. Pixar has, while delivering several brilliant animated films, never come close to the universal brilliance of Buzz, Woody et al.
Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008)
Why, why, why? An abomination that undid all the positives of Harrison Ford’s original trilogy. But that hasn’t stopped the team behind it – a fifth instalment is slated for 2019.
Tron Legacy (2010)
Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprised their roles. Legacy was never going to be a pioneer in the same way Steven Limburger’s futuristic computer-game original had been, but was largely considered a fitting tribute.