What happens when you take an American flag, coat it in a thin veneer of the 1990s “attitude” and then mount it to a fucking fighter jet ? A shitty opening joke? Perhaps, but if you would like a better way to sum up the 1996 sci-fi action classic Independence Day, then think ‘Top Gun’ meets ‘War of the Worlds’ (with a few sprinklings of every other sci-fi classic). Now whether you thought Independence Day was a good movie or not, it left its mark on the world when it hit the cinemas as a true summer blockbuster. So with its sequel Independence Day: Resurgence hitting cinemas in a mere few days, 20 years after the original, it feels like a good time to go and examine the old classic and see how far we have come as a species since.
Independence Day was silly, fun and everything it needed to be
Earth is invaded by freedom hating aliens and for some reason only America can save us! So it’s up to military man Steven Miller (Will Smith), tech nerd David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and the President of the United States Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) to launch a counter attack and save mankind in the face of extinction. You could almost mistake Independence Day as being some kind of wartime propaganda, but only America didn’t want to offend the opposing country and just used aliens as substitutes instead. The plot is paper thin, its hokey leave your brain at the door kind of fun and a true guilty pleasure from the 90s. I mean, Jeff Goldblum defeats the aliens by uploading a computer virus to the mother ship, that’s right, just like in War of the Worlds but with a computer virus and what could only be described in the 90s as “hacking”. If that does not sound like a pure guilty pleasure, then I don’t know what does.
Again, regardless of whether you liked the film or not, it worked, Independence Day was the highest grossing films of 1996. One of the reasons why it worked was that it took the old B-movie alien invasion genre (The Day The Earth Stood Still) combined it with aspects of other successful 90s movies (Jurassic Park) and then proceeded to amplify them to the most extreme levels. The other reason it was successful was that…
It set the bar for blowing shit up
For a long time, Independence Day was the last of its kind; the film featured large amounts of destruction, where the majority of American monuments became collateral. What made Independence Day so uhhhh, independent, was really of no attempt of its own and had more to do with the fact that blowing up American monuments on screen, was probably a much less ok thing to do post 9/11. Still yet, the large scale destruction and full-scale alien invasion were something that has never been seen before (at least 6 years old I had not seen before). Not even the case the VHS tape came in could escape the collateral damage; with its lenticular printed cover (remember those images that changed when you moved them? Yeah those), which depicted the White House in both mid and post vaporised modes.
The special effects still hold up…for the most part
No, but seriously the explosions look great and the scene with a wall of fire barreling down New York still looks terrifying even today. It’s exhilarating, from the destruction of the cities to the aerial combat, these effects would go on to become a staple for the director Roland Emmerich, who went on to direct ‘Godzilla’ (the 1998 one) and ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ (2004). Special effects helped set Independence Day apart from other summer blockbusters, but it was the cast that really brought the movie together.
The vibrant cast made the best of the script
Ok sure Bill Pullman’s speech in the third act was some pretty impactful stuff, but overall Independence Day was plagued with some bad writing. Fortunately, a top tier cast was ready to turn it all into gold. Smith and Goldblum amongst others, manage to balance the humour with action, not taking themselves too seriously but at the same time not coming off as too cliche. You can tell that Smith and Goldblum (especially Goldblum) are having fun with the script with comical interactions melding with the Sci-fi PG violence.
It’s something that prevented the movie from being grim, whether it was supposed to be intentionally funny or not, Independence Day has its fair amount of funny moments. Sure maybe some parts are funnier now than they were then (I recall being scared of the extraterrestrial as a child) but the charm is present all the same. So if there is one thing Independence Day: Resurgence should take away from its predecessor it’s that…
Independence Day: Resurgence hopefully won’t take itself too seriously
Special effects are something I’m sure we won’t have to worry about, Independence Day: Resurgence visually looks very impressive. Roland Emmerich returns to the director’s chair and Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman return to their roles as well, although Will Smith is absent (he’s a busy guy these days) and is subsequently killed off prior to the film. This time around Earth has been waiting for the aliens to return, bolstering their own army with stolen alien tech, its a smart move for a sequel and it is good to see that some of the old cast will return along with new castmates Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie Usher (the latter of which plays Smith’s characters son). Despite the some of the earlier trailers attempts to make the film appear darker, more recent trailers and marketing add some humour to the mix with a nod to the aliens tendency to destroy all the monuments.
Honestly as much as we all love Will Smith, I would have been more worried if Goldblum was absent, if there is ever a person who knows have not to take something seriously its Jeff Goldblum and here is the proof. So I think it’s safe to say that Resurgence will do the original justice but only time will tell when Independence Day: Resurgence hits theatres on June 24th.