Smith gets Randy with an Alien Attack
There is one thing which is a sure bet, that is once every couple of years Hollywood will spew out a big budget over the top action romp where America saves the day, which is what "Independence Day" was on it's release in 1996. It's a no brainer movie made to appeal to the mass market delivering that proud to be American element which for anyone who isn't American can really grate, especially in the semi patronising way it treats the British and yes it does grate on me. But then there is nothing wrong with being patriotic I just wish the British movie industry would do the same. Anyway, "Independence Day" is a movie of cliches, comedy as well as big effects and as such it delivers exactly what it sets out to be, pure action fun.
On July 2nd with people looking forwards to celebrating Independence day the whole of America and the rest of the world is stunned when the skies become filled by huge Alien space craft. As the president and his staff set about trying to discover why these UFOs have appeared, satellite expert David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum - Nine Months) discovers that their appearance is not friendly and soon devastation prevails as they start their attack. With America and the world in chaos it's up to the President, David and Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith - Bad Boys) to save the day .... somehow.
I would be lying if I said that the "Independence Day" storyline was a clever, complex idea which delivered layer upon layer of intriguing storyline which stimulates your brain because it's as straightforward and dumb as they come. There is very little which could be considered to be original about it and basically rehashes the favourite theme of Aliens coming to Earth to take over. It throws up a few different scenes and merges a couple of other cliches from other movies into the mix but it is as simple as it comes. Not that it is a criticism because there is no pretence that "Independence Day" is anything more than pure action entertainment and it works. Although there are scenes which feel like there should be some emotional impact but never gets it across making those scenes feel a little out of place in such a no brainer movie.
It has to be mentioned the patriotism which is prevalent through out the movie and as already mentioned that whilst I admire Hollywood for instilling a sense of patriotism in many of their movies, it still grates when in doing so they patronise other nationalities. In "Independence Day" the scene where a British fighter pilot, who has a god awful over the top English accent, is thankful when he learns that America has a plan, is really one of the most patronising scenes I have seen in a movie and it really grates.
But away from the patriotism and storyline, "Independence Day" is very much a movie all about the special effects with a whole range of over the top explosions and mass destruction which is on a par with the likes of "The Day After Tomorrow" for visual impact. Scenes such as the White House getting zapped or the devastation left by the attacks still has quite an impact now all these years later. Add to this the smaller effects such as the make up of the actual aliens which deliver a few unexpected shocks and it's a very impressive movie, although there are a couple of scenes where dodgy effects make it a bit laughable.
What is quite strange is that "Independence Day" is often known as being Will Smith's movie and there is no doubt that Smith as ace pilot Captain Steven Hiller delivers a fine comical, wise cracking action hero performance in the same manner as those in movies such as "Men In Black" and "Bad Boys". But for me he is no more the star than Jeff Goldblum who as communications satellite expert David Levinson spots that the alien encounter is not going to be friendly. It's typical Goldblum being slightly geeky, slightly uncool and dead pan funny especially in partnership with Judd Hirsch who plays his father Julius, although the ramming down are throats through out of his environmental credentials is a bit heavy handed. I would say it's Smith and Goldblum who make "Independence Day" work because together they deliver contrasting characters and humour.
But there are whole plethora of good performances in "Independence Day", Bill Pullman is charming and hero like as the President Thomas J. Whitmore, Robert Loggia is just as good as General William Grey and Mary McDonnell adds easy going charm as the first lady. You just need to look through the cast list to spot names such as Randy Quaid, Margaret Colin, Vivica A. Fox, Mae Whitman, Harry Connick Jr. and Devon Gummersall to realise that "Independence Day" is a movie of big names all of who combine to give that mix of action and comedy.
What this all boils down to is that despite the grating of the Americans saving the day element I like "Independence Day". It's pure and simple just good fun often over the top entertainment. It takes a simple storyline, keeps it simple but delivers a wide range of characters, cliches and special effects laden action to make it on a whole just a good fun, well paced movie.