Twitter Plot Summary: Aliens invade the Earth and it’s up to Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith (and er, Randy Quaid) to save the day. Huzzah.
The alien invasion B-Movie got the Hollywood treatment in 1996 in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day. Combining an ensemble cast with big budget destruction and instantly iconic shots, such as the destruction of the White House, Independence Day is the very definition of brainless summer blockbuster. The plot is classic B-movie territory – an alien mothership arrives in Earth orbit and several smaller, city-sized ships descend into the atmosphere and hover over major cities across the world. It soon becomes clear that they mean to eradicate humanity and it’s up to a few select characters to organise a fight back and save the day.
Jeff Goldblum is at his most Goldblum as David, the man who works out what the arrival of the aliens means to humanity (it’s not good, obviously). He is his usual mass of hands and choice use of words, in other words one of the high points in a film filled with actors having fun. Bill Pullman has a rare opportunity to take the lead as President Whitmore and rather gratefully has the cheesiest rousing speech in cinema history. Will Smith fully set in motion his movie star career as Captain Steven Hillard, a cocky fighter pilot who gets a memorable close encounter with one of the alien invaders. Finally (although there are plenty more to mention, including a young Adam Baldwin and Robert “Space” Loggia in supporting roles), there is Randy Quaid as an alcoholic crop duster who is ridiculed for constantly claiming he was once abducted by aliens.
It is cheese at its finest, an excuse for bigging up America and painting the rest of the world as incompetent in the face of an alien invasion. According to Independence Day, the rest of the world spend all of their time waiting for the United States to work out a plan of retaliation rather than trying to do something about it themselves. But then, the rest of the world’s incompetence is America’s gain in the face of total annihilation, right?
Roland Emmerich is clearly the master of effects-driven big screen destruction, and it’s evident that the latter half of his directorial career was heavily influenced by this film, the destruction increasing on an almost exponential basis and becoming sillier and more ridiculous with each script he makes. This was the starting point for all of that, though. Silly action scenes and one liners are the byword for the day, with both a plot and characters that are ultimately vacuous. If he didn’t have quite the same skill at providing solid action sequences, the occasional scare and building tension, it would be yet another film destined for the bargain bin.
So it’s pretty much all gubbins, yet it’s entertaining gubbins all the same. Who can criticise a film that wears its influences on its sleeve so brazenly, its desire to entertain so blatantly? It may be jingoistic, excessively patriotic and refuses to kill a dog despite having no qualms about showing the death of thousands of civilians, but it’s pure mindless cinema and the faults and nitpicks only heighten your enjoyment.