Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day

On our around this day 20 years ago Independence Day opened in theaters. Along with kicking off director Roland Emmerich's long-running fascination with disaster porn (and its diminishing returns), Independence Day raised the stakes for summer blockbusters.

When a series of giant alien spaceships begin hovering over major cities the world's populace is unsure of what to make of things. While some celebrate the coming of alien life, one scientist (Jeff Goldblum) is concerned with transmissions between the ships which he discovers are a countdown clock to a coordinated attack. The world as as we knew it was over.

With the help of the scientist's grumbling father (Judd Hirsch), a cocky pilot (Will Smith), and a ragtag fleet put together by the President of the United States (Bill Pullman), July 4th would mark the day where the Earth fought back and won its freedom.

My initial viewing of Independence Day took place at a midnight screening. Despite its flaws (cardboard characters, the disappointing reveal of the aliens at Area 51, the jingoism unapologetic pro-America overtones, and that stupid computer virus) the film works both as a cinematic event and a summer popcorn flick. Sure, there's plenty to roll your eyes at years later including the subplots of the First Lady (Mary McDonnell) and (to a lesser extent) the love story between Smith and Vivica A. Fox, and the dumb computer virus (sure is convenient the super-advanced aliens were using compatible technology with 90s Earth computers). Yeah, I mentioned it more than once. That plot hole is bad enough to bash twice. But, like Armageddon, Independence Day is just good dumb fun.

Memorable more for its destruction than its story, Independence Day showcased the destruction of cities around the world for the first time on such a scale. Sure the survival and need to fight back have a nice moral to them, but the script isn't that strong and does suffer from multiple viewings. Still, as a movie event Independence Day did exactly what it set out to do (even if those shocking moments lose some of their effectiveness over time).

Released several times on Blu-ray and DVD over the years, the new 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition includes audio commentary by Emmerich and writer/producer Dean Devlin, the movie's original ending, a gag reel, photo gallery, trailers, fake news footage from the film, a making of featurette, and a collection of the film's big explosions including the destruction of the White House.

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