Will Smith Tries to Save the World in Independence Day

Jul 4, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Entertaining movie with good cast overall.

Cons:Predictable.  Somewhat weak story.

The Bottom Line: Independence Day has some issues, but it works as an entertaining movie overall and is still worth seeing.

In 1996, Independence Day was released and it ended up being a huge hit.  I did see the movie two or three times in the theater and I got the movie on VHS.  I have no idea how many times I've seen this movie.  I did get the DVD several years ago when I found it on sale.  I just watched the movie for the first time in years.

On July 2, problems develop with satellites and a huge space ship is discovered orbiting the planet.  Smaller ships, that still have a diameter of fifteen miles, break off the big ship and move into place over major cities all around the world and people start to panic. 

In New York City, David Levinson, who works at a cable company, discovers some sort of code in a transmission that he believes is being used to coordinate the ships.  He tries to contact Constance, his ex-wife who works for the president, but she won't listen to him.  David then decides that he and his father Julius should drive to Washington, D.C. to share what he has discovered.  The President, Thomas Whitmore, and David have a history, but Thomas listens and acts on David's information.  They barely escape the city when the attack starts.

Marine pilot Steven Hiller is planning to spend the holiday with his girlfriend Jasmine and her young son.  He is called back to his base, but he tells Jasmine to meet him at the base later.  Steve is involved in an attempted attack that does not go well.  Russell Casse flies a crop dusting plane and he had been a pilot during Vietnam.  He claims that he was abducted by aliens ten years before.  He and his three children drive off in their motor home and end up traveling through the desert with a large group of other people, all trying to avoid cities.  These different groups of people all end up at Area 51 where David is instrumental in developing a new plan of attack that is launched on July 4th.

At first, it might seem like Independence Day is a complicated movie.  A lot is going on, but it is all tied to the spaceships and the attempts to deal with that situation.  The plot ends up being rather simple and predictable, but it does work overall as an entertaining movie.  Things start off a little slower as all the various characters are introduced.  The movie jumps around among all the characters throughout the movie, showing little bits of what is going on with them.  All the jumping around does get a little old and things don't flow as well as they probably could.  The story itself of aliens showing up has a lot of potential.  It just isn't as developed as it could have been.

There is a lot of action throughout Independence Day in the form of various fights and some explosions.  All the characters are in danger at some point, some of them more than once.  Air Force One barely takes off ahead of a massive fireball from the attack.  Jasmine somehow finds the one spot that will withstand a similar fireball in Los Angeles with seconds to spare.  There are a few air fights with smaller attack type ships that deploy from the larger ships hovering over the cities.  The action is a bit over the top at times, but those scenes are entertaining.  I'm sure that a lot of things were created with special effects.  The effects are done well and have held up well without looking really dated.  The aliens are seen and look suitably creepy.  Some scenes have a bit of violence, but there really isn't that much violence overall considering how much action there is.  The movie is rated PG-13, so parents should probably check the movie out before letting children see it.  There is an attempt to add humor to what is going on, usually through what some characters say.  Some of the lines are more cheesy and some of the other dialogue that isn't trying to be funny isn't that great.

Since making Independence Day, director Roland Emmerich has made two more disaster movies, 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.  He also made Godzilla, which is more of a disaster movie than a monster movie in my opinion.  Those movies have followed the same basic formula, though the disasters are different.  I've seen all three of these disaster movies and I notice a lot of similarities in them.  It really seems like Emmerich has used this movie as a template for others because the structure of the other two movies is so similar.  There are groups of characters that the movies jump between, showing how they all are dealing with the disaster.  The story and the set up of everything works all right for this movie, but it would be nice if he would try more originality in his future movies.

There is such a large group of characters in Independence Day that really none of them are that developed.  They just sort of fill certain characteristics without any depth being added to them.  Several of the characters are nice enough, but they are very flat.  David works for a cable company and he is the one who discovers the signal that the aliens are using.  He is still in love in with ex-wife and still wears his wedding ring.  He is very intelligent.  Jeff Goldblum does fine with the part.  Julius is David's father who ends up going along.  Judd Hirsch is wonderful in the role and has some of the best lines.

Constance is David's ex-wife who works for the president.  She doesn't listen at first, but she starts acting differently and seems to still love David.  Margaret Colin is fine in the part.  Thomas Whitmore is the president.  He fought in the Gulf War which seems to have been a big reason why people elected him.  When things begin, people aren't happy with how he has been doing his job.  Bull Pullman is fine in the part.  Marilyn is Thomas's wife.  She is in Los Angeles when the attack happens.  Mary McDonnell does well with what she has to work with.  Albert Nimzicki works with the president and has his own ideas about how to deal with the situation.  James Rebhorn does fine with the part.

Steve is somewhat cocky, but he is a talented pilot.  He wants to be an astronaut, but he keeps getting turning down.  Will Smith does well with the part.  Jasmine is Steve's girlfriend.  She is an exotic dancer.  At one point she mentions doing it because she makes good money.  Jasmine is nice enough.  Vivica A. Fox is fine in the part, though nothing special.  Harry Connick Jr. is in a few scenes as Jimmy Wilder, a pilot and friend of Steve's.  

Russell Casse is a crop duster who tends to be drunk.  He is sort of considered a local crackpot because of how he acts and the fact that he talks about being abducted by aliens previously.  Randy Quaid is a bit over the top with his performance, though that does sort of fit the character.  Miguel, Alicia, and Troy are Russell's children.  Miguel is really fed up with Russell.  Robert Loggia is in several scenes as William Grey, a general who is involved in the situation.  Adam Baldwin has a small part as Major Mitchell, someone stationed at Area 51.  Harvey Fierstein and Brent Spinner also have small parts and only turn up in a few scenes.

Main Cast

Giuseppe Andrews - Troy Casse    
Adam Baldwin - Major Mitchell
Margaret Colin - Constance
Harry Connick Jr. - Jimmy Wilder
James Duval - Miguel Casse
Harvey Fierstein - Marty Gilbert
Vivica A. Fox - Jasmine
Jeff Goldblum - David Levinson
Judd Hirsch - Julius Levinson
Lisa Jakub - Alicia Casse
Robert Loggia - General William Grey
Mary McDonnell - First Lady Marilyn Whitmore
Bill Pullman - President Thomas J. Whitmore
Randy Quaid - Russell Casse
James Rebhorn - Albert Nimzicki
Will Smith - Steven Hiller
Brent Spinner - Dr. Brackish Okun

Roland Emmerich - Director

DVD Information

I have seen a few different DVD versions of Independence Day.  I have a two disc version that has several extras tied to the making of the movie on the second disc.  I'm not sure what sort of extras are on the other DVD versions.  I have seen the movie on Blu-ray as well.

Independence Day has some flaws, but it is an entertaining movie overall that has held up well and is still worth watching.  Fans of the cast or people who like disaster movies will probably find something to like about the movie.

This review is part of elvisdo's 2010 Canadiana Write Off.  Lisa Jakub, who plays Alicia Casse, is from Toronto.

Will Smith Movie Reviews
Bad Boys II ~ Hancock ~ I Am Legend ~ I, Robot ~ Hitch ~ Men in Black ~ Men in Black II ~ Shark Tale ~

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