Forget what American History class taught in high school. We fought aliens for our independence, not the Redcoats. July 2nd, 1996: Humans find out that we are not alone in the universe, as a ginormous alien motherhship has descended upon Earth, releasing many smaller airships around major world hubs. Satellite technician David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) determines that these ships are not peaceful, but hostile. They attack Earth and wipe out many of America’s landmarks.
July 3rd: 1996. A counterattack is launched, to little, if no, avail. July 4th: 1996: Humanity’s D-Day. Levinson has devised a plan to take down the enemy, however risky it may be. But there’s no other option. It is going to take a lot of bravery and luck from guys like Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), to win this war.
There are a few movies that are so 1990’s. The Shawshank Redemption, Toy Story, and Jurassic Park are three that come to mind. A fourth is Independence Day, a feature yours truly has finally experienced for the first time. Even for what constitutes as a blockbuster, Independence Day kind of feels in a class of its own.
Roland Emmerich had the task of directing this war of aliens versus humans, and he makes it an absolute spectacle, winning Best Visual Effects at that year’s Academy Awards. While there are a few questionable-looking visuals (Boomer escaping the extremely fake-looking fireball will never get old), one has to consider the time period. Many still hold up today and serve as the template for all wide-scale disaster movies to follow. Make the destruction big, and make it fiery.
Emmerich seems to know that his 1996 feature isn’t meant to be taken seriously, which is why I suppose one can’t look too hard at some of its flaws, many of which have followed him throughout his similar filmography. Honestly, it isn’t so much of the thin story that bothers me; I think it is made pretty clear that there really aren’t any underlying themes under all of this destruction aside from “Yeah, America rises up no matter what!”
Still, outside of the spectacle, there is little to care about, at least from the supporting characters. This is problematic, if only because most have adequate screentime. Every now and then, some get a random good line, but so much of their dialogue is extremely dry and dull, and it carries over to the cast performances. It does no favors that many of these lower characters have the personalities of blocks, which is to say they have none.
Thankfully, the two headliners do not have the personalities of blocks. Will Smith, in only his second major movie after Fresh Prince, shows off the star power that would drive many a blockbuster he appeared in for a decade. For my taste, he can be a little too much of The Fresh Prince here in personality, but I can’t complain too much after complaining about most of the cast being boring. Undoubtedly, he has most of the best scenes and quotables, though 90’s Jeff Goldblum is hard to upstage in his inherent, yet still subdued, charisma. He’s simply entertaining to watch and te best thing about ID4.
Corny, cheesy, suspect in most of its cast but undeniably memorable, Independence Day is the disaster movie. Want some fireworks? Light up a cigar and get to viewing.
Photo credits go to bgr.com, IMDB.com, liveforfilm.com, and movieweb.com
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