#102 Independence Day
(1996, Roland Emmerich)
“Today! We celebrate! Our Independence Day!”
Yes, today is Independence Day, the day America celebrates the fact it split off from us evil Brits. And what better way to celebrate that than with a dumb blockbuster alien invasion movie?
Honestly, this is a weird choice for the list. Most of the films I’ve reviewed so far have experimented with cinema, constantly pushing genres forward and generally making an impact. While Independence Day certainly made an impact (blowing up the White House will do that) and sure, it’s fun to watch, it was hardly a revolution, and many would argue that the endless string of big dumb blockbusters that followed it was not a good thing. But oh well, here it is.
Independence Day is your typical alien invasion movie. On July 2nd, satellite communications around the world are disrupted by a mysterious signal and space organisations become aware of objects moving close to Earth. Of course, it turns out that all of this is the result of aliens who’ve arrived with one purpose – the eradication of all humanity. And now it’s up to an ensemble cast, including fighter pilot Will Smith, cable repairman Jeff Goldblum and President Bill Pullman to save the day!
The plot of Independence Day is clichéd as all hell. Aliens arrive, shoot a whole bunch of places up, the President, a heroic guy and a scientist band together to find a solution swiped straight out of The War Of The Worlds (sort of…), before the aliens are all defeated, America saves the entire world and humanity is victorious over the alien invaders!
Even the attempt to differentiate by focusing on an ensemble cast fails on the basis that none of the characters are that interesting. Will Smith plays The Fighter Pilot Of Bel-Air, Jeff Goldblum plays the exact same character he did in Jurassic Park right down to correctly predicting the plot and being neurotic, Bill Pullman is the generic President everyone can look up to, Randy Quaid is a redneck stereotype, and Star Trek’s Data, Brent Spiner, pops up as a generically geeky scientist.
I can’t remember any of these characters’ names, and the emotional moments given to them fall flat because it’s impossible to care about them. By hopping between so many characters, I felt no connection to any of them. Goldblum apparently has an estranged ex-girlfriend working at the White House, Smith is trying to work up the courage to ask his stripper girlfriend to marry him, the First Lady dies and the film demands us to feel sorry for President Pullman, but honestly? I simply didn’t care.
Other clichés the movie suffers from? Will Smith’s friend, the chirpy, “likeable” joker, dies horribly. The aliens are immune to even nuclear weapons, oh no! The President gives a big motivational speech designed to be featured heavily in the trailer. There is nothing new or original about this movie. It’s War Of The Worlds with advanced special effects.
However, despite all of this, it is entertaining. Sure, it adds little new to the world of cinema, but as a movie you can just switch off your brain and enjoy, it works. A lot of effort went into making the film look good, and even if most of the effort went into the special effects rather than the plot, it’s still impressive. It never aims to be anything more than a dumb popcorn summer blockbuster, and it does that so well.
So, it’s entertainment then. If you’re just looking for something to watch while you’re lounging around the house, then you could do worse than this. But if you want something with a little more intellectual merit, then avoid.
Starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn & Harvey Fierstein
Written by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich
Produced by Dean Devlin
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by David Brenner
Favourite Scene: The aliens communicating through the vocal cords of Dr Data is pretty creepy, it has to be said
Scene That Bugged Me: Wait, so they knew about the aliens beforehand because of the Roswell crash, and yet none of that knowledge was applied when they invaded? OK, movie. Fine.
Watch it if: You want a way to celebrate July 4th (if you’re American, mind)
Avoid it if: You’re expecting intellectual discussions about not being alone in the universe