by Ryan Arthur
You saw the trailers during the SuperBowl...well-known landmarks being blown to hell, ominous looking spaceships looming overhead...it looked kinda cool, and hey, the fact that the Hollywood hype machine was in overdrive in March for the July opening meant it was gonna be big, right?Big does does not equal good.
"Go ahead, admit it. You hated it, too."
Plot: Aliens invade, blowing stuff up with the spare gun from the Death Star. Apparently only the superior Americans can get their shit together to fight back, because hey, Americans rule (screw you, France!). Rag-tag Americans, led by Bill "I'm tryin' to act serious, not goofy" Pullman and The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, try to put a stop the the alien carnage with the help of cable guy...uh, sorry, "broadcast technician" and brainiac Jeff Goldblum. Assists come from stock characters played by Robert Loggia (playing "The Gruff General"), Randy Quaid ("drunk Vietnam vet who swears he was abducted by aliens...no, really"), Vivica A. Fox ("stripper with heart of gold who only does it to support her son") and Harry Connick, Jr. ("sidekick destined to be dead by the end of hour one"). Computer generated action and crappy writing follow. Alien mothership goes boom, fireworks go off, American flags wave, and the rest of the world bows to the good old US of A's superior wisdom and firepower.
Independence Day was the summer blockbuster of 1996, the movie countless people flocked to. Because they were sheep.
It's a virtual retread of every flying saucer movie of the 1950's and beyond. Only flashier. The general moviegoing public went en masse, drawn in by the prospect of seeing the White House and the Empire State Building blown up. They somehow sat through stereotypes of Jews, rednecks, cute kids, homosexuals, Arabs, beady-eyed government-types (so maybe that's not a stereotype) and so on. They somehow sat through stilted dialogue and lame one-liners. They somehow sat through the horrible "acting" of Harry Connick, Jr. for fuck's sake. They even sat through Roger Ebert's favorite movie cliche': the ominous red digital readout clock of doom, which counts down to our destruction in our time, rather than alien time. Convenient, no?
"Oh, but the effects, the effects, man, they wuz bitchin..."
Yep. The mother ships were big, dark, fairly non-descript and never came into the bottom half of the frame. It's a closeup of a giant blackhead. The smaller, drone fighter ships released from the big blackhead? Little gray blobs of snot. That shoot lasers. I'm sure that's a nightmare for some kid who picks his nose. Nevermind that the big bad aliens could lay waste to the planet and then basically strip mine it (like they plan to, which you'd know if you can actually get to the point where one alien devulges the specifics of the master plan...it's some weird cross between the Vulcan mind-meld and a Bond villian spilling the beans). No sir, they'd rather blow up Scenic Points Of Interest, although how they'd know the siginicance of any of them is anyone's guess. Like aliens would go to New York. During the summer. At this hour.
"But yer not sposta question that stuff, man..."
Right. I'm just supposed to nod and move along, like the characters in the film. I'm not supposed to mourn my losses, I'm not supposed to help my neighbors...I mean, who's got time to do all that when there's aliens ass (they do have asses, right?) to be kicked? No, wait, we don't even need to kick their asses, because we'll just give them a computer virus! Rock on! Nerds rule! Thank you, Jeff Goldblum! Sign me up for a tangerine iMac, pronto!
Do they not have VirusScan on the alien homeworld?
And speaking of the aliens...Jesus. A cross between a Predator, an Alien, an octopus and the one member of Kid N' Play with the six inch flat top. That's what they come up with? The "they," if you weren't aware, is the writer-director duo of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the guys responsible for such well-thought-out fare as Universal Soldier, Stargate and, oh yes, Godzilla. And these guys haven't got the lifetime achievement Oscar? I know I'm shocked.
I'd like to tell you that the acting made up for the poorly written script. I'd like to, but I can't. Goldblum plays the genius as a stuttering sort (Goldblum-like, one would say) and is arguably the best in his role. The Fresh Prince was a better tough guy in Bad Boys, and a better wiseass in Men In Black. He's adequate here. Mary McDonnell is the First Lady, is arguably the best actor of the bunch, and she dies. Just take the paycheck, Mary. It'll be better next time around. The other end of the acting spectrum has Quaid, Connick and Judd Hirsch, playing Goldblum's dad and hamming it up bigtime. Imagine the suckiness. Try not to laugh when Pullman gives his presidential, crowd-riling speech. I kept flashing back to him in SpaceBalls.
Look, countless people liked this movie. I didn't. Even taking it for what it was, I couldn't look past the fact that it was a film of just moments, not a series of moments, strung together, no matter how loosely, that told a compelling story. Eye candy's great, but it's gotta have at least some substance.Big. Loud. Dumb. And a box office smash. As summer fare goes, it was perfect. But man, did it suck.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=217&reviewer=7
originally posted: 05/23/00 14:27:21