The way Hollywood spends money is a growing matter of contention. I don’t just mean which states and countries get productions based on tax credits and exchange rates, but what types of films get greenlit in the first place. Much has been said about how the middle has fallen out of cinema – you’re either making an independent film for less than $5M and hoping for a modest return, or you’re pumping up a $150M tent-pole production with a P&A budget (prints and advertising)that doubles down on that investment. In other words, for every Independence Day: Resurgence, the world is getting anywhere from five to 50 less mid- and low-budget films.
How’s that for an apocalyptic scenario?
The business appeal of doing something like Resurgence is pretty straight-forward. In theory, all these reboots, remakes, sequels, and adaptations already have built-in brand recognition that will ease entry to the market place. But familiarity can quickly turn into fatigue, and when a recycled business model becomes transparent, audiences usually wise-up. And boy, were eyes wide open for this planet-sized cash grab.
Still, I entered the cinema on my own terms and in good faith. I naively hoped that this new film could recapture some of the thrill I felt as a 13-year-old seeing Independence Day in 1996. Plus, Jurassic World proved that following up a mid-90s mega hit could nail the sweet spot of nostalgia and new appeal. But while Chris Pratt brought that extra element of rising star appeal to the dino-sequel, Resurgence had a Will Smith-sized void in that department (apologies to non-Thor Hemsworth). I couldn’t help but wonder – was it a budget thing?
You’re not the right person to ask, I know. People like you are tasked with controlling dollars on the ground during production, which may also be problematic. You were no doubt given a blue print for not only what’s been spent in the past, but what is a reasonable rate of return for investments in the future. Blowing up a scaled-down exact model of the White House, for example, proved to be an extremely wise bang-for-your-buck investment back in 1996. When Independence Day hit theatres, that trailer image electrified audiences and made the film a must-see. There was still a novelty to end-of-the-world films, which hadn’t yet saturated the market (Armageddon and Deep Impact took care of that a couple years later). So what’s the big money shot this go around? The gag of just barely bending the flag atop the White House is pretty much the only unique image that comes to mind – and that was barely worthy of a smirk.
In a world where “we’ll fix it in post” has gone from being a punchline to standard operating procedure, there was a lack of tangible investment in this film – both physical and emotional. We’ve seen so many cities crumble on screen with so little consequence, studios forget it’s not a one-for-one exchange: ticket prices aren’t based on the number of buildings that crumble.
I don’t know what it would have cost to make a film where we give a shit what happens, but it’s a whole less than this.