Independence Day: the history of the film franchise


United States Independence Day, also known in Italy as Independence Day or 4th of July party, is the American national holiday commemorating the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. On that day, the then Thirteen colonies detached themselves from the Kingdom of Great Britain declaring their independence. In cinematography this day has become famous thanks to a franchise that takes the same name as the day, but which actually deals with totally different themes. We are, in fact, speaking of Independence Day, science fiction saga whose first film was released in 1996 and the second in 2016 with the title of Independence Day – Regeneration. Both films were directed by the director Roland Emmerich. So let’s see the history of these two films together and try to understand if there will be a future.

Independence Day: a global success

The first film of 1996 tells of an almost successful invasion of Earth by huge alien spaceships with the sole purpose of exterminating the entire human race and exploiting all the resources of the planet. The invasion begins on the morning of July 2, 1996, the same day the film was released in some American theaters, and here we observe aliens intent on destroying the most important metropolises in the world by killing millions of people. Being an American film that bears the same name as one of the most important national days, the first military forces to intervene are precisely those of the United States, but they fail miserably against alien spaceships equipped with clearly superior technologies. The same day, thanks to the intuition of the scientist David Levinson, played by Jeff Goldblum, the American government manages to counterattack with a masterful action led by Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith). From that moment on, all the nations of the world decide to help the United States in order to defeat the alien invasion. The story of the film follows directly and freely the plots of the classic alien invasion narrative, in particular War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells and his 1953 film adaptation. While the premise of the film bears little resemblance, there are many elements of The War of the Worlds, including the resistance of aliens against nuclear weapons and aliens defeated by a virus.

Independence Day

Independence Day, despite the banal and stereotyped plot, became the biggest box office hit of 1996 reaching the figure of 817 million dollars compared to a production cost of just 75 million dollars and is still the 25th most profitable film ever. In addition, thanks to the famous action scenes and the skilful use of special effects that show, among other things, the destruction of landmarks of the United States, such as the Empire State Building, the White House and the Library Tower of Los Angeles as well as the destruction of entire European and Asian cities, the film won the Oscar for special effects the following year.

The genesis of the film

The idea for the film was born when Emmerich and Devlin went to Europe to promote their film Stargate. A reporter asked Emmerich why he had made a film with content like Stargate if he didn’t believe in aliens. Emmerich said he was still fascinated by the idea of ​​an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and find that the 15-mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the larger cities of the world. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said:

“I think I have an idea for our next film.”

Emmerich and Devlin then decided to broaden the idea by incorporating a large-scale attack, with Devlin who at the time said I was annoyed by the fact that “In most alien invasion films, these come down to Earth and stay hidden or come in the form of small spores and inject themselves into the back of someone’s head. “ Emmerich agreed and so the two wrote the script during a month-long vacation in Mexico. After writing, they sent the script to 20th Century Fox and only a day after sending it, the president of the production company Peter Chernin gave the go-ahead to production. Pre-production started just three days later, in February 1995.

The production between models and special effects

Initially they wanted to do things big enough to ask the US military to collaborate to provide personnel, vehicles and costumes for the film; however, they withdrew when the producers refused to remove the references to Area 51 from the script. In the end, they were necessary for the film over 3,000 special effects so much so that for filming they often used special cameras with the help of models compared to the effects generated by the computer in an attempt to save money and obtain more authentic results. Many of the shots were taken at Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California, where the film’s art department, photography and motion control teams, pyrotechnics team, and model warehouse were located.

Independence Day

At the time, another interesting fact was that the production modeling department built more than double the miniatures for production than ever before for any film creating miniatures for buildings, streets, planes, monuments and historic buildings. The production team also built miniatures for many of the spaceships featured in the film, including a 9.1m destroyer model and a version of the mother ship that spans nearly 4 meters. The streets, on the other hand, were recreated with an inclination in a vertical position and positioned under a high-speed camera mounted on a scaffolding that filmed downwards. All the explosions then burst under the model and the flames rose towards the camera, engulfing the inclined model and creating the sense of total destruction that is seen in the film. A model of the White House was also created which was first used for perspective exterior shots and then demolished for its scene of destruction. All the detonations took a week of planning and about 40 explosive charges.

