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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Much as I'd like to think that any potential sequels would at least try to deal with some of the bigger philosophical issues you mention, I suspect it will just involve Mr Smith blowing stuff up.

I second that themsnlikedave. Do not think that any of the above will get a look in over the effects. The plot will roughly be: Years will have passed and strangely all the ships etc will have been dealt with, this will be explained in a throwaway line such as ""Jeez, didn't that clean up take a while" There will be a statue of an f-14 as a reminder to the world. A new law will have made Bill Pullman president for life, Will Smith will be chief of staff for life and Jeff Goldblum will be a Steve Jobs type and will have made a fortune from software that allows one computer to connect to any make of printer. For the rest just see Battle Los Angeles but with other cities.

I still want to see sequels to Battle Los Angeles! Battle New York! Battle Las Vegas! Battle Disneyland!

I think it should be left well alone. It doesnt need a sequel and stands up as a great piece of hokey kitch Sci-Fi epic cinema. Its very much a product of its time and no bad thing for that. I dont want a sequel. Let this one stand up thru history as it is.

Battle Memphis

I have good memories of watching this the first time. I watched it again last week and found myself having to switch off after 20 minutes due to the repeated and unapologetically cringe-worthy cliché dialogue and the general preposterousness. The only way a sequel would work is if it was something like Gareth Edwards' Monsters, but there's no chance. I like a sequel as much as the next man but this needs to RIP.

What about David, what the hell is David gonna do?

Independence Day 2. It'll be Battle Los Angeles with more jingoism. I might pay to see that, would be hilarious.

There won't be an reinforcements as Bill Pullman clearly states in the film after the alien at Area 51 tries to mindfuck him to death that he has seen its thoughts and that he knows that they are like locusts, their "whole civilisation" is moving from one planet to the next, consuming all natural resources (something like that).

So IF there's a sequel (I hope not really), it would have to involve the aliens that survived the destruction of their ships crashing to Earth.

Independence Day sequel? District 9 comes to my mind.

I also doubt a single nuke could destroy something a quarter the size of the moon. the ship could have his military assets crippled, and be majorly damaged, but otherwise functional.

So you could, in theory, have a huge alien force hanging over your head in the ultimate cold war, kind of like FF13's Pule/Cocoon conflict. The aliens still want our world as it's their only hope to survive, and Earth is desperate for any kind of defense against them, and fearful they could give earth up and go for a scorched earth policy or just craft the mothership into the planet for a world wise extinction of both races.

Plot writes itself.

Meh, as many times as Tokyo has been destroyed by Godzilla Im thinking it would take them all of a week to rebuild it. But as for a sequel I don't know. It was a good stand alone. Any sequel would have to take account the survivors of the initial invasion with a foothold situation. My opinion though.

What rest of the alien fleet? They covered that the entire race is nomadic. The nuked mothership in orbit? That is all of them.

There are no reinforcements to call. Seeing as they have the remains of 15 cities (the lesser ships) that crashed as the last of their civilization, versus the thousands of smaller cities not hit (still probably 3 or 4 billion people left alive).

I think District 9 would be a better blueprint for a sequel. They came here to murder us all, we what? Genocide? Integration? Slavery?

One interesting consequence of the first film: whole cities have been obliterated, causing a potential housing shortage. One obvious (and, more importantly, visually interesting) solution would be for mankind to settle in the wrecks of the downed ships.

And that's really not such a bad thing. There are enough serious, dark, gritty movies around. Willy can blow stuff up all day long, just as long as he doesn't bring his kid into the mix.

Scott Snowden, you need to get out more.

I think they should just not make this. It has been so long since the original, assuming they want Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum to return...they are getting kinda old now, especially Goldblum. Any sequel made over 10 years after the first always sucks. The ending was a feel good "yeah we smoked those alien bastards!" movie that doesn't need to go beyond that.

Why not start a new franchise of similar caliber, but write out a 3 movie arc?

Imposition of a worldwide police state "for the duration of the crisis". Individual governments still exist on paper, but everything is actually run by a self-appointed board of "security experts". All resource allocation and production are dictated by "security" concerns. Discontent is punished without trial, by "administrative procedures" that are only subject to review once "the crisis" has ended.

Oh come on this is Hollywood. They don't care about the bigger issues. All they want is Smith, Goldblum and maybe Pullman in a movie again. Bang bang aliens go boom 2 is what they should call it. And I'll be there to see it when they make it.

p.s. *Troi

It was explained in the movie that the aliens were "like a swarm of locusts, going from planet to planet, using up its natural resources until it was an empty shell, then moving on to the next."

So it's safe to assume that these aliens are a self-contained tribe and no others will follow. Once you wipe them out here, they stay wiped out.

took the words right out of my mouth, there is no need for a sequal

The one smart thing ID4 did, in an otherwise really silly movie, was posit the idea that the alien ship was a wanderer that sucked up resources where it found them.

There is no invasion. There is no "home planet." There is no back-up.

