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Book Review: "The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence"

With a second-place finish in its opening weekend to “Finding Dory,” a lower opening frame than the original did in 1996 dollars ($41 million vs. $50 million), and less critical support (34% on Rotten Tomatoes vs. 62% for the original), one has to consider Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day: Resurgence” something of a disappointment. So, there are two ways to approach Titan Books’ coffee-table book “The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence.” One, it’s important to look at it in light of the movie's fans—the people in that 34% and the non-critics who enjoyed this summer blockbuster sequel. Does it work for them? Does it offer honest insight and interesting detail behind the process of making the film? Two, does it offer any signposts as to “what went wrong”? Could someone pick up “The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence” and learn from it? The answer to the initial “fan service” question is disappointing. This book is pretty light in terms of process, especially when compared to better Titan Books offerings. However, it’s kind of a fascinating volume regarding how the production team approached the project and the impact their decisions made.

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One of the things that charmed people about “Independence Day,” and still does to this day, is how much of it felt tactile, due to the use of practical effects and stunt work. The new movie has been compared to a video game with its complete, end-of-the-world destruction and nothing real to hold on to—a notable problem in the blockbusters of the mid-‘10s, during which we’ve become somewhat numb to the apocalypse. And so Emmerich’s introduction is interesting when he talks about how “Independence Day” was a “fun, un-cynical event” and that “We shot everything in-camera on the first film. The dogfights, for instance, were second unit and very time-consuming, taking 3-4 weeks. This time the dogfights took 3-4 days on bluescreen. It was fast, really fast, which is more fun for the actors.” Say what? Yes, there’s something to be said for actors having fun, quick production times (Emmerich’s next graf is about how the production came in just over 75 days), but where is the passion that true filmmakers seek to pass to their viewers? How is anything about fast shoots related to a continuation of something that was “fun”? It offers proof that Emmerich and company approached “Resurgence” from a different mindset. Sure, technology has changed in the last 20 years, but shouldn’t the main purpose have been to recreate some of the joy of the original?

I also find it interesting that the first THIRD of this book, over 50 pages, is devoted to the original “Independence Day." It’s incredibly thin material—old stills we’ve seen a hundred times, followed by a few random bits of trivia. You’re really just reliving what you liked about the first one, and not even learning anything new about how it was made, or why it has lasted for two decades. I’d love a book that focuses on how “Independence Day” changed the blockbuster or why it’s remained such a popular film. But you can’t just half-heartedly fold that into the opening of this book.

How’s the meat of the collectible volume? It’s OK. I’ll admit that I haven’t gotten around to seeing “Resurgence” yet—they didn’t screen it for critics—but I’ve seen enough of these books that I can tell when they’re not quite digging deep into the making of the film. You’ll see a lot of the same stills (often from different angles) and concept art, and an abundance of photos instead of actual text. This is one of those books for diehard fans only, and even they are unlikely to learn anything new. While people still talk about “Independence Day” twenty years later, this volume's discussion about its sequel feels thin only a few days after release.

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