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  Independence Day Invaders Must Die
Year: 1996
Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Robert Loggia, Randy Quaid, Margaret Colin, Vivica A. Fox, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Adam Baldwin, Brent Spiner, James Duval, Lisa Jakub, Giuseppe Andrews, Harry Connick Jr
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: July 2nd. SETI has finally received the signal they've been searching for after all these years: a message from outer space, so immediately the authorities are contacted with the good news. But with the President (Bill Pullman) informed, some are expressing caution about this, as the message cannot be worked out, and even more unusually, it doesn't seem to be hailing from the stars, but from just next to our moon. Soon there is more activity as parts of the huge object hovering there break off and head for Earth - what could they be? Could this at last be proof that we are not alone in the universe, and more importantly, are they friendly?

Well, what do you think? This was an updating of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds for the nineties, after all. If there was one thing certain, it was that the advertising budget of Independence Day was well spent, as the nanosecond the moviegoers of the planet saw that teaser trailer, with the White House exploding after a massive beam is shot through its roof, the movie basically sold itself. It was the biggest hit of 1996, and practically everyone who was attending cinemas at the time went to see it, yet for some reason nowadays its reception is closer to lukewarm as if many of those who were caught up in ID4 fever at the time have cooled off.

It's true that it does come across as a "dumbed down" variation on the plot of all those fifties sci-fi movies, and many of those were not exactly coasting on a wave of overwhelming intelligence, but the most common accusation of viewers of the day was that the film was jingoistic, probably because the United States is used to stand in for the whole world. Much fun was made of director Roland Emmerich being German, as if his sentiments were somehow less convincing as he wasn't actually American, but seen today Independence Day does look to have an inclusive nature; sure, most of that is showing short scenes in other countries scattered throughout the action, but Emmerich and co-writer/producer Dean Devlin had bigger ideas.

The movie uses the U.S.A. as a way of bringing together all races and nationalities, which is in its way quite utopian, as if there would come a day that the population of Earth would set aside its differences for the common good. It's probably what this depicts the common good to be that gives more sensitive viewers pause, and that's our old friend, large scale violence; not that Independence Day was really meant to be taken seriously as a genuine cure for humanity's ills, but it does not deny that war is a very effective method of bringing people together without admitting how regrettable this is. On the other hand, if you want a lecture in humanity you don't go to an effects-filled blockbuster, right?

And those effects were all the better for using miniatures rather than doing it the CGI way that it would have been tackled with these days, offering such images as famous landmarks being destroyed by the alien's death rays that note of conviction, because we really were seeing actual objects blown up. There's a curious and unsteady balance in the film between the "we're all having fun folks!" action (see how quickly Will Smith's pilot gets over the death of best friend Harry Connick Jr) and the "but sincerely, let's look after each other" business that informs the rest of it. The cast is good enough to make you revel in the script's absurdities and the fact that it's the manly men doing the saving (Jeff Goldblum's environmentalism marks him out as a strongminded nerd, not your average weakling) with no one else getting a look in. And yet, after the dust has settled it does take a special kind of film to make you go, "Oh, was that it?" after watching the near-end of civilisation as we know it. Music by David Arnold.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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