Independence Day, the "perfect" movie. Kinda.

Jun 12, 2002 (Updated Jun 14, 2002)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:One problem, one solution. Interesting cast of characters. Advocates world peace.

Cons:Video game ad that gives it away; may be disturbing because of you-know-what.

The Bottom Line: Independence Day, or ID4 as some like to call it, is almost the perfect movie. But you know what they say about perfection...


Up until now, I always thought of Independence Day as one of those "perfect movies". One problem, one solution, and a hell of a presentation. Basically, Independence Day has got all of this. Now I sit here trying to figure out exactly what it seems to be missing that I never noticed before. And dog-gone it, I just can't put my finger on it.

So, perhaps I should take the advice of the Mad Hatter.
Start at the beginning. And when you come to the end, stop.

Independence Day is one of those aliens-attack-Earth movies that is so utterly ordinary that it winds up actually being pretty good. Five minutes into the movie, the alien ship is already fast approaching Earth, and the world is on the verge of unprecedented hysteria.

The movie briefly introduces us to several different groups of characters who will eventually come together to plan the final battle at... where else? Area 51.

The Cast

You couldn't ask for a better cast.

Bill Pullman (who played Lonestar in Spaceballs) struts his stuff as the passive-aggressive President Whitmore. His transformation from passive to aggressive throughout the movie is somewhat standoffish but also a little bit surprising when he does unsheath. As always, he's terrific.

Will Smith is Steven Hiller, a regular old family man in a house on the street, living the American dream. There is much more to this guy than you think though. Just wait till you see him dress for work for the first time. That's all I have to say.

Jeff Goldblum is your obligatory scientific know-it-all who has all the answers and still wears his wedding ring three years after his divorce. (Yeah, that's important.)

Randy Quaid rounds out the main set with a lower-class Dad who has been to Vietnam and currently raises his three kids in a mobile home. A chronic alcoholic, but overall a good guy.

You also have Vivica Fox as Will Smith's girlfriend ("Fox" is right!), Margaret Colin as Constance, David's ex-wife (she's pretty hot too), Mary McDonnell as the First Lady Marilyn Whitmore, and Harry Connick Jr. as Jimmy Wilder, who is by far one of my favorite characters of all.

So here come the ships...

15 miles in width, these gigantic spacecraft come hovering over all the big shot cities. Moscow, New York, Los Angeles, London. They know exactly where to stop to make the biggest impact with their first strike. So away we go.

The biggest thing Independence Day has going for it is that it is dead-on in depicting how people would react to the situation, from the first phone call out of Mexico, to the White House officials running around like chickens with their heads cut off, to the people on the city streets staring up in awe, to the bumper-to-bumper traffic and fender benders. Something about seeing a black kid with a basketball under his arm, and a grown white guy in business attire standing side by side and looking in the same direction that makes you think world peace would be so easy.

To say the special effects are awesome would be an understatement. Back in 1996 when this movie was made, you hardly ever heard about CGI. While some CGI went into the making of Independence Day, all the characters are real, and the aliens are real. The explosions are fantastic, and the shot of Air Force One fleeing a huge explosion is purely extravagant. The fender-benders are even real.

One fender-bender in particular is actually pretty hilarious. A cop car stops in the middle of the road and he gets out; a car hits him from behind, another car hits that one, and this continues for about five or six cars back. Cut back to the cop car, and this huge army truck smashes the cop car from the side and pushes it right off the screen. I have no idea why but I find that one insanely funny.

So what are the gripes, then?

One of the first gripes I have with the VHS tape that we have is that preceding the movie, there is an ad for a video game based on the movie that pretty much gives away the ending right then and there. I don't know about anyone else, but if I were watching this for the first time, that would tick me off.

Secondly, and this is kind of a spoiler but I'll say it anyway. The whole computer virus thing is really kind of, for lack of a better word, dumb. It's like a nuclear missile doesn't make a dent, but a computer virus can solve everything. Maybe if they hadn't done the nuclear missile thing it wouldn't look that way. I just feel kind of funny about seeing computers made out to be the big hero. You'd think a species that were advanced enough to absorb a nuclear missile would be smart enough to have Norton, ya know what I mean?

Of course I guess it would be blasphemy not to mention the correlation that now exists between Independence Day and the events of September 11. (Of course, some might say it's blasphemy to mention it.) Obviously, if you are still sensitive to anything even remotely resembling that day, you don't want to get into something like this. It is a fine "pep-talk" for world peace, since the enemy is an outside force like aliens, which is obviously more easy to destroy than an inner force such as ignorance. A computer virus will never be more effective than a nuke at anything in this world, and neither of those two things will stop ignorance. So, call it hopeful or call it hopeless. But it's your call, not mine.

It is hopeful for me since it is kind of an eye-opener to anyone who doesn't get this whole world segregation thing.

Oh yeah, and it never occurred to me until just now, but there is a shot of David's computer as it is displaying the countdown, and this particular shot starts in the middle of 9 minutes and 12 seconds, and cuts away in the middle of 9:10. You see all of 9:11 in the shot.

Top Ten Quotes

10.) President Whitmore, on the phone to his wife: "I have a confession to make. I'm sleeping next to a beautiful young brunette."

9.) Vivica Fox: "There you go, thinkin' you all that. But you are not as charming as you think you are, sir."
Will Smith: "Yes I am.

8.) First Lady Whitmore: "I didn't know that you'd recognized me."
Vivica Fox: "Well, I didn't wanna say nothing. I voted for the other guy."

7.) David's father: "You punched the president?"
David: "He wasn't the president then."

6.) Steven Hiller: "No, sir, I'm just a little anxious to get up there and whoop E.T.'s ass, that's all."

5.) Steven Hiller: "Don't do nothing stupid over there."
Jimmy: "You know me."
Steven: "That's what I'm talking about!"

4.) Connie: "You could've done anything you wanted, technical research..."
David: "Noo, I was happy where I was.
Connie: "Haven't you ever wanted to be part of something special?"
David: "I was part of something special."

3.) Steven: "You know, this was supposed to be my weekend off, but nooo. You got me out here, dragging your heavy ass through the burning desert with your dreadlocks stickin' out the back of my parachute. You gotta come down here with an attitude, actin' all big and bad. And what the hell is that smell!?!?!?"

2.) Jimmy: "Let's kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy."

1.) President Whitmore's speech: Perhaps it's fate that today is the fourth of July. And you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny or persecution or execution, but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live... to exist. And should we win the day, the fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day that the world declared in one voice, "We will not go quietly into the night, we will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!"


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