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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence 2nd Trailer Breakdown

Edited by Robert Beach 

One of the weird trends of the 2010s has been a, let us say, complicated relationship with the pop cultural touchstones of the 1990s. To be clear, I don’t think anyone really has complicated feelings about revisiting the actual content produced in the ‘90s.  Ask any given 20-something and they’ll undoubtedly talk your ear off about how amazing Animaniacs or Power Rangers was. Even today’s subject, Independence Day, still commands a tidal wave of affection from the ‘90s kids who grew up watching it on TNT. I know because I’m one of them. 

No, when I say complicated, I mean in terms of how much we’d like to actually recreate or continue the various elements of our collective misspent ‘90s youth. Sometimes attempts to perpetuate ‘90s mythos are met with love and success like the ongoing Pokemon phenomena or the massive success of Jurassic World, while other times the only response is disgust and derision like last year’s twin flops of Goosebumps and Terminator Genisys or the X-Files revival. This year seems set to make what could be the definitive statement on the question of audience reaction to ‘90s revivals with the upcoming sequel to Independence Day, which now has a new trailer. 

So, just speaking as the target audience of 20-somethings with money who grew up with the original Independence Day, let me just say this: it looks like everything I wanted from the sequel. This is going to be less of a beat-for-beat breakdown of the content and more focused on the tone and themes of the film presented.  

That’s honestly what the trailer seems to be selling itself on anyway; this isn’t a trailer about giving us intimate plot details and insights. Pretty much everything you need to know about the plot can be summed up in a poster, but I suppose some basic grounding is needed for the folks who haven’t been following the slow drip of teaser images, trailers, and posters as religiously as yours truly. 


In case it wasn’t clear, the setting for Independence Day: Resurgence is 20 years after the first film, which is the first of many cheeky conceits. The 20-year gap might seem strange, yet it’s also been 20 years since the original film's release too. It’s part of the film's effort to craft a parallel narrative between the changes in the film's world to the changes in the real world (more on that later). In the 20-year interim, the Earth appears to have united under the American banner in the wake of the failed invasion in 1996.  

In additon to Earth’s newfound unification, the world has made leaps and bounds forward technologically thanks to reverse engineering of alien technology by Jeff Goldblum’s characters.  This is one of the film’s cleverest conceits so far and goes hand-in-hand with the 20-year jump. It's a way to emphasize the idea of rapid technological progress in this future and show the actual positives that emerged out of the darkness of the previous alien invasion. 

Obviously, this peace can’t last. Now the alien home world has returned to finish the job. That’s our set-up: a technologically advanced Earth led by a collection of old timers and the children of the men who saved the world going toe-to-toe with a force they tried to prepare for, but turned out to be nowhere near as ready to defeat as they might’ve hoped.  

As far as alien invasion follow ups go, that’s actually shockingly unique and supremely clever. It would’ve been easy enough to have Earth not change in the interim. Having us actually advance to the point of moon colonies and space fighters is a brilliant way to keep the franchise moving forward and adapting rather than standing still like a lot of other failed ‘90s franchise revivals. 

The Struggle for the Utopia 

Speaking of, moving forward is key to why I think Independence Day: Resurgence works as more than just a reminder of a thing you like existing. What the movie is about (what the trailer wants us to interpret) is the struggle faced by a generation that grew up under American hegemony, entering a world of conflicts and obstacles that they can’t overcome. No matter how much they were told they could do anything. The only caveat is even if they can’t defeat their obstacles, it’s better to try and fail then to let them win.  

It’s a very strange message for the film to push, but it’s also a uniquely impactful one, and one that fits perfectly into the zeitgeist of the people who grew up with Independence Day. The first film’s emphasis was on finding a sense of unity and togetherness in the face of absolute human annihilation. That’s the crux of the president’s speech that we’ve all come to memorize. This film takes that message of hope within certain doom and extends it in the modern context: to a world where our problems seem genuinely insolvable.

However, Independence Day has never been about paralleling reality but rather providing a fantasy. The first film wasn’t simply about the idea of unity in tragedy, but about the fantasy of a threat so massive and non-denominational the entire world couldn’t help but join together to stand against it. This new installment seems to be following that same approach just taken to a darker extreme. In this case, it’s not about necessarily about the threat. It's about the world, about the thing that everyone in the film is defending. 

It’s hard to tell, but if you key in on a lot of the dialogue and the President’s new speech in this trailer, there’s a major emphasis on loss and the people who’ve died and sacrificed to give Earth a fighting a chance.  

That idea is key to why I actually find this trailer really inspiring. It’s about the fantasy of a world and a people that are worth sacrificing for. A cause and an Earth so utopic and pure that everyone would want to protect it together. We’ll see if this all makes it into the film proper. If Independence Day: Resurgence has even an ounce of the mood and themes being pushed through this trailer, I get the sense it’ll easily become as much of a touchstone of hope and optimism as its predecessor.

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