Independence Day makes most of recycled ideas
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Robert Loggia, Randy Quaid.
By Teresa Huang
On July 2nd, they arrive. On July 3rd, they attack. On July 4th, we fight back by releasing a movie so hyped that the aliens will just fall to their knees in wonder upon seeing how much money is made.
I mean really, can this movie be more hyped? With the ominous advertising even at subway stations (Your Next Stop May Not Be There) and the strategically placed release date and alien attack schedule, who wouldn't go see this movie? It's already the most talked about movie of the summer, though it's not even the aliens people are talking about.
Independence Day involves an unexpected attack by aliens on an unprepared world. When the alien ships appear, the world can't decide whether to panic or party. Most of them don't need to worry about it, because the aliens soon attack and millions are dead. Yes, this is the part where the White House gets blown up. The U.S. gathers itself together under the President, played by Bill Pullman (While You Were Sleeping), who leads the world in a retaliation effort against the slimy ones. The plot is a bit formulaic, but it works.
Bill Pullman is fantastic as the young president of the United States who saves the world and pulls out of his slump in the confidence polls at the same time. He's the kind of president we'd all like to have voted for - young and idealistic, yet strong and inspirational in a crisis. His rallying speech before the final attack is worth bearing the movie with the rest of the characters, which are very stereotypical. Pullman is joined by a fearless black Air Force captain with an attitude, appropriately played by Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), and computer genius Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, The Fly), whose character went to MIT for 8 years, married a White House official, and went into cable television. Sure.
All of the characters in this film are stereotypical, probably so as not to waste time developing them. You didn't need to watch very closely to understand what kind of people these were - the movie made it as plain as possible, creating some of the thinnest characters around, especially Brent Spiner (Star Trek Generations) as the mad scientist with white hair.
Despite the weaknesses in character development, there's plenty to like about this movie, namely the special effects, which were advanced yet subtle enough to bring a War of the Worlds uneasiness to life again. Independence Day tries to look real and probable, leaving the psychics and skeptics to Mulder and Scully. You leave the theater thinking to yourself: maybe it could happen. The film didn't need suspenseful Hitchcock-like music or clever camera angles to make you nervous. You just were.
The problem with Independence Day is that while it is frighteningly realistic at some times, it's incredibly unbelievable at others. This movie leaves you with too much to talk about afterwards. How did Jeff Goldblum's character figure out the alien signal? How did they know how to fly the alien ship? And the aliens use the Macintosh operating system? That's convenient. In fact, it's too convenient in too many places. Every movie wants to be a subject of conversation after people leave the theater, but in this case, the kind of conversation generated is over how unreal the movie seems, and not about what it was trying to say.
Nevertheless, Independence Day is the summer hit. No loss if you don't go see it, except that you'll be left out of all the fun lunchtime conversations.