Reviewed by: Paul T. Andersen
Looking for an exhilarating, fast-action, suspenseful, large-scale special effects movie? “Independence Day” is a blast—reminiscent of some of the spectacular films of days gone by. This is Earth versus aliens—a sci-fi disaster film, complete with the latest (1996), state-of-the-art effects and sky-darkening 15-mile-wide ships.
“Independence Day” has a relatively big look, shot in locations around the world with a large, talented cast of characters. As might be expected, you won’t find any Christian theme here, except a plot that promotes personal heroism, self-sacrifice and cooperation among peoples. And, of course, the film’s premise is based on the modern mythology of our culture, the assumed existence of extraterrestrial beings (and we are certainly not talking angels here). Incidentally, Director/Producer Roland Emmerich says he does not believe in aliens, but simply enjoys designing fantasies that ask exciting “What if” questions—like “What if you walked out of your door and these enormous spaceships hovered over every city in the world?”
“Independence Day” combines elements of “The War of the Worlds” and “Star Wars.” The advanced technology aliens (only seen briefly) are horrid, tentacled creatures who descend “like locusts” on planets to ravage their natural resources. When they arrive without warning on Earth, the skies ignite. Cities are overcome with fear. Massive destruction follows… soon whole cities lie in ruins.
The film contains very little crudity, no sex, and no nudity, except a short scene showing a some exotic dancers in revealing costumes at a sleazy nightclub. Also, star Will Smith is shown getting out of bed with his girlfriend (whom he later marries), and apparently urinating while looking out of his bathroom window (not graphic). Although the movie contains some profanity, integral to the action, the language is surprisingly tame compared to that in most recent Hollywood productions. The violence is almost entirely non-personal, depicting the mass destruction of cities and crowds by hovering alien ships, plus aerial combat scenes of the “Star Wars” type. This film is not for young children, due to the intense action, awesome destruction, very scary-looking aliens, and a short, slimy operation on an injured alien; all would likely produce nightmares in little ones.
As might be expected in this almost comic-book-like genre, there are weak spots and clichés in the script, but it’s all fun nonetheless if you are willing not to hyper-analyze the story. “Independence Day” is an entertaining mix of action, frequent humor, suspense, and a happy ending. It looks best on big screen. This is one of the few movies where I have seen the entire audience break into a spontaneous cheer at the end!
[Stars include, Will Smith (who plays a wise-cracking, confident character, a bit like Harrison Ford’s Hans Solo in “Star Wars”), Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Randy Quaid, and Brent Spiner (“Data” on “Star Trek the Next Generation”).]
Year of Release—1996