The Independence Day: Resurgence trailer released over the weekend notably didn’t include any shots of Will Smith, who was allegedly excluded from the sequel because he became tired of science fiction after making his embarrassing father-son flop After Earth. Sounds fishy, right?
Also notably absent from the film’s trailer is Hong Kong superstar Angelababy, who was cast in June. Some Chinese sources like to dub her the “Kim Kardashian of China”, but a quick Google search shows that moniker might be misled. Angelababy, unlike the Kardashian Klan, is a prolific actress, model and vocalist. Although she has fewer followers than Kim’s 54.4 million on Instagram, Angelababy has 58 million followers on China’s Twitter, Sina Weibo. In China, Angelababy is a huge deal.
So what’s she doing in Independence Day: Resurgence? She’s been featured with the other primary actors in promotional press releases and interviews since the official press conference in Albuquerque this June. In this interview, she identified her character as “Rain, a Chinese fighter pilot.” She also added that Rain was a “tough girl” whose parents are dead.
The film’s promotional website, War of 1996, stresses the globalization theme which was only hinted at in the first movie. Since the original Independence Day was made in the 90s, the film’s only attempt to make the alien attack feel like it affected the entire globe was to employ one of those cliche ‘round-the-world sequences. The aliens attack Paris, London, maybe an Asian country, and then a primitive-looking group of people in Africa! 2016’s sequel will probably attempt to make an actually global-feeling film, and including a Chinese superstar in the plot could be one of the film’s real-world attempts at reaching across cultures. If we’re to believe that “20 years of global unity” have passed since the last alien attack in the original film, it’s logical that stars like Angelababy might be involved.
How integrated will Angelababy be in the film’s action? Angelababy’s real-life promotional shows and concerts are so colorful and surreal that adding her aesthetic into the mix in Independence Day could prove interesting. Check out the spectacle her team put together just to showcase her onstage first kiss with her now-husband! She even lip-syncs to Chinese versions of a couple Beyonce songs. Her husband arrives on a horse puppet!
It’s easy to see from Angelababy’s public appearances in China that she doesn’t have a perfect grasp on the English language, which raises a few questions about Independence Day. Her image is not overtly sexual, and is actually based on fairytales and her cat, whom she often posts pictures of. Although the obvious choice for Angelababy might be a damsel in distress, it seems she’ll be playing a soldier in Independence Day. Interestingly, she also doesn’t seem to have a romantic partner in the film’s line-up, though she’s high on the call sheet and is typically included in any promotional shots of the cast.
But why exclude her from the trailer? Granted, Maika Monroe, of It Follows fame, is not featured in the first theatrical trailer either. The film’s two young female stars look pretty cozy in the above photo, which ran in China Daily back when Angelababy’s casting was first announced. Could their characters know each other? It seems unlikely that Angelababy would represent all of China in response to the alien attack, but she is one of very few Chinese actors in the film.
Angelababy is not the only Asian actor, though it’s difficult to glean any possible connections from the call sheet. Grace Huang, an actress also fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese is playing a character named “Lin Tang”. She could be another fighter pilot, perhaps a friend of Rain’s. Actor Chin Han is playing “Commander Jiang Lao,” whose role seems pretty obvious. Kenny Leu, a Taiwanese actor with a ton of experience in stunts and film combat, is playing a character named “Ping Li” and Lance Lim, a young boy, is playing a character named simply “Kevin.” It remains to be seen whether any of these other actors have roles which overlap with Angelababy’s fighter pilot.
One thing’s for sure: if Independence Day: Resurgence endeavored to hire Angelababy at a rate which recognizes her Chinese fame — she is often included on lists of highest-earning Chinese celebrities, and her wedding reportedly cost 31 million dollars — the filmmakers must have an important role for her, one meatier than the average cameo.