20th Anniversary Independence Day Screening


        Hollywood is not yet done pillaging the 1980s for revivals in popular franchises, but last Tuesday was a celebration of an iconic blockbuster from the ‘90s which will see its first sequel 20 years after the event release on the 4th of July weekend in 1996. As director and co-writer Roland Emmerich reminded audience members attending the anniversary screening at The Zanuck Theater on the Fox Studio lot, Independence Day was one of the first event films. Though we have now come to expect large budget blockbusters to hit cinemas every weekend of the summer, this was the trailblazer that helped pave the way for this tradition.


        Prior to the anniversary screening, Emmerich was joined onstage for a Q&A session with stars of the original film and its upcoming sequel, Jeff Goldblum and Vivica A. Fox. Both actors have fallen out of the spotlight in recent years, shifting away from blockbusters and into other areas of entertainment. Goldblum is regularly seen guest starring on a variety of television shows, and has also put his distinct speech pattern to use as a voice actor, whereas Fox’s most recognizable title in the past years was a sequel in the campy Sharkanado franchise. Needless to say, Independence Day: Resurgence will provide both stars with a comeback on the big screen, and their enthusiasm at Tuesday’s screening fittingly matched the opportunity.


        For Fox, the original Independence Day was her first big break in a transition from daytime TV to film, and perhaps this is why she seemed the most excited of the three to celebrate the 20-year-old box office success. Engaging with the audience from her first moments onstage (during both entrances, since a technical mistake led to a false start), Fox’s energy only increased as stories from filming began to come out. Whether it was the cringe-worthy missteps of her original audition (the casting director told her “It’s a good thing you can act” when she mistakenly “took the [stripper] character very literal,” showing up to the audition wearing “patent leather, white pants, jumpsuit, with the boobs and everything.”) or her hysterical full-body impression of the humping done by her canine co-star, Boomer (who apparently took a bit too much of a liking to his onscreen owner), Fox had the audience laughing and engaged through the entire Q&A.


        Goldblum also had his moments, though they were delivered in his recognizable cadence. When Fox told the audience that Boomer’s trainer explained the amorous behavior occurred “when he gets tired,” Goldblum responded by casually saying “That’s what I do when I get tired.” Then once the laughter had died down, he followed it with another well-timed deadpan remark, stating that he was “feeling a little woozy now.” But there were also moments that Goldblum reminded us why he is so great at playing the wise (and aside from The Fly, often morally sound) scientist roles, intelligently breaking down the social relevance of the new film’s message.  


Since (the original film) I’ve been given this job as so-called ‘Director of Earth/Space Defense.’ So it’s my job to now be one of the leaders with this new technology, and mainly to anticipate and analyze and figure out if anything’s coming back, who those guys were the first time, if they’re coming back, and if there’s gonna be more trouble and how we prepare ourselves. So there’s new technology from the downed spacecraft that we use for those purposes, for defense… But I’ve also been involved in using (the) technology to handle environmental challenges that the whole planet has. And we’ve rebuilt. That war of ’96 was a species-changing, world-transforming event. Three billion people died. So, we’ve spent 20 years grieving terrifically, but rebuilding effectively because not a shot has been fired amongst ourselves. The human family has transcended all religious, political, national, petty differences and come together.


The thoughtful speech from Goldblum suddenly gave real-world relevance and gravity to the special effects blockbuster, peppered with his final line, “How about that?” How about that, indeed.

        Emmerich was easily the quietest of the trio, though he shared with audiences stories about a two-week period in which the screenplay was written, as well as admitting to working on an upcoming war film about the 1942 Battle of the Midway when an emotional audience member and fan of The Patriot questioned whether he had plans to make another historical film. “At the time, the Americans were the underdogs,” Emmerich explained, as he made parallels between the real-world WWII events and his science-fiction franchise. “It was one of those moments where, against all odds, people came together and did the impossible.” These themes of humanity coming together in tragedy not only match with the heart of Independence Day, but they also seem to run constant through much of Emmerich’s filmography, which also includes The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and even White House Down.


          The Independence Day Anniversary Edition Blu-ray and DVD are available now, with plenty of time to re-familiarize yourself with the characters prior to the theatrical release of Independence Day: Resurgence on June 24th. Emmerich once again directs, with Goldblum and Fox returning alongside Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and franchise newcomers Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Liam Hemsworth. The absence of Will Smith was only briefly addressed in an awkwardly tentative question during Q&A, at which point Fox expertly deflected by stating that his character stayed within the franchise “in spirit.”

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