Independence Day (1996) Movie Review
It's the start of the Fourth of July weekend, and I can think of only one movie that embodies this holiday: Independence Day.
There are two movies, Independence Day and Independence Day: Resurgence, the 2016 sequel that premiered twenty years after the original. However, Independence Day: Resurgence isn't available to stream for free.
Independence Day premiered in1996, starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman. The plot focuses on the United States' reaction to an impending worldwide alien invasion.
The beginning is incredibly slow. It's bland and almost boring as characters are going through their initial shock of a cloud of smoke becoming visible above multiple largely populated areas worldwide. It felt very workplace crisis, almost like a PR emergency instead of a pending alien invasion. I spent most of the time wondering when Will Smith's character would be introduced.
Finally, the UFOs are clearly visible, and Will Smith's character, Captain Steven Hiller, is introduced. It's incredibly realistic to see Steven and his girlfriend sleeping in, completely missing the commotion. Even when their kid claims he's shooting aliens, they dismiss it as a child's overactive imagination. Steven's entire introductory sequence was hilarious.
The mix of characters initially seems arbitrary; the president, the soldier and the stripper, the drunken pilot, and an IT guy. Their personalities seem to fit with idealized or realistic versions of themselves. The president is overconfident and thinks he can communicate with the aliens, then is in disbelief when people die due to his ineffectual evacuation strategy. Steven is fearless against the aliens punching one in the face because "I could've been at a barbeque." Jasmine, Steven's girlfriend, a stripper, and mother, quickly problem solves to save her son and is scrappy enough to find survivors and stay alive during an explosion. Russell, a retired combat pilot, turned drunk crop duster, straightens himself out when he's in need and makes the ultimate sacrifice to save everyone. David, an MIT-trained IT guy, deciphers the alien's plan and comprises a risky solution without being entirely sure about anything. In the end, each character plays a vital role that furthers the plot.
Despite being an action-packed movie with explosions, nukes, alien invasions, and the potential extinction of the human race, it has a ton of perfectly timed comedic moments. There's Smith's introduction, but minor comedic relief characters are expertly dispursed. David's interaction with his dad while driving to the white house is so realistic you can't help but laugh. Even during an alien invasion and mass evacuation, there will side seat drivers. The person who insisted on calling everyone they could think of, the hippies who welcomed the aliens hoping "they bring back Elvis," and the teenage boy who tried to convince a girl to have sex, so they don't die as virgins are all plausibly genuine reactions to an alien invasion. The realism of it was funny.
For a quick political interlude, The president trying to negotiate with a captured alien claiming the two species can coexist on Earth, was ridiculous. Strategically, I understand this attempt to prevent war, but it was one of the most unrealistic moments. That's saying a lot considering the viewer has to suspend disbelief to watch a pilot quickly learn to pilot an alien spaceship and have them survive even though they should've burned in space. The president and many political leaders can barely harmoniously coexist with people of color, women, people of other religions, and gay people. What makes them think they can coexist with aliens? I guess it's a reasonable idealization. Maybe this is just a thought based on the unfortunate recent political climate, but I digress.
Independence Day is a good movie that has held up against the test time. It's science fiction, action, and comedy, giving it a larger audience appeal. It may start off feeling disorganized and boring but quickly builds into a story of unity and freedom. Regardless of how unrealistic unity and freedom may appear at times, as the movie clearly states, "we can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore," and as humankind, we are one.
Remember that this holiday weekend, whether it be with fireworks, sand in your toes, grill-marked food, or more drinks than you can count. If you need a reminder, stream Independence Day on Peacock.