— by CAM SMITH —
Last weekend, the world as we know it ended to thunderous applause as Roland Emmerich’s “2012” decimated the competition, proving once and for all that there are few sights movie-goers desire to witness more than the complete and utter annihilation of mankind’s proudest architectural achievements.
“Take that Sistine Chapel!” “Up yours Washington Monument!” “See you in Hell Eiffel Tower!!!”
And, for the most part, I shared their cackling, borderline-sadistic glee, as who doesn’t love a good fromage-scented disaster movie epic, replete with cartoonishly broad stereotypes, vividly rendered, huge-scale destruction, sudsy soap opera storytelling and ludicrous manufactured peril?
The answer appears to be precious few, considering that “2012” opened with a colossal bang, accumulating an impressive $65-million domestically and even more impressive $120 million in foreign ticket sales, practically paying off the flick’s considerable price-tag in a mere three days. Not too shabby, especially considering that it’s the latest work from a notoriously inconsistent director still valiantly attempting to fight his way back to the level of glory and power he held in his pre-“Godzilla” hey-day.
Now the future is lookin’ a tad rosier for ol’ Emmerich. He’s got another smash under his belt — making up for the underwhelming performance of last year’s endurance-testing “10,000 B.C.” — and likely more freedom and moolah to make his next blessedly juvenile blockbuster project happen.
So, in a boundless universe rife with rich opportunities for creative expression and exploration, what unimaginably outlandish ideas could perhaps be ping-ponging around the colorful German Master of Disaster’s grey matter?
On Nov. 5, a personal hint was delivered to the folks over at Cinema Blend, courtesy of a brief video interview, that Emmerich was miiiiighty interested in a sequel to the 1996 sci-fi phenomenon “Independence Day.” However, he was also careful to state that 20th Century Fox was pretty cagey about paying for Will Smith to return, which was a necessity, in the director’s mind, for the film to ever come to fruition.
A week later, he appeared on MTV Movies Blog bandying about the name “ID4-Ever” and intimating that the further extra-terrestrial-fuelled escapades of Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman would likely be spread over two separate films — to allow for an even more grandiose story arc than the original. Sweet Moses Magnum, is that even possible!?
Now, let’s assume, for a sweet second or two, that Emmerich is on the level and that a continuation of the “Telepathic Octopus Space-Men without Virus Protection” storyline is in the early larval stages of becoming a reality. Let’s assume that Fox is willing, in the wake of dropping half of their entire bank account into James Cameron’s “Avatar,” to shower the auteur with crisp, freshly-printed green-backs. And, finally, let’s assume that Will Smith decides that reprising his role as … uh … *checks IMDB* … Captain Steve Hiller(!) is a good career move.
I ask you, brothers and sisters, do we honestly want another “Independence Day,” much less two?
A silly question, I know. Especially when the potential for exploiting an insanely lucrative property is at stake. But as we’ve become incessantly beat down like whack-a-moles over the last half-decade or so by unneeded remakes and moronic, disappointing sequels it’s a question that deserves a thoughtful answer.
My answer is a simple, resolute “no.”
When “Independence Day” zapped theatres almost 14 years ago it was a perfect storm of empty-calorie summer popcorn awesomeness; a comical, often moving, breath-sucking rollercoaster-ride chock-a-block full of memorable A-type personalities and shameless jingoism. The flick possessed a genuinely kicky premise, cannily updating the Cold War-era alien invasion pulp adventures with a sly wink and an earnest grin, not afraid to embrace the heart-string-plucking melodrama of the 1970s Irwin Allen Disaster flicks which partially inspired it. Most bravely, it dared to risk public mockery by being proudly oh-so-square. In many ways, “ID4” was the ideal counterpoint to the increasingly influential ultra-ironic indie scene, which had gained considerable traction in the wake of grubby, audience-pleasing efforts like “Clerks,” “Swingers,” “The Usual Suspects” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Call it dopey or shallow and I’ll wholeheartedly agree with you. But it was also, unlike the majority of modern seasonal “event” spectaculars, endearingly good-natured and an insane amount of fun. I ended up watching the film three times on the big-screen that summer and many, many more once it hit VHS (with that killer holographic cover), and later DVD, and my opinion has never changed through the years. I may have grown up but I take comfort in knowing that “Independence Day” never will.
What I adore most of all about the film is that it’s a single, complete story told energetically and well. When Smith and Goldblum and crew stare up in exhausted triumph at those burning invading attack ships we want to cheer. The adventure is over; good won, evil lost and everyone who survived lives happily ever after. Music swells. Fade to black. Credits. The end.
If this fool-hardy dream comes to pass, I’m fearful of how the results will affect those lasting final impressions. Emmerich can talk up “new aliens” and the unlimited abilities of modern technology all he wants, but I can’t envision any follow-up capturing the effective “Up with humanity!” spirit and straight-faced sincerity of the original. “2012,” as diverting as it was, was noticeably free of “ID4’s” cheeriness and light-hearted flightiness. It was a proficient example of its genre but hardly a labor of lop-sided love.
One has to wonder how much of the director’s diminishment in output quality has to do with the absence of Dean Devlin, Emmerich’s former producer and writing partner, who split shortly after the duo cranked out the entertaining Mel Gibson historical bastardization “The Patriot.” His voice played a big part, for better or worse, in “ID4,” as well as “Godzilla” and “Stargate,” and it often seems as if the very-German Emmerich is at a loss without his quick-witted, fluently English American sidekick.
Regardless, until the shadow of “ID4-Ever: Parts 1 and 2” hovers over my local multiplex, I’ll remain cautiously uneasy about this venture and hope that wiser minds ultimately prevail. (Yes, I realize the senselessness in putting my fragile faith in the hands of opportunistic Hollywood studio execs but, Good Goldblum!, they’re all I have.)
Anyone with an ounce of intelligence will tell you that it’s a mighty dubious prospect to attempt to replicate the alchemic circumstances of a break-out pop-culture landmark and I fear that, in the end, Roland Emmerich is hardly the man to give it a try.
Besides, no mere mortal could ever top this:
Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.