How can a movie be so silly, exciting, emotive, hearty and stupid all at the same time? Independence Day is surely the lightning that director Roland Emmerich has been forever trying to rekindle.
In 1996, July 2nd, aliens arrived on Earth with only one goal in mind: total annihilation. It is up to a scientist-turn television technician, a fighter pilot, the US President and the entire world, to stand up as one and fight back.
Off the back of his underrated and very creative Stargate in 1994, there is no doubt director Roland Emmerich hit his highest point with the so called ID4 project. I still remember seeing this in the cinema, I remember having the poster and an airfix model of the alien fighter craft. It is fair to say that for anyone over the age of… I guess 30 now… still consider Independence Day as one of the defining blockbusters of the 1990s, only equaled by Jurassic Park.
I would like to stress… ID4 is insanely cheesy stuff. It is a relic of a bygone era where America was in blissful self-assuredness, and were cinema was going into new heights with computer technology. Not only did ID4 win the Academy Award for visual effects, but it put the President of the United States into one of the most heroic scenarios conceived; a speech to rattle the entire world, followed by a aerial dogfight with alien space craft!
I am getting ahead of myself. The film launched the film career of one Will Smith (previously only seen in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys) with glorious one liners and ridiculous humour only he could have pulled off. Beside him is Jeff Goldblum, riding high on the success of Jurassic Park three years earlier.
It has a surprisingly inclusive cast too, if Smith and Goldblum weren’t enough as leading men, Vivica A. Fox’s character Jasmine deserves a lot of credit.
Darn it can’t I not find Independence Day enjoyable on every level. The humour isn’t vile or unwelcome, the special effects while dated now still have a lot of credibility to them (the city destruction I found more unsettling than any modern CGI disaster!) and the design work is great on the aliens and their ships! It even takes time out from destruction to give nice character moments. Unlike nearly all of Emmerich’s recent works (I am looking at you 2012) ID4 gives you moments to breath, moments that make you feel just enough for these characters, just enough that the payoff feels worthwhile!
A template for the following ten years or so for blockbusters, as silly and dated as it can be, it is a time capsule of nineties science fiction. I enjoy it too much!