Had Emmerich held off and made Independence Day just a few years later, there's a good chance he'd have ditched the outmoded and followed the latest fashion, commissioning a team of programmers to blast the White House with pixels. And for a glimpse of how that would have gone, take a look back at Godzilla, Emmerich's follow-up. Two years on and already almost everything is computerized, from lame-looking bits of toppling building to a phony Brooklyn Bridge to the big dumb lizard himself, who today looks like the product of a PlayStation 2. You might say that Independence Day’s White House was a fluke, a bit of happenstance. It came at a time when practical effects were fighting to remain relevant, when effects people had to prove their worth to an industry that increasingly preferred to neglect them. Their fight for preservation gave us a shot that endures.
When an image leaps out of the multiplexes and into the public consciousness like the White House explosion, it defines the bigger picture, becoming cultural shorthand, globally ubiquitous, part of the collective unconscious. With an Independence Day sequel arriving 20 years after the original, one has to wonder: was Hollywood deluded into thinking a revival was in demand because of a single, explosive image? It's difficult to imagine audiences clamoring for more of anything but the White House exploding. Even Bill Pullman's "Today we celebrate" speech can't roar loud enough to steal the show from Independence Day's pyrotechnics.
Whether Resurgence proves to be a surprise coup or another splash in the summer blockbuster season, it is virtually guaranteed to fall short of its predecessor's high bar. Resurgence won't have a moment like that. What could? We haven't seen blissful destruction like that in 20 years.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.