Independence Day (1996)
Starring: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman
For centuries, the human race had wondered whether we were alone in the universe. We found out the answer to that age-old question in the blessed year of 1996, when unusual radio frequencies began emanating from 300 miles above the earth. After a brief investigation, leaders in Washington, D.C. discovered what we had feared for hundreds of years: we were not, in fact, alone – and the consequences of that knowledge were shaping up to be disastrous. *** After a series of attacks cripples several major American cities, a group of survivors, led by a pilot (Smith), the President (Pullman), and a computer nerd (Goldblum), joins forces to declare human independence from those space invaders once and for all.
The Story: There’s a right way and a wrong way to tell the story of an alien invasion. “Independence Day” portrays the attack in a very real way – with groups people from three distinct walks of life (executive, military, and civilian) all thrust together in a seriously crappy situation. The aliens are frightening, they’re strong, and they’re incredibly smart, which means the humans will not have an easy path to victory. The movie can basically be split into thirds. The first (and slowest) third of the film depicts the humans attempting to figure out just what’s going on. This portion occasionally drags a little bit. Part two focuses on the destruction caused in the wake of the attack and includes some great ’90s CGI work. The climax and finale culminates in the human retaliation. The story starts slowly but exponentially increases in quality and in explosiveness, which makes for a very satisfying finish.
The Acting: The supporting roles are also great, providing occasional laughs along the way while still maintaining the serious tone of the film. Brent Spiner, notably, provides one of the strangest, creepiest roles of all time. However, this movie is all about Smith, Goldblum, and Pullman. At the time, Will Smith was one of the hottest names in Hollywood, Goldblum was emerging as King of the Nerds, and Bill Pullman… well, let’s just say that if he had actually run for President in 1996, he would have won by a landslide. (His speech in the week hours of the morning that July 4th is a great moment in cinema.) The big three deliver performances of a lifetime that endeared each of the three to American pop culture for years and years to come.
The Genre: It’s always a pleasant surprise when you sit down to watch an alien movie that doesn’t suck. There are a lot of lame sci-fi movies out there these days, but, boasting some of the scariest-looking monsters to ever hit the big screen, an inspirational original score, and show-stopping special effects, “Independence Day” gave viewers just about everything they could ever want in a sophisticated outer-space blockbuster.
“Independence Day” was a movie that defined a decade. Even 17 years after its original release, it stands as one of the most iconic films of the past two decades. With the combination of a compelling story, pop culture-defining acting jobs, and (at the time) state-of-the-art special effects, the folks at Twentieth Century Fox truly developed a classic for our generation. The bonus features on the “special edition” DVD are nothing to brag about, but, let’s be honest – nobody watches the special features other than the Salt Lake City DVD Examiner, anyway. Grill your burgers, watch your baseball, and plop down on the couch this Fourth of July to re-watch this ’90s masterpiece. You may also be interested in: “Armageddon” (1998), “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), “Jurassic Park” (1993).
DVD bonus features:
– Audio in English, French
– Subtitles in English, Spanish
– Theatrical version and “Special Edition” options
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Running time: 145 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13 for “sci-fi destruction and violence;” also frightening images and language, including moderately-offensive religious profanity and several innuendos that would be inappropriate for children.
Costars Judd Hirsch, Randy Quaid, James Rebhorn, Vivica A. Fox, Brent Spiner, Harry Connick, Jr.
DVD release date: July 27, 2000
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