Independence Day (1996)


Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day” is one quarter of a very decent albeit cliche alien invasion film, and three quarters an unwatchable adventure film. What opens with looming shadows and hovering space ships devolves in to a buddy comedy with catchy one-liners and plot twists much too convenient to buy. Even for a science fiction film about huge alien space ships. Apparently the government can see asteroids coming from miles away and predict when one will pass, but they can’t see space ships the size of two continents enter the atmosphere.

“Independence Day” almost has the right idea about alien invasions and beings with questionable intent from the very beginning. Even with the alien mother ships hovering in the skies for days on end, there’s never a real idea of what they’ve entered our atmosphere for. Even when they blast down a welcoming committee of US airships, it’s left up in the air. The sad fact is that the film eventually becomes much too enamored by its star power to focus on the inherent threat. Even when the air force is up in the skies and approaching the mother ship prepared to do battle, the characters are goofing around and snickering over the radio. The grim and harrowing atmosphere fades quickly in a barrage of terrible dialogue and horrific exposition, all of which is lost in a mix of non-stop comedy.

How can anyone live on a cliff and not notice a humongous spaceship enveloping most of the cityscape? And hell, the world is about to end by alien invaders, but we can still pal around about marriage right? After the first half hour passes by with a considerably strong opening punch, the rest of the film is mired in goofy cliches and predictable storylines, all of which are based on the underdog cliche. Surely it wouldn’t be so bad with one character, but all of these characters are underdogs, you see. And they eventually will prove themselves before the movie is over. Of course. Will Smith’s pilot may not be able to go to NASA (he can fly alien technology by just watching them operate their ships in battle, and he still can’t get in to NASA?!), but he proves himself by invading an alien mother ship before the end of the movie and goes to space anyway!

The young president of the free world is generally looked down upon by his staff but that’s okay, he’ll prove himself by bringing the world together fighting alongside his military brothers! How did third world countries beat the aliens? At one point we see a ship crashing as villagers wave their spears, what did they throw the spear at them from below? And what about the poor bastards without morse code telegraphs conveniently ready for use? And you’re telling me the Brits spent their time waiting for the US to come up with answers? No one in their own military figured out a virus would bring down a shield? But hey, how does Vivica A. Fox’s stripper character get to prove herself? Why she saves the first lady! See? Strippers are human too. The story continues on the consistently repetitive story themes as the film becomes ever more obnoxious and ludicrous, especially when factor in so many plot holes and convenient plot twists.

If it takes one punch from a scrawny pilot to knock an alien out, why shoot them down rather than beat the crap out of them? If it took a sheet to bring down a ship why not start launching laundry at them from below? And if the aliens are so advanced why didn’t they figure a sucker punch would land them comatose? Like all Roland Emmerich films, it never matters if half the world has been obliterated. If Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum get to crack wise another day, then that’s all that matters. Like all Roland Emmerich films, “Independence Day” presents glimmers of interesting ideas for a great film, but ruins it in a hail of special effects, bad acting, and schmaltz. Not to mention it garners two of the biggest plot holes in film history. Seriously, did these aliens borrow the contractors for the death star? Why make the weakest part of your ship the part that’s widely exposed and used as a weapon? Aliens. Just as dumb as humans.