Over the weekend, the first trailer for Independence Day: Resurgence hit the web. However, in between the familiar sights of a mammoth alien craft, Jeff Goldblum (in a space suit!) and a bearded Bill Pullman, the trailer was missing one thing from the 1996 original: Will Smith. Now we know why Smith won't actually be in the two-decades-too-late sequel: his character died in 2007.
An interactive time line on the official website for the new film shows that Smith's character, Col. Steven Hiller, died a hero while "test piloting the ESD's first alien hybrid fighter." The website serves as a memorial to those who bravely fought the aliens in 1996 and goes through the chronology of important events that happened after that battle.
"Hiller's valor in the War of '96 made him a beloved global icon whose selfless assault against the alien mothership led directly to the enemy's defeat," reads the website. "He is survived by his wife Jasmine and son Dylan."
Although Smith's Hiller doesn't appear in the new movie, both Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) and Dylan (Jessie Usher) are present.
In the time line, the nations come together to form the Earth Space Defense (ESD) program, just in case the aliens return (which is likely, given that the trailer for Resurgence shows as much, although it hints that Earth is still not ready for another alien invasion). The ESD gathered up some of the alien technology left behind and creates their own vehicles and weapons, including the alien hybrid fighter that resulted in Hiller's death.
Of course, it wasn't just technology that the aliens left behind: some of the aliens themselves are in the Congo, with the ESD still continuing to try to eradicate them. By 2011, though, Earth is having a technological golden age, and even has a base on the moon.
The website also got its own promotional trailer narrated by Goldblum's character, David Levinson.
Fans might still miss Smith, though, because it was his star power that helped launch the original movie to box office gold. In an interview with Collider, director Roland Emmerich hinted at why Smith turned down the sequel.
"Well, you know, like near the very beginning, I wanted to work with him and he was very excited to be in it, but then after a while, you know, he just was tired of sequels and he did another science fiction film, which was his father-son story, so he opted out," said Emmerich.
Independence Day: Resurgence also stars Brent Spiner, Liam Hemsworth, Judd Hirsch, Bill Pullman, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Maika Monroe and Sela Ward. The movie arrives in theaters on June 24.