The aliens in the film were designed by the production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. The plans were tiny and based on a design drawn by Tatopoulos when he was commissioned by Emmerich to create an alien “Familiar and completely original”. These creatures wore “biomechanical” suits based on another Tatopoulos design. These suits were 2.4 meters high, equipped with 25 tentacles and specially designed to show that they could not support a person inside, so they were just the perfect prototype for a non “Man in suit”.

Independence Day

Official production began in July 1995 in New York City. A second unit collected shots of Manhattan, Washington DC, a motorhome community in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the Very Large Array on the Plains in San Agustin, New Mexico. The main crew also shot in nearby Cliffside Park, New Jersey, before moving to the former Kaiser steel mill in Fontana, California, to film the post-attack sequences of Los Angeles. The production then moved to Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada, to shoot desert footage including the Imperial Valley and Wendover airport for the outdoor scenes of El Toro and Area 51. scene in which Bill Pullman, in the role of President Thomas J. Whitmore, start his pre-battle speech. Immediately before shooting the scene, Devlin and Pullman decided to add, at the end of the speech:

“Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”.

At that time, in fact, the production was nicknamed “ID4” because Warner Bros. owned the rights to the Independence Day title, and Devlin had hoped that if Fox executives noticed the addition of that speech, the media impact of the new dialogue would help them get the rights to the title. Indeed it was so and the right to use the title was acquired exactly two weeks later. At that point the production team moved to Bonneville Salt Flats to shoot three scenes and returned to California to shoot in various locations around Los Angeles, including Hughes Aircraft where cable company sets and interiors were built. Area 51. Filming was completed on November 3, 1995.

Independence Day

The film originally described the refusal of Russell Casse as a volunteer for the July 4 aerial counteroffensive because of his alcoholism. He then uses a stolen missile tied to his red biplane to carry out his suicide mission. According to Dean Devlin, the audience who saw the scene in the early stages of testing had responded well to the irony of the scene and the comic value. However, the scene was turned over to include accepting Russell as a volunteer, his crash on a modern fighter plane and he piloting an F-18 instead of the biplane. Devlin preferred the alteration of the scene instead of the martyrdom of the character since in this way the spectator assisted Russell who ultimately makes the decision to sacrifice his life. Unfortunately, however, to see a biplane keep up and fly among the F-18s was “Simply not credible”. The film, therefore, was officially completed on June 20, 1996 and was premiered officially in the Mann Plaza Theater in Los Angeles on June 25, 1996. Before the official release, which took place on July 2, 1996 and a day before the official date, it was privately screened at the White House for the President Bill Clinton and his family.

An aggressive marketing campaign never seen before

As for the marketing campaign, Independence Day saw one of the most massive advertisements ever made before. In fact, while the film was still in the post-production phase, 20th Century Fox began a massive marketing campaign to promote the film, so much so that for the first time, a commercial was aired during the Super Bowl XXX, for which Fox paid $ 1.3 million. The consequent box office success led to the fashion of using the Super Bowl airtime to kick off the ad campaign for potential hits. Fox’s Licensing and Merchandising division also entered into co-promotion agreements with Apple Inc. to advertise the new PowerBook laptops. Trendmasters also entered into a merchandising deal with the film’s producers to create a tie-in toy line. Finally, in exchange for inserting product placement, Fox also made co-promotion agreements with Molson Coors Brewing Company and Coca-Cola.

Independence Day

Independence Day – Regeneration

Independence Day was so successful that in 2016 the same producers decided to make a sequel entitled Independence Day – Regeneration. The film is set twenty years after the events of the 1996 film. The international community has recovered, and the United Nations has created the plan of “Earth Space Defense” (ESD), a global defense program that sees all the united nations in one purpose. Alien technology is used and studied, recovered from the remains of the invading spaceships, and military bases are built on the Moon, Mars and Rea, while Area 51 has become the headquarters of the ESD. Unfortunately, no one would have ever imagined what is going to happen: an unprecedented alien attack in terms of power and number of units and aircraft. Only the genius of a small group of men and women will be able to save the world of extinction.

