There was no movie in my youth that so stoked the flames of my cinematic cynicism as Independence Day. As a quiet, shy adolescent, movies were often the kind of surrogate for friendship that I, at various points in my youth, so desperately needed. No matter what sort of hell—real or imaginary—I was going through, the Cineplex welcomed me with open arms, introducing me to new friends that shined brightly from those massive screens.
Like everyone, I was excited for Independence Day. If you were alive and even mildly aware in 1996, it was hard not to be. The movie was preceded by a marketing blitz that was, at that point, unprecedented. TV, billboards, radio, movie previews, video games, toy stores—no matter which way you turned in the six month build up before the movie’s release, ID4 was there, tempting you with awesome images of destruction rained down by alien invaders with malicious intent.
Then I saw it, by myself, in a packed theater, shortly after my 14th birthday. My excitement waned as the movie plodded through its opening act, presenting me with stock characters speaking pre-fabricated words as they navigated through familiar narrative territory that differed not in terms of story, but only in terms of visual delight. I was bored. To death. By the time Jeff Goldblum discovered a way to interface his shoddy and slow mid-90’s computer with the technology of a planet whose technology was centuries, if not millennia, more advanced than our own, the cold reality had set in completely.
I hated Independence Day. It was, to my memory, the first time I had been let down by the movies, that friend who had heretofore been a trusted companion, had led me wrong. It was disappointing. It was eye opening. Hollywood was not my friend. Hollywood was a business, vying for my hard-earned allowance money by catering to the lowest common denominator.
Which is why I’m not terribly impressed by the trailers for Independence Day Resurgence. Not even the latest one, which was quietly released early this morning to much excitement and acclaim across the landscape of the internet. Driven by unfathomable nostalgic feelings for a movie of awe-inspiring mediocrity, the world is losing their goddamn minds over glimpses of what might just be another foray into a world of hastily conceived characters doing righteous, futile-until-it-isn’t battle with a force far superior to our own.
Oh sure, your favorites are back. Well, most of them anyway. Of everyone involved with the first film, only Will Smith had the decency not to return to the role that solidified his standing as a bona fide movie star. Everyone else seems to be along for the cash grab, including Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and even Brent Spiner somehow, which is weird because it seemed pretty clear that he was dead as shit after the last movie. And also Liam Hemsworth and Jessie Usher join the cast because, hey, you gotta get that youth market!
But whatever, right? There are aliens. And explosions. And trite appeals to patriotism which make sense because even though the world is at risk America is just sooooo fucking awesome, am I right? Plus, like, movie technology has improved so much in twenty years so look at how amazing everything looks!
Sigh. Sorry. Normally I try not to wear my cynicism so blatantly on my sleeve, but I just can’t help it this time. I was burned once before, so it’s difficult for me not to look at this 18-years-too-late sequel with anything but contempt. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, though. I do try to go to into movies thinking that they might just be really good, no matter how awful I want to think they might be. But somehow I doubt that’s going to happen. Not this time. Fool me once, Roland Emmerich…
Independence Day Resurgence opens June 24 in theaters everywhere.