It’s been a good 5 years since the last time I saw “Independence Day,” the ultimate bloated, middle-of-summer popcorn flick.
The best thing I can say about it now is that, on its own terms, it’s a successful movie, which is probably why the movie made a killing at the box office to the horror of many a film snob. And while watching it by myself in the dead of winter is not the ideal circumstance, I still noticed a few things worth sharing.
1) That movie is waaaaay too long. And it keeps Will Smith in the shadows for an unbearably long while. I ended up watching it in four shifts; three hour runs, and then one hour long push at the finish. I hadn’t planned that, but it was just too much movie for one sitting, but that first half-hour, absent the Smith-ian charm, is just plain brutal. Poor form.
2) But when Smith does show up, damn, it’s becomes 150% better. He knows how to bring the action-hero swagger to the screen. No wonder his films always make money.
3) The special effects still look pretty cool, even 12 years later, which provides a convenient segue to my last point…
4) While it will never be a considered a great movie, it’s better now then when it was released.
Let me explain that last point a bit better.
We live in a post- world, and “Independence Day” was made in a pre- world. As I was watching the aliens attack our beloved cities, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., it was hard to keep myself in the movie. I kept flashing back to scenes of a real end-of-the-world scenario that took place not too long ago.
In our post- world, “Independence Day” taps in to that need we felt (we feel) for a simple solution for our national tragedy; they bad and we good, we destroy them and we save ourselves from certain doom. President Whitmore’s (Bill Pullman) rousing speech before the last-ditch effort to defeat the aliens is not just empty rhetoric anymore; it’s the victory speech we never got, will never get, in real life.
It’s unearned pathos, but damn if I didn’t feel the pride in my countrymen, my fellow humans, when good ole fashioned American ingenuity saved the day. I couldn’t stop it; I was happy that WE brought that superior force to its knees (or equivalent body part).
As I said up top, it’s a successful movie, but in our post- world, it has transcended its humble origins to become a fairy tale for our times. Enjoy it when you can; and don’t forget the popcorn.
“Independence Day” (1996)
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich
Starring: Will Smith (Captain Steven Hiller)
Bill Pullman (Pres. Tom Whitmore)
Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson)