The potential plot problems with an Independence Day sequel

Feature Scott Snowden 11 Sep 2012 - 07:47

An Independence Day sequel has been rumoured for years. But the original's ending leaves writers with all sorts of problems, Scott writes…

Back in July, we wrote about the long-discussed Independence Day sequel. As we said then, every year or so, Roland Emmerich gives an interview, is asked about it, and says the film is still just about active. But regardless of how close Independence Day 2 is to actually being given the go-ahead, there are a surprising number of issues that must be tackled during the creative process, long before we even get to casting or filming. 

The concerns with a sequel to Independence Day are not what you might call typical. The original movie's story was massive, involving the whole world and destruction on a planet-wide scale. Issues with artistic license aside – like the infamous alien computer system being Apple System 7 compatible – there are an awful lot of plot elements that will need to be addressed for a worthwhile sequel.

In the 1996 movie, we are told that “at least 15” city-sized spacecraft separated from the mother ship. And we saw just how huge these smaller spacecraft were when one ominously descended over the New York area, covering Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey in its shadow.

The first issue is the so-called defeat of the alien invaders. In the original movie, a simultaneous, globally-synchronised airstrike is organised using good old-fashioned Morse code. This comes as a result of the Americans discovering a way to disable the aliens’ defense shields.

However, being able to “bring those sons of bitches down” depends entirely on the larger craft having their primary weapon engaged. Again, these ships were truly enormous, and we saw that even when one had been brought crashing to Earth, it was still roughly 50 per cent intact, which means it’s not unreasonable to think that a distress call would have been made warning other alien ships that their shields were down, ship-wide systems seemed to be malfunctioning and all contact with the orbiting mother ship had been lost. Plus, of course, a warning about engaging their primary weapon.

So, would all 15 spacecraft have been destroyed? Without one single ship plotting an emergency evasive course to get the hell out of Earth’s atmosphere? Which then leads to the potential of calling reinforcements. A nice plot element to consider for the sequel.  Or, how about another race – that had also previously been savaged - contacting Earth after the attack to join forces? Another potential story line. 

But we have so much still to consider. If a sequel were set within the lifespan of the principal characters, we would have to see the state of the Earth after the attack.

Almost all of the major cities around the world have been destroyed. How long would it take to rebuild New York, or London or Los Angeles or Tokyo? A long time. Would they be rebuilt in the same way, or totally different? Society as a whole would have changed completely as well. We now know, beyond any doubt, that we are not alone in the universe. What are the religious implications?

We also now know that there are extremely hostile forces in the universe and we must rebuild with an aim to be able to defend our fragile little planet.

It is also entirely possible that the war, so to speak, would be far from over. We can only speculate how many crew members might be on one of these huge spacecraft, but it must be assumed that a great many would make it out of the burning wreckage alive. So now we have a situation not unlike Battle Los Angeles, or Falling Skies, or even the second series of V.

Struggles between human and alien forces would rage on. These creatures were pretty intent on leaving nothing left of our poor planet, so we can assume it’s unlikely they’d simply give up. The remains of the world’s armed forces would be engaged in day-to-day combat, as would human resistance groups.

What would the aliens try to achieve during this ground war? Perhaps re-establishing communications with any remaining ships to call for reinforcements. Or perhaps simply a relentless, to-the-death struggle to still try and wipe humans from the face of the planet. This could make a great TV series…oh, damn.

And what of the wreckage that is burning? That much smoke will undoubtedly have the same effect as many volcanoes belching their ash into the atmosphere. It might sound far-fetched, but depending on how many ships were brought down, they would burn for a long time, generating a lot of smoke. 

Materials and technology from the shot-down ships would also find its way into day-to-day life, from cool, new kitchen appliances to weapons and defense. Even building materials, possibly affecting how the new New York might look. These ships – once they were safe to enter from dug-in, defending aliens protecting their technology – would take many, many years to shift, forming a longstanding reminder until they could be completely disposed of.

How would the people of Earth react in the long term to all of this? Would every petty squabble between races be resolved in favour of turning our unified attention to the stars? In Star Trek history, this more or less happens after World War III, when the Vulcans introduce themselves on April 5, 2063. Poverty, war, famine, disease are all gone. “It unites humanity in a way no one thought possible,” Deanna Troy explains.

After all, human life on Earth has nearly been wiped out at the end of Independence Day, so a long-term projection could easily fit the profile of a Roddenberry-inspired future – that is, once all the remaining alien soldiers had been killed, and Earth had been rebuilt. Fingers crossed they didn’t get a last minute call off to the rest of the alien fleet.

Alternatively, poorer nations that had been largely ignored by the aliens during the initial extermination phase might rise up to seize their opportunity in the post-apocalyptic nightmare. Western nations, on their knees, are in thrall to them because their infrastructure no longer exists. World order changes totally. Unity should have been the result, but instead the people of Earth are even more fractured than they were before. 

So what road could a sequel take? What new stories could be focused on, and what could be achieved within the world that was created in the aftermath of the original movie?

We can only wait and see.

UPDATE: There's a bit more news on the planned Independence Day follow-ups here.

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