Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s Independence Day may be one of the movies guilty of leading to the state of the big ‘sci-fi’ effects blockbusters we have today, but looking back on it now, it remains something of a joy of striking a balance between the incredibly cheesy, painfully jingoistic and the downright entertaining like few other films manage.
Due to my age, and the involvement of Jeff Goldblum, it stands, in my mind, alongside Jurassic Park as a movie that has left a major mark on cinema that can be clearly seen in movies like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and many other sub-par effects blockbusters.
But, where ID:4 (as it was oddly abbreviated to at the time) and Jurassic Park stand above these others is the sense of genuine fun and the odd sensation that, despite all we know of cinema, we might not make it through this one.
There is, of course, much to ridicule here. The American’s are portrayed as the only country with the ability to organise a worldwide counter strike, the other nationalities are stereotyped to such a degree that it seems everyone else is still living in the 1940s and the dialogue is so cliché ridden that it sounds like a ‘best of’ of blockbuster cinema.
Also there are moments where a sense that this is some kind of huge propaganda piece for ‘Imperial America’ comes across, but, somewhere in this mire, some kind of magic happens.
This maybe a generational thing as this is one of the first big budget movies I remember being genuinely excited about seeing in the cinema, in the way that I still get, so despite all the cheesiness, I was, and still am, pulled along by the goings on in the way genuinely good movies should.
The thing that still stands out as in this film are the special effects. While there are certainly moments of relatively early CGI that jar it is clear many of the big moments are, at least partially, practical. This gives the whole thing a sense of weight and ‘reality’ often missing from wholly computer generated effects sequences, so the moment when LA, Washington and New York go bang are centrepieced by models of The Empire State Building, The White House, and that big skyscraper in LA really going bang which is a hugely impressive sight.
With Bill Pullman’s president delivering a pep talk to end all pep talks and Randy Quaid’s suddenly reformed alcoholic saluting thin air as the film hits its climax Independence Day should be seen as a high point in a kind of cinema that has taken over multiplexes but rarely been bettered – and of course it should all be taken with a great big dollop of fun.