On July 2nd, communications systems worldwide are sent into chaos by a strange atmospheric interference. It is soon learned by the military that a number of enormous objects are on a collision course with Earth. At first thought to be meteors, they are later revealed to be gigantic spacecraft, piloted by a mysterious alien species. After attempts to communicate with the aliens go nowhere, David Levinson, an ex-scientist turned cable technician, discovers that the aliens are going to attack major points around the globe in less than a day. On July 3rd, the aliens all but obliterate New York, Los Angeles, and Washington. The survivors set out in convoys towards Area 51, a strange government testing ground where it is rumored the military has a captured alien spacecraft of their own. The survivors devise a plan to fight back against the enslaving aliens, and July 4th becomes the day humanity will fight for its freedom. July 4th is their Independence Day...
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
. Starring: Will Smith
, Bill Pullman
, Jeff Goldblum
, Mary McDonnell
, Judd Hirsch
, Robert Loggia
, Randy Quaid
, Margaret Colin
, James Rebhorn
, Harvey Fierstein
, Adam Baldwin
, Brent Spiner
, James Duval
. Music by: David Arnold
Let's get this straight, if only for the visual effects and the thrilling attacks sequences, for the iconic shot of the Empire State Building and White House blown to pieces, without any use of CGI but old good 'miniature' material, "Independence Day" is a groundbreaking achievement that redefines the purposes of visual and special effects in the Sci-Fi genre. And if only for that, the movie deserves a certain bit of respect.
But when you make such a big-budgeted action-packed blockbuster, and expect to impress the eyes of movie goers and make their hearts pound so hard that they forget to put their salty fingers in the popcorn box, why not make a supplementary effect to improve a script that would justify the use of these special effects, and not let the success of a movie rely only on a technological achievement? In "Independence Day", it's like Roland Emmerich was so confident over the success of his film that he didn't care much for the complaints that would be expressed toward the script and its blatant lack of originality.
And if it doesn't take a genius to know that some formulas simply cannot fail, it doesn't take an elitist mindset either to find obvious flaws in the way the story is written, and maybe worse, in the way the characters are written, not portrayed because I think the actors did a satisfying job with what was at their hands. Overall, the humans were fine but how about the Aliens? Couldn't have they come up with something fresher? I found hard to believe that these ugly octopus-like creatures could own a technology powerful enough to wipe out the entire human race. Well, never mind, the point is that I don't buy the argument that just because a movie features spectacular effects, one must suspend his disbelief and enjoy the movie for what it is, especially when the most difficult stuff is perfectly handled. I don't buy the counter-argument either that just because you criticize some elements of the plot, you're some kind of movie buff with a precious taste and a particular dislike for mainstream movies.
I genuinely liked "Independence Day", I enjoyed it and not just as a guilty pleasure. I will never forget the experience in the movie theater when even as a 14 year old kid, I couldn't help but cheer during the President's speech. Oh some parts probably made me cringe, but it's nothing compared to what was thrown to my eyes that night, it was a great year for action films, "Eraser", "The Rock" but on that level, "Independence Day" was a class on its own, that till now, stood the test of time. But the more I thought of it, the more I realize that I loved the experience much more than the story... well, the result is pretty much the same, and the film was the highest grossing of the year but this indicates the main flaw on special-effects-driven film like "ID4", they leave as great an impression as a ride on a roller-coaster, but as ephemeral too. Their inner ambition is more to garner the most viewers than to leave an indelible mark on cinematic papers. Again, the team did a good job, but it just could have been so much better on the story department.
I don't want to fall in the wisecracking trap by numbering all the clichés that structure the plot; it would be a pointless exercise, because whatever plot was, it was relying on an overused concept anyway. And the film features every single stereotypical elements so cherished by the disaster genre, a lot of social and racial backgrounds presented through the classic external focus with the maximum of diversity as to sustain the beautiful vision of America's melting-pot. In a way, it's more economical to show all the racial minorities that constitute America than the whole world, America as the microcosm of the World. Hell, the liberation from the Alien invasion even coincided with the 4th of July. I hesitate between two words starting with P: pretension or patriotism, but when things are so obviously over the top, I guess it's a more of a clever reminder than we're only watching a film ... as if we hadn't noticed before.
"Today we celebrate our Independence!" Did that make me cringe as a non-American? Not quite and I doubt the people in the theater pushed their thinking as far as I'm doing right here in a totally different context. In cinemas' darkness, movies affect us more, creating a deeper connection with the protagonists, in that case, a charismatic country. America entertains the world, and never is the empathy as strong as in theaters. I remember how the crowd cheered during that speech, and while I'm not sure people would look at the film the same way now, it makes me realize how these times were still innocent. These lost years between the Gulf War and the September 11th Attacks, when nothing was as religiously and politically lauded as today, from every side. I still look at the attack sequence with cinematically fascinated eyes, but I'm still lucid about the way some people would consider, now, the sight of the Empire State Building's explosion.
And I wonder if that works as a critic or an alibi for "Independence Day"... world has become a very dangerous place by itself and maybe this is what makes the film an innocent and immature entertainment. Let just think that the real enemy for men is the Alien, when it has come to men vs. men. There's even a sort of sentimental fatalism in the way it shows that it's only in the case of Alien attacks that Humanity will join its forces and be united.
Finally, if the movie ever sinned, it's from a childish naivety ... or was it deliberate? Or have we become just so mature that we changed our whole mindset regarding movies?
Review by ElMaruecan82 from the Internet Movie Database.