For some irrational reason, seeing the White House obliterated in 1996 by an alien death-ray in Independence Day, seemed really hardcore. But since then, the obliteration of familiar buildings has failed to really elicit a reaction from audiences, to say nothing of the characters supposedly experiencing the ridiculous amounts of devastation. Early in Independence Day: Resurgence the new, gigantic alien harvester spaceship causes an entire skyline full of buildings and commercial airliners to be sucked up and then, dropped right back down all while Jeff Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth stare as if they’re watching golf.
The problem here is clear: even the characters in these films are bored with all this planet-wide destruction. The only solution? Raise the stakes. This movie should have blown up the entire planet Earth and really shocked everyone.
I know what you’re thinking: Independence Day: Resurgence shouldn’t be taken too seriously. There’s no need to nitpick the inconsistencies of its technology, the decisions characters make, or why it seems like they should have just invented a giant sword to kill the aliens, since that seems more effective than laser-bolts. This kind of deep-dive analysis helps no one, because this is melodrama, garbage, mindless action, and quite possibly, a comedy masquerading as an adventure film. And as we all know – according to Shakespearean tradition – you can’t have a comedy (even a fake one) end with the entire destruction of the Earth. And yet, in this particular sub-genre – let’s call it “BlowUpSpaceBullshit” – it’s become pretty much impossible to shock audiences with anything. I’m all for this movie not making sense, but it could, at the very least, surprise me with something big.
J.J. Abrams kind of got away with this in his 2009 version of Star Trek when he 86’ed Spock’s home planet Vulcan using Eric Bana’s sinister portable black hole generator. Dramatically, this worked. It was shocking for anyone who had even heard of Star Trek, because the planet Vulcan was a huge deal and there was a subconscious cultural history to it. It was the closest thing Abrams could have done to blowing up Earth. A sideways made-up analogy would be, instead of destroying some planet we don’t care about, if the planet Tatooine had been destroyed by Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens. People would have been freaked out: we know that place! That’s where Luke is from! It feels real to us. And with a movie as schlocky and predictable as Independence Day: Resurgence, the gutsy move would have been to destroy the most familiar thing about the movie: the entire planet Earth.
And the best part is it wouldn’t have had to happen at the end of the movie. It could have happened in the first 30 minutes. In the existing movie, we learn there’s another, friendlier alien race who run a “refugee planet” somewhere out there in space, full of all sorts of other cool aliens who are hiding from the basic evil aliens who attacked Earth. (If you’ve got a cool idea like a refugee planet on the table as something you can use in your plot, why not go there asap?).
Plus, destroying the Earth like midway though this movie would also lend some more credibility to these invading aliens in the first place. I’m going to go along with this outrageous idea that they “need” the molten core of our planet to power their spaceships. But, if they have all of this firepower, it seems like they could have gotten that core out a little easier. Everything about the aliens is written in such a way as to make you think they pretty much can’t be stopped. Meaning, the only way to stop them is through a dumb loophole; take out the alien queen! But if there was actually no way to stop the aliens, other than a full evacuation of Earth, at that point, the plot movement in Independence Day: Resurgence could have gotten interesting.
The 2003-2008 re-imagined version of Battlestar Galactica depicted the entire annihilation of the human race, save for about 47,000 people. This extremely depressing fact was the narrative fuel which powered the basic premise of the show and allowed for the value of every single living person in this absurd fictional show to suddenly feel more important. The only thing that prevented Battlestar from being an even more mainstream hit than it was is tied to the fact that those humans weren’t from Earth, but instead the fictional faraway planets of the 12 colonies.” If Independence Day: Resurgence had taken the Battlestar approach, but applied it to real Earth, this could have been special. Imagine the way people would react? Oh, you thought it was hardcore when they blew up the White House? How about now?
Independence Day: Resurgence has such a disregard for the Earth in this film, it seems like it was angling to blow up the whole planet anyway. It’s almost like an accident the screenwriters let this slide. Even Jeff Golblum’s David Levinson says towards the end of the movie “I don’t know if we’ll survive another attack.”
Realistically, we know they shouldn’t have survived this one. But who cares about realism. From an entertainment perspective it was a bad idea to keep Earth intact. Want to really scare us? Make us worried about these silly characters? Eat our popcorn faster? Do something we’ve never see a movie like this do. Have that friendly alien ball-thing round us all up, and then, blow up the entire planet. Because the only way to prevent disaster movies from becoming super-stale is to turn them into real disasters.