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
Possible spoilers A significant number of the comments already posted here say quite defensively that this movie isn't meant to be Shakespeare, that it's just a Big Dumb Action Flick (hereinafter BDAF), that, in effect, if you just stop thinking, this is a really fantastic movie that showcases all-American values, goddamnit.
If you want to see a BDAF, though, there are so many that are done so much better... and ID4 steals from most of them. And if you want to showcase American values, there are so many that are so much better than segregation. Yeah, the Dynamic Duo here is half Will Smith (and describing the plot sounds like the setup for a bad joke: "A Jew and a black guy walk into a spaceship..."), but the love stories -- a massive weak point, and that's saying something, because this baby is rife with weak points -- are neatly segregated: Will Smith with Vivica Fox, Jeff Goldblum with the red-haired shiksa. There was no way we were going to get a "Space Monsters' Ball" scenario with Fox playing the careerist ex-wife and what's-her-name playing the stripper. (The Hispanic kids only get screen time at all because their dad is Randy Quaid.) A white guy entertains Smith by making fun of Jesse Jackson (mercifully, the character bites it shortly after), and there is a tasteless joke about violent Los Angelenos; on what planet is that supposed to be funny?
When I watch a BDAF, I expect certain things from it, and one of those is good directorial judgment about which characters get screen time. In a BDAF about aliens, we paid good money (actually, I watched this on cable, but you take my point) to SEE THE FRICKIN' ALIENS. The ones that get the most time on screen are dead! The only live one we see (other than the incredibly stupid ones in the mothership) gets punched in the head, then awakens conveniently right in the middle of an autopsy at Area 51 (of course), where Brent Spiner reveals that these guys don't look like Alien-Predator hybrids at all; the Alien-Predator thingo is just a "bio-mechanical suit" (H.R. Giger would cry) covering up a much more boring alien inside. Actually, Spiner's brief performance was the one thing about the film I can say without reservation I liked. After all, geeks have spent many years dressing up and pretending to be Spiner; it's only fair that Spiner should return the favor by dressing up as a geek. (Question: If the alien is communicating by resonating the late Dr. Okun's throat, where is the deep, booming voice coming from? Dr. Okun doesn't sound like that alive... oh, never mind.)
I'd also like a BDAF to be a bit less, well, homogenized. Even the dog that outruns the tunnel fire is the most boring and domestic breed in existence: the yellow Lab, a staple of minivan and SUV commercials. Bill Pullman is suitably bland, if too young and brain-dead for the part. Even the Token Gay is played by the safest, cuddliest gay guy in US entertainment: Harvey Fierstein, who has been assimilated by the mainstream-culture Borg in much the same way as Smith himself.
Throw in a bit of product placement for Coke and Apple (although the laptop does appear to be running a very specialized Linux interface, one with helpful dialogs like "Uploading Virus"), and you've got a completely forgettable movie. At least, I hope to heck it's forgettable. I would hate it if my brain actually bothered to store this.
Of the many things wrong with this movie, though, perhaps the most disturbing on a bent-reality level is how much Jeff Goldblum, in rumpled hair and nerd glasses, resembles a young Allen Ginsberg. That's just wrong. In the ex-wife relationship-confrontation scene, I expected him to burst out earnestly with, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked" etc. It couldn't possibly be sillier than the actual dialogue.
Review by email@example.com from the Internet Movie Database.