Movies That Age Poorly: Independence Day (1996)

id4cDirected by Roland Emmerich
Written by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich

I can criticize his movies all I want, but Will Smith makes money out the ass, and most times without even trying at all. He can star in a bastardized remake of a classic Western show, a bastardized adaptation of a science fiction novel, or a bastardized adaptation of a classic horror novel, and the man will still bank about a billion dollars easy. Take “Hancock.” Wow. But one thing that I’ve alwys found ridiculous was that Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin expected us to believe that these aliens have every capability to defend themselves against our forces from electromagnetic waves, lasers, bombs, and missiles, but they couldn’t protect themselves against a super virus? And it takes one virus to bring down their defense systems? Doesn’t that contradict their whole advanced technology strategy? And if they could communicate telepathically, wouldn’t it stand to reason they would operate their machines telepathically? And since when do jets travel as fast as alien technology?

Ah well, those are questions we’ll never have answered because when it comes to brains Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich simply don’t have them. Take a look at their productions. There’s the horrific “Godzilla,” the utterly abominable “The Day After Tomorrow,” and the most recent piece of brainless crap “10,000 B.C.” But “Independence Day” was a new experience when it premiered and it was quite frankly one of the most amazing movie watching events I’ve ever had at the theaters. Sitting in front of a giant screen as a pre-teen, I was in pure awe with mouth agape and eyes wider than saucers as the aliens planned to take over Earth… or destroy the Earth… or was it colonize the Earth? Wait… why were they there on Earth?

Because they were bad guys? Wait… that’s nonsense. Either way, it was all ruined when a sucker punch from Will Smith brought down the almighty alien pilot who engaged in a dog fight with him over a canyon. I mean, it can’t be that easy. You figure they’d have researched our tactics before coming face to face with us. It seemed they did, otherwise they wouldn’t have destroyed an air force base midway. You know what? My head is hurting. Don’t apply your common sense, logic, or brains to Emmerich’s science fiction blunder and you may actually enjoy what “ID4” has to offer you. Sadly for me, I just don’t enjoy “Independence Day” as much as everyone else does anymore.

Maybe it’s just the ridiculous storyline, the boring villains, or just the ridiculous amount of idealism that begs its audience to put their disbelief on hold. I mean, even with an alien menace destroying the world, would all the world’s nations really team together without an argument and bring down the aliens so easily? Not likely. I appreciate the message the creative crew tries to push with the “Rah rah America,” “Aren’t we a multi-racial brotherhood?” overtones, and the good we’re capable of in the face of imminent destruction, but the movie takes leaps and bounds of pure brainlessness, it’s just impossible to ignore the terrible ham fisted plot devices we’re fed with even a corrupted government hiding aliens depicted as a truly strong force of salvation.

You know it’s fiction when we have a president caring only for the American citizens and looking for a way to help everyone but himself. You know it’s fiction when the president doesn’t hide out. You know it’s fiction when everyone bonds together during a time of crises, and you know it’s fiction when warring countries are willing to work together during the invasion. Reality check people: It ain’t gonna happen. And doesn’t that big speech in the final half before the world stands up to fight, seem so utterly silly now? I mean granted, Bill Pullman is always entertaining in even the worst films, but Devlin and Emmerich write such a hackneyed trite inspirational Sci Fi tale, that they can never tell if they want to write a murky alien invasion flick or an action comedy. Thus, the first half is mildly entertaining, while the second half is flat out embarrassing.

Without warning, writers Devlin and Emmerich take a potentially wonderful disaster picture where an entire group of people are destroyed atop a high rise, as well as everyone in a bridge tunnel and just flat out finds a reason to scoff it off and completely ignore any of the lost lives before our heroes snap in to action. Devlin and Emmerich take much of the sentiment from “The Day After Tomorrow” where everything is okay so long as our main characters survive. Screw all the deaths of those poor saps in the city. And much of the dread is completely ignored for an action comedy that involves our menacing villains being… punched out by Will Smith. Back then I declared “Hell yeah!” at watching that bad Mofo punch out a psychic alien, but these days if you see it, it’s just plain ridiculous. Firstly, we know they choose their ships primarily because of the protective shield, but you figure if it was able to take out an entire room of scientists moments after being dissected, it would take out one skinny pilot who could barely drag it across the desert.

Meanwhile, any and all gravitas the aliens possessed in the first half is completely obliterated once we see this stranded soldier punch it out. How can you take a villain seriously when they can be easily sucker punched? And here comes the deus ex machina to end all deus ex machinas: it’s a constantly pointed out cheesy event in the finale. If scientists, doctors, politicians and the like can not find a way to breach the villains defenses, how in the bloody hell can a journalist suddenly find a way to destroy them with a simple computer device? The writers try to dodge any and all anger with this insulting plot device by provoking the classic twist from “War of the Worlds” where a simple virus took out the entire alien race, but this was just plain ridiculous.

If you can’t communicate with them verbally, understand their language, acknowledge their computer code, and or speak on the same level as them, how in the living hell can you find a way to breach their computers, find a USB por on their mother boards, and connect in to their servers to deliver a virus? Is there a known virus on the planet able to bring down the mother ship of an alien force? Besides that, you figure they’d have the firewall of all firewalls protecting their servers, but no, they have only one alien guard protecting their computers and allow an unidentified presence unable to telepathically read their signatures… I’m going too fast for you? It’s just too idiotic to continue on with. And besides that, wouldn’t a telepathic alien control its ship with… oh… telepathy and not a single joystick?

You know what? “Independence Day” sucks.

There are still some excellent sequences and material in “Independence Day” with the potential in the first half to be quite excellent, but it’s all dropped for sheer stupidity in the name of keeping audiences happy and providing a positive ending at all costs of story and character motivation. It’s simply a movie that’s aged poorly.