Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Written by: Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich

Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin

Rating: [3/5]

The threat of alien invasions has proven to be rich material for films to mine into horror and action flicks as the threat of these extraterrestrial creatures poses a threat like no nothing seen in this world. Possibly no other film has gained notoriety for this subject matter in the action genre than Independence Day, a feature so silly but incredibly fun to the point where its gaping faults can be excused. 

With an alien mothership reaching Earth’s orbit, several saucers have landed at various places on Earth and begin an assault on humanity. This puts pressure on President Thomas Whitemore (Bill Pullman) to find a solution, which he receives from various sources including Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and satellite engineer David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum). 

Seminally known for its silly lines and over-the-top action sequences, Independence Day has maintained a lasting legacy for the jamboree of its presentation and most likely becoming the most well-known alien feature to the general populace. Coming in at the right time with its movie stars and iconic imagery not only brought it success during its time but still has a long list of admirers. In my case, I certainly appreciate plenty of what this feature has to offer as a spectacle and action film and even if its plot gets a bit wonky at times it succeeds in being fun. 

Having the iconic imagery of the White House blown to smithereens by an alien spaceship has its roots in history being the first film to depict the destruction of the president’s residence and to the bombastic degree it occurs in this film. It establishes these aliens as a tremendous threat to humanity and for an action film that can be enjoyed by everyone, the depiction of the number of lives lost throughout the feature is surprising as it puts humanity heavily in the underdog’s spot. This allows for the little victories to feel all that more integral and introduces us to some memorable characters. 

Will Smith’s performance as Captain Steven Hiller still remains one of his most iconic roles and the lines he drops in this feature prove why. Considering a scene exists where he punches an alien and exclaims “Welcome to Earth” really says it all. Smith puts on the charm offensive in this feature portraying a character with no fear and a healthy amount of arrogance allowing him to be quite the adversary of these aliens. He brings a great balance to the self-seriousness displayed by the other characters as they deal with the heaviness of what occurs. Smith’s Hiller instead enters the fray and provides solutions to get this all done if given the right equipment. He certainly stands out amongst the cast and allows the fairly middling dialogue he receives to be elevated to have a high degree of entertainment. 

Other than the comedy and the action, elements of this feature feel downright inspiring with much of it coming from Bill Pullman’s portrayal of President Thomas Whitmore. The speech on the brink of the final human assault on these aliens remains one of the most iconic and rousing speeches ever given in film in the way it rings in the mind of many. Along with Will Smith’s delivery, it remains of the most prescient and recognizable scenes of this film. 

Faults certainly exist in this film, especially when it comes to the plot and the writing of these characters outside of some of the performances elevating it, which comes part and parcel with a Roland Emmerich film. The undisputed king of disaster films, and on this occasion the disaster does not come from climate change but rather a set of rowdy visitors who want to deplete the resources of our planet for their own benefit. Something quite comedic when you think about how humans would do the exact same thing to another world if only we had the means to accomplish the task. Emmerich knows how to craft a spectacle even if it comes at the expense of character growth or other aspects that make a good film. Instead, he leans into all of what makes him who is and on this occasion, it worked. 

Indeed not something deemed fantastic in any area of its filmmaking, Independence Day sells us on the idea of having fun taking down some aliens. The film comes full of various gaffes, funny line readings, and some decent special effects, culminating in one of the most recognizable blockbusters of the 1990s. Very enjoyable for what it wants to be and certainly deserves its status as a popcorn flick.

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