Independence Day

If the good morning starts in the morning …

The film was announced in 2004, the year in which a script was also written which, however, presented citations to the attacks of 11 September 2001. When everything seemed ready, some problems inherent in the Will Smith contract led to the postponement of production for many years. Because of this problem, Fox went so far as to ask Emmerich if Smith’s employment in the sequel was really necessary and the answer was:

“It’s absolutely necessary for us, for this film and for the audience.”

The film went by the wayside for years, until November 2009 in which the director, interviewed by MTV, declared that he was working on a film set more than ten years after the first film and that it is the basis for at least two other films or Independence Day 4-Ever: Part I and Part II. Just a few days passed and Fox’s denial of the franchise’s plans came, announcing that they were Emmerich’s personal ideas and that the studio had no intention of making any films. Other years of silence until January 2013, when Roland Emmerich confirmed the Independence Day sequel and the presence of Will Smith who had already signed the participation. This confirmation did not last long, because in March of the same year the director declared that the film was being written, but that there would be no Will Smith replaced by the son of Captain Steven Hiller, Dylan Dubrow.

Independence Day

You must wait for the November 26, 2014 to hear official voices this time not only from Emmerich, but also from producers Dean Devlin and Harald Kloser who announced that Fox had given the go-ahead for the shoot. The main actors confirmed were Jeff Goldblum, who would resume the role of David Levinson, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher (Dylan Dubrow, the son of Captain Steven Hiller), while Will Smith was confirmed among the absences of the first sequel with a possible appearance on Independence Day 4-Ever: Part II. They then joined the cast Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Travis Tope, Brent Spiner, Joey King and Sela Ward as the new President of the United States. In June 2015 20th Century Fox announced that the title of the sequel would be Independence Day – Regeneration and the film was released in US theaters on June 24, 2016 (in Italy on September 8). As for the success, the second film failed to match that of its predecessor so much that it did not recover all the production costs, however, obtaining a slight success with the public and collecting around the world $ 390 million. The success of critics however never came, remaining at very low levels.

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Another sequel is very unlikely

Will a sequel arrive? Apparently not, Roland Emmerich himself in 2019 declared that the making of the sequel was a mistake:

“I just wanted to make a film exactly like the first one, but then, in the middle of production, Will (Smith) gave up on the part because he wanted to do Suicide Squad. I should have stopped shooting the film at the time, because we had a much better script on our hands [col suo personaggio all’interno]. After that [Will Smith se ne andò] I had to, very quickly, put together another script. And I should have simply said “no”, because suddenly I found myself doing something that I was the first to criticize: a sequel. But life sometimes goes a certain way. “

Independence Day

The same producer Dean Devlin, during the WonderCon 2018 in Anaheim, California, during the promotional tour of the thriller / horror Bad Samaritan, regarding Independence Day declared:

“I do not know. I do not know. Currently and personally I am not going to make another one. ”

Therefore we just have to wait for further updates, but the hopes of a sequel remain quite low even if recently Roland Emmerich has returned to the office announcing that, although the ideas remain very confused, Disney may be interested in taking the franchise back in hand.

Small bonus

Independence Day

Did you know that in reality there is another Independence Day which, however, is not part of the canonical franchise? You can find it in the Amazon Prime Video catalog under the name of Independence Daysaster – The new threat and it’s a film directed by W.D. Hogan. The plot is very simple and is set during the July 4th party. While, in fact, America is celebrating its most important day, the planet Earth is invaded by aliens. A fireman helped by a team of scientists will try to counter them. To make you understand the level of the film just imagine that it was shot in fifteen days with a budget of 1,800,000 dollars. Good vision!

Do you want to see the two Independence Days? Here is the exclusive box containing the two films on sale on Amazon!

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