If tens of thousands of aliens survived the crash of their ship, that could make for a pretty cool movie.

I don't think their would a big housing shortage. Remember They did not issue a official evacuation order till the last minute. An most of the major cities roads out where clogged bumper to bumper anyways. Yes some left as soon as the ship arrived. But still a lot died in thier cars.

I think you're overthinking it. It would be about honest Americans saving the day, again, in a ridiculous manner.

I feel you're not watching the film the right way. Watch it as a comedy and suddenly the "cliché dialogue and general preposterousness" become the best things about it! From Will Smith punching an alien to the revelation that Area 51 is actually real to Goldblum going from drunk to sober within a single second to the air strike actually lead by the President of the United States, it's pure kitschy fun from start to finish. The reason I enjoyed Independence Day so much while hating The Day After Tomorrow is that it actually, at heart, KNOWS it's ridiculous.

Thats just preposterous. There is no way in hell that they can engineer a computer that can successfully connect to ANY make of printer. Sheer fantasy.

IDF sequel , Blame mistakingly and attack like a true american would.

I would be interested to see if the sequel(s) are worse than the original, that would be quite an accomplishment.

I agree that the original film does not need a sequel, but the studio's bank is probably already salivating. If it were based on reality, the humans would most likely round up any surviving aliens a'la Area 51 in the original movie, and Mr. Data or whoever he was would be asked to produce a deadly disease which would decimate the aliens. Then again, it would be even more effective to invite the aliens to invest all their assets in the Earth's banking system, which would quickly result in their home planet not being able to afford to build any more spaceships. If you think I'm being cynical about Nasa funding, you're dead right!

I wonder if your face could be worse than your mother's vagine. That would be a accomplishment.

I agree with many of the concepts in these comments, but my major concern, is when the president was connected in a link with them, at least it think it was the president, didn't he say my god, they move their whole race in that one ship, so if we beat that ship, wouldn't that be a lethal blow to the aliens whole operation?

OMFG, I can't believe I read the whole thing! Look, let's be completely honest about Hollywood filmmaking: Everything you just put down on "paper" is WAY more BG research than anyone in a Hollywood writing pool would even begin to touch. I mean, can you even imagine how hard it is to get them to put down their damned Starbucks Frap and listen to a pitch much less do logic point assessment on a money market sequel?

To be honest theres lots of ideas that they could use and making sequels to me would be a great idea seeing as there are so many Roland and Dean could use, and the one that jumps out is the state of human kind afterwards, even years after the attack which leaves us with social disorder perhaps, 1st world countries becoming 3rd world, seeing how empty the world looks after millions or even 3-4 billion deaths. So thats something that Id like to see. Also on the alien front, we could even see a "District 9" style way of deling with any remaining aliens and perhaps surviving aliens hiding away for years somewhere breeding thus expanding their population then uprising against us. Or was there another Mothership in a different part of the galaxy or another alein race taht happens to be their ally from a neighbor planet that have the same intensions that hear of what happened but takes years to reach us??? Theres so many possibities that could be used to make two great sequels, I just hope that Emmerich dosnt soley rely on awesome effects and concentrate on making the human element as realistic as his CGI effects. Really hope this come into fruitition

I do not think it as difficult as it looks to make a sequel, nor it have to contain a new aliens or even reinforcement arriving.

There were billions of aliens on those vessels, more than a few survive, scatter across our planet.

Put them in prisoner of war camps, humanise them and then give them there own independence the day.

Make the kid a grown up, make him a orphan his mother and step dad killed in some past alien event. Make him chief negotiator having to deal with a new alien rebellion. The best thing about this is that it could be completely different film to the first. If they went down this route a third film would be a lot harder through. You could even have the ships be the prisoner of war camps.

An bring in someone creative to design our cities in this new world.

"Need a sequel"? Life is now about "need"? I just wanna see moree of the story, like what happens after mankind "wins" and there are aliens survivors everytwhere to deal with. I like the idea of the aliens returning to finish us off but another alien race comes to help. Very cool.....

Err shocker, it's a fantasy movie. Seriously, just sit back and see if another ridiculous plot entertains as much as the first movie.

Remember there is a movie out there where Winston Churchill joins the Germans to fight America.

There are likely to scout vessels in the galaxy searching for their next target.

We know Earth was scouted in 1947, 50 years before they attack.

It's interesting you say this. I have heard this idea before. I never understood from the movie that that mothership contained the last remnants of the species. It never explicitly said this, and I think strategically it would be unwise for a race to do put all their eggs in one basket unless absolutely necessary. I assumed that like humans might have done, they sent out colony ships to branch out and conquer other planets to ensure their continued survival. They don't seem like a race that left anywhere in a hurry under dire circumstances, it looks like they had a lot of time to plan. If they had time to plan, and the intelligence to achieve interstellar travel, I'm sure someone had the good sense to say "maybe we shouldn't put our entire population on a single ship, just in case something goes wrong".

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