Independence Day Movie Review

Independence Day Movie Review

Independence Day stars Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum and was directed by Roland Emmerich. It tells the story of a global alien invasion and humanity’s attempts to fend them off, primarily focusing on a small group of military personnel, scientists, and civilians in Nevada. Independence Day is one of those movies that can be easily described using only a few words.

Ridiculous, over-the-top, pseudo-sentimental, all words that perfectly describe this movie. Fortunately, it can also be described using a few more words: exciting, fun, feel-good. There’s no question that this is a big, dumb blockbuster, but there’s also no denying that it’s one hell of an entertaining ride. It’s basically 90s sci-fi action comfort food. Probably not the best thing you could be consuming, but it provides a bit of nostalgia and brings you back and just makes you feel happy.

There are only ten or so movies that I watch every single year and Independence Day is one of them, every year on the 4th of July. Although it devolves into (or perhaps helped to form) many of the disaster movie clichÈs that we see time and time again in today’s action movies, Independence Day still manages to set-up most of its characters before jumping into the action. None of them are particularly developed, but you really do get a sense of who these people are. So, by the time the destruction finally begins, you care about some of them ñ at least a little. Some may see it as a slow-build in an overlong movie, but I think the personal moments early on, as well as the delay in action, really helps to create tension that I think heightened my enjoyment of the movie.

Many other action films, including this movie’s sequel, don’t spend enough time upfront establishing the characters or situation and, instead, depend almost solely on explosions and quick-cut action sequences. Not that this film is lacking in that department either, but there’s more to this movie than just practical effects and slightly-dated CGI. Much like the following year’s Will Smith-led 4th of July weekend blockbuster, Independence Day is able to blend genres in a way that remains satisfying to almost anybody. While Men in Black was a sci-fi comedy with tinges of action, this film puts its action front and center.

Independence Day 1996 -
Independence Day 1996 –

It’s dramatic, borderline melodramatic at points, but really plays up its disaster movie roots, especially with the now clichÈ landmark destruction sequence. It’s also got some genuinely scary moments like the alien autopsy scene. And yet, in spite of all of those mixed genres, there’s still room for comedy. It’s not a joke a minute kind of movie, but Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum individually bring quite a bit of humor to their characters, which is only heightened when they finally come together in the third act. It should come as no surprise that Bill Pullman’s speech is one of the highlights of the film for me, but the best part, in my humble opinion, comes much earlier in the film. This movie has one of my favorite shots of all time. It’s ridiculous, it’s implausible, and it’s visually dated. But it’s also amazing.

The extraordinary scene I’m speaking of showcases everybody’s favorite Independence Day canine, Boomer. I am, of course, referring to his amazing car jumping scene in the tunnel just as the firestorm reaches him. The shot of Boomer leaping towards the camera as fire engulfs where he stood milliseconds before is my absolute favorite part of this movie and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Not ashamed one bit. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is the build-up.

There’s just something so satisfying about an action movie that takes its time to properly set the situation up. It doesn’t just jump right into destruction and explosions, but rather allows the tension to build. The scenes of slow, alien encroachment are some of my favorites in the movie. We just see shadows coming over cities and landmarks as the aliens position their ships in preparation.

That slow build-up gets you invested. At that same time, we’re being introduced to the key characters just living their normal lives, so we get a sense of who they are before the abnormality hits, which makes it easier to connect with them. Pro number two is the genre-blending. Mixing too many genres together often results in a disappointing combination that loses the qualities of the original genres, but for some reason these 90s sci-fi movies had it figured out. It’s got the sci-fi and aliens, but it’s also an effective action and disaster movie. On top of that, you’ve got drama, a little bit of romance, some horror elements, and plenty of comedy. Each genre feels distinct enough to be recognizable but still manages to work really well together. On the con side, this movie’s got some really underdeveloped characters.

They take the time to set them up before the action gets going which is great, but most of them are shallow stereotypes of typical action movie clich’s. Will Smith’s the cocky flyboy, Jeff Goldblum’s the self-deprecating scientist who just happens to be the only one who knows how to win, Bill Pullman’s the universally-loved inspirational politician, Randy Quaid’s the crazy drunk who ends up redeeming himself. We’ve has seen all these characters before and we’ll continue to see them in movies to come. Con number two isn’t a huge issue for me, but this movie is so cheesy at points.

Some of the emotional moments are earned, but a lot of them cross the boundary into melodrama that comes off pretty silly, especially with some of the dialogue. Then you’ve got the special effects. A lot of the work with miniatures still holds up pretty well, but some moments of CGI are pretty rough. I wasn’t kidding about the shot of Boomer jumping from the firestorm being my favorite part of the movie, but it’s so cheesy. I’m gonna give Independence Day 3.5 out of 5 paws. It’s ridiculous and cheesy, but it’s also fun and entertaining.

They might not have gotten everything right, but this movie stands as a blockbuster classic for a reason. I would recommend Independence Day to anyone who likes alien movies. It’s big, it’s bombastic, but it also has that charm that seemingly only movies from the 90s ever had. If you like disaster films, this one also has a lot of moments that set the tone for other similar movies in the late 90s and early 2000s. If you liked Independence Day, I would recommend Men in Black for another Will Smith alien-centric film. In fact, you get a lot more of both of those things in MIB, plus quite a bit more humor. If the semi-serious aspects of the plot and the very 90s blockbuster feel were what you liked, check out Armageddon for another space-related action film.

If the global-scale disaster movie aspects were something you enjoyed, be sure to watch The Day After Tomorrow, another disaster movie directed by Roland Emmerich. Alright, a couple of questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Independence Day? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite alien invasion movie? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.


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