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It really has been 20 years since Independence Day. Lone Star was the President. The Fresh Prince was a fighter jock. Data was a hippie Area 51 scientist.

And it all really happened on July 4th!

Yeah, Will Smith was pretty popular thanks to his rap career and sitcom, but Independence Day blew him up. Which is ironic, because Micheal Bay’s Bad Boys actually dropped the year before. For the ten years that followed, the 4th of July would bring with it a new mixed bag of Big Willy style.

Men in Black the following year was just as big, and I loved it just as much. Perhaps Enemy of the State didn’t rake in the buckets of cash his previous two outings earned, I still rank it as the best of the techno-spy thrillers that were popping up around that time.

Then came Wild Wild West in 1999. People literally went to see this movie because Will was in it. Sure some folks who grew up with the show were in attendance as well, but the movie’s big special effects budget just screamed of studios’ desire to recapture the magic of Independence Day and Men in Black. 

Keep in mind that this is back before studios made sequels as a matter of course. Lord of the Rings wouldn’t light that match until 2001. So we still-jiggy continued to patronize The Legend of Bagger Vance (yay magic black man!) and 2001’s rightfully respected but economically disappointing Ali. 

After which, Smith’s record becomes inconsistent. There were some money makers (Bad Boys II), some truly excellent acting (The Pursuit of Happyness), and even a hint of the comedy chops from his youth (Hitch). Unfortunately, his excellent performances make his less stellar roles seem glaring, Men in Black II was disappointing, I, Robot was destined for late night TNT, and After Earth was so bad that I was surprised when M. Night Shyamalan didn’t credit the movie to our own Alan Smithee.

So, whither Will Smith? Why isn’t he headlining the sequel to the movie that started it all? Of course he’s been busy with Suicide Squad, but when asked, he indicated that he hadn’t been asked to join the production.

He may be disappointed, but I am not. I think Will Smith still has some of his best acting ahead of him. I think Suicide Squad is going to introduce him to a new generation. It’s good that he didn’t try to shoehorn some time for Independence Day: Resurgence into his calendar.

Cherish the past, but build the future.

Tune in Sunday, June 26, for the spoileriffic next episode of the Alan Smithee Film Review when we review Independence Day: Resurgence!

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