A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Independence Day

July 4, 2010

Independence Day

This was the pinnacle of the summer event movie. After the gaudy overdone spectacle of this movie no other could reach the same lofty heights. Not that others haven’t tried. There have been plenty of other big budget disaster movies from Emmerich’s own Godzilla and 2012 to Armageddon and The Core. Everybody loves an end-of-the-world story with a lot of explosions and big name stars. Indeed these days they’re running out of recognizable international landmarks to destroy. But all of them are pale immitations of the success of this one movie. The hype, the scale, and the sheer audacity of this movie has never been matched.

I’m not trying to say that it is a good movie. However enjoyable it may be it is more full of stupid plot holes than an Ed Wood movie. Some examples: why does the dust on the moon blow in a light breeze? Why do the attacking aliens use human satellites to coordinate their strike rather than just synchronizing their watches ahead of time? Why does one alien ship hover over the Empire State Building – when all the others are over centers of government (or the one over Los Angeles for that matter.) Most of all – why is the alien computer network susceptible to a mac virus?????

So don’t try to make sense of it. Just enjoy it for the summer popcorn flick that it is. The formula of disaster movies is well established – going back to the flicks of the seventies like Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. You have a few core survivors of some form of cataclysm who must band together to overcome adversity and save each other. You usually have a couple with marital strife who rediscover their love for one another, a government official of some sort (almost always corrupt who either gets their comeuppance or redeems themselves through a noble sacrifice,) some kind of comic relief, and a doomsaying scientist or something who knows what’s going to happen but to whom nobody will listen. Most of those people are in our collection here. Our cast are: Jeff Goldblum as the doomsaying scientist, Judd Hirsch as his nebbish father the comic relief, Bill Pullman as President Lonestar, Will Smith as the cocky fighter pilot, Vivicia A. Fox as his tough-as-nails stripper girlfriend who organises a rag-tag band of survivors in the ruins of L.A., Randy Quaid as the insane coot who really WAS abducted by aliens, Brent Spiner as the long-haired scientist who has been in charge of studying alien artifacts at Area 51, plus their various families and hangers on.

Will Smith gets all the best lines of course, and is pretty much the de-facto star of the movie. Brent Spiner steals the show for those few moments that he’s on screen. Jeff Goldblum plays pretty much exactly the same character he played in Jurassic Park. I will say that I never for an instant bought Pullman as the president. He just doesn’t have a presidential air. As his wife though we have Mary McDonnell as the first lady, and SHE does have a presidential feel to her. As we well know.

What sets this aside from the disaster movies of the past are three factors – first the disaster at the start of the movie is just the initial attack of the invading aliens, so there’s a bigger save-the-whole-world feeling. The second factor is the sheer scale of the visual spectacle on display. Roland Emmerich, building on the effects of Stargate, has mastered the big-explosion apocalypse. Better explosions of miniature models have never been filmed. Finally, this movie had a marketing push more effective and targeted than any before or since. Right down to the title of the movie and its July 4th release date. (I’m sure you remember the whole ID4 thing if you were around at the time.)

I can lambaste this movie all night for the pathetic holes in its laughable plot, but the truth is that it’s a really fun movie. I’d rather just enjoy all the pretty explosions. After all, isn’t watching pretty explosions what July 4th is all about? (Well, okay, I guess there’s something in there too about a British colony that rebelled back in the seventeen hundreds.)

July 4, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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