Posted in Film Commentary

Review: Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July everyone! I decided that there was no other movie that was more appropriate for today than Independence Day from 1996. This was one of my favorite movies as a child and upon watching it again now that I’m an adult, I enjoy it even more for all of the little references I didn’t understand before.

You see, Independence Day is one of those movies that knows exactly where it came from and does not try to hide it. Within the first half hour, I noted that a lot of the dialogue was pretty cheesy. Here’s the thing though, it was not BAD cheesy, but rather reminiscent of B-rated sci-fi movies from the 50s. A few minutes later, this pops up on the screen.

It is not hard to see what is going on here. This movie is very obviously paying homage to 50s sci-fi, and it is doing a very good job of it. The main protagonists are military personnel and scientists, much like in The Thing from Another World. There are plenty of civilian reaction shots, much like in The Day the Earth Stood Still. At one point, Dave boots up his computer to reveal an image of Hal saying “Good morning Dave”. Sure, 2001: A Space Odyssey is late 60s sci-fi, not 50s, but knowledge of film history is always appreciated in my book and Independence Day shows off its roots well.

In relation to emulating 50s sci-fi, one thing that has bothered many people about this movie is the implausibility of Jeff Goldblum’s character, David Levinson, hacking into the alien “far superior” computers with a 1996 laptop. I do not find this to be much of a problem. Honestly, because this movie is already referencing 1950s sci-fi like there is no tomorrow, I feel like this is not a slap in the face to how technology actually works so much as it is a reference to all the ways 50s sci-fi would use improbable plot devices. For instance, in The Thing from Another World, the alien is described as being a humanoid that is more anatomically related to a vegetable, yet it feeds on blood. Vegetables don’t feed on blood, so there is no logical explanation for why this is so except that it makes a great plot device. Dave clearly would not actually be able to hack far superior alien technology, but it is just as cheesy and implausible, and I have a hard time believing that those making the film did not realize this. If a vegetable can feed off blood, David Levinson can have the most awesome mid-90s laptop the world has ever seen. If you’re looking for accuracy, don’t watch this movie. It is that simple.

While this movie does reference a lot of things, I feel it is time to move on to talking about the film as its own entity. Can I just say for a minute how much I love the soundtrack? Not only does this movie feature songs like It’s the End of the World as We Know It, but it also has one of the most patriotic scores I have ever heard. If you’re going to call a movie Independence Day, your score better be more patriotic than anything John Philip Souza ever composed, and in my opinion they succeeded. I still can’t think of anything other than apple pie and baseball that I find more patriotic than the score for this film.

Another thing to note, especially considering that this movie was done in the mid-90s, is the special effects. Considering that this movie is now sixteen years old, the special effects are actually really good. Unfortunately I cannot find the clip now, but I watched the making of this movie at one point and remember being surprised at how simple it was. The wall of fire that moves through New York was done by putting a model of New York sideways and shooting a flamethrower through it and then playing it back in slow motion. Simple yet effective! Also, who doesn’t like blowing up the white house?

I also just want to throw in for a brief moment how scary the alien looked when it was attacking the crazy scientist, Dr. Brackish Okun (who is played by Brent Spiner, aka Data from Next Generation). If there are any sci-fi aliens from semi-recent memory that scare the living daylights out of me, they are the ones from Alien and the ones from this movie.

In case you haven’t been able to tell, I love this movie. Yes, it is cheesy. Yes, it is horribly inaccurate. Yes, I am biased because it was one of my favorite movies growing up. Just because this movie was not Oscar-bait does not mean it is not enjoyable. I highly recommend this to everyone. Yes, everyone.

However, I do have some sad news. Upon looking up more facts about this, I came across the sad knowledge that the director, Roland Emmerich, is also the one who brought us such films as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and the Godzilla movie set in New York. He must have realized that he had not succeeded with these films as he did with Independence Day, because this appeared on his list of projects:

Yes. There is a sequel to Independence Day in the works. I fear for the future.

Favorite Scene: