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Independence Day

A movie directed by Roland Emmerich

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Independence Day is a Wild Ride

  • Jul 2, 2006
Pros: Action; special effects; Will Smith.

Cons: Nothing really.

The Bottom Line: Independence Day is a fun if not terrifying movie to watch.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

So here it is once again Saturday night, my wife has left me to fend for myself to quilt of all things. I must be getting boring in my old age! Anyway thank god for Dish Network, HBO and the Saturday night movie. First, there was Must Love Dogs (2005), a purely formulaic (predictable) romantic comedy that I usually do not waste my time on, but for love of craft (Epinions review) I decided to watch; I was not overly impressed. Following that movie (my wife is now playing scrabble on her computer) came a now classic movie, the doomsday thriller Independence Day (1996).

I remember the buzz surrounding this movie when it was in theatrical release, and I had to go see it; it is one of those movies that have to be experienced on the large screen. So I saw it then, and I have seen it several times since then, including tonight.

Written, produced, and directed by Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, Stargate, Eight Legged Freaks) Independence Day starts on the moon, or above the moon I should say as a larger than life black space craft (one-third the size of the moon as a matter of fact) slowly passes over the surface heading towards Earth. As the craft exposes itself the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project picks up its radio chatter and of course is flabbergasted to find out the source is hovering above the Earth’s moon. Shortly thereafter television and radio broadcast go haywire, fuzzy, and out of sync.

As the huge craft draws closer to Earth the Secretary of Defense is notified, he in turn notified President Thomas J. Whitmore portrayed by Bill Pullman (A League of Their Own, Wyatt Earp, 29 Palms), who happens to be an ex-fighter pilot. The president wanting to give peace a chance, dithers while the aliens draw closer still to Earth hijack our communications satellites and disperse a multitude of baby craft, each 15 miles across, which take up station over major population centers, including New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, London, Beijing, and Berlin to mention a few.

Meanwhile In New York City, a physicist and MIT graduate David Levinson portrayed by Jeff Goldblum (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Earth Girls are Easy, The Fly), who currently works for the local cable company figures out that the aliens plan to attack. He surmises—by analyzing the transmissions between their cable television satellites—that the aliens are using the satellites cable feeds to communicate with one another around the globe and coordinate an attack on Earth. He calls his ex-wife Constance Spano portrayed by Margaret Colin (The Butcher’s Wife, Chicago Hope, Unfaithful), who works for the President. She of course hangs up on him, forcing him to drive to Washington D.C. with his father Julius portrayed by Judd Hirsch (Taxi, A Beautiful Mind), before the aliens attack in hope of winning an audience with the President who he once engaged in a fist fight with.

The president, who at first was committed to saying in the White House, in order to show strength, believes Levinson and there is a scramble to leave the capital nine minutes before the aliens are slated to attack. So with his loyal former commander General William Grey portrayed by Robert Loggia (Prizzi’s Honor, That’s Life!, Gladiator) flees the capital in Air Force One flying out of DC just as the city disappears in flames. First they chart a course to NORAD where the Vice President and Joint Chiefs of Staff are hanging out, but the aliens destroy that undisclosed mountain retreat, so they detour to the ever elusive and mysterious Area 51 in Nevada. Once there they find that the government has known for quite some time that we are not alone. There is indeed a secret program heretofore unknown to the President, led by a wild eyed, eccentric Dr. Brackish Okun portrayed by Brett Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Threshold, The Aviator), who has been studying the aliens for forty years.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Captain Steve Hiller (USMC) portrayed by Will Smith (Six Degrees of Separation, Bad Boys, Men in Black) and his girlfriend Jasmine portrayed by Vivica A. Fox (Soul Food, Batman & Robin, Kill Bill Volume I) awaken to find one of the large, black alien ship hovering over Los Angels. While everyone flees Hiller, an F-18 fighter pilot, heads back to his base El Toro to help defend the nation. Jasmine heads to work as an exotic dancer.

Once back on the base, Hiller’s squadron is given the task of attacking the alien ship over Los Angles. He flies in with his wing man Captain Jimmy Wilder portrayed by Harry Connick Jr. (Memphis Bell, Copycat, Basic) in what turns out to be a useless dogfight since the alien ship—mothership and fighters—have shields. Most of the squadron is shot down; including Hiller and Wilder, but Hiller survives and recovers an alien.

In one final plot-line a drunken ex-Vietnam War pilot portrayed by Randy Quaid (The Last Picture Show, Of Mice and Men, Brokeback Mountain), who claims to have been abducted by aliens, leads a group of RV driving survivors across the California and Nevada desert to Area 51 where Quaid is instrumental in the final assault on the aliens.

In crafting Independence Day Roland Emmerich barrowed a lot from what was. By that I mean there are very familiar themes throughout the film; e.g. the young idealistic, if not somewhat naïve President who served in a recent war; the cliché ex-military drunk; the cocky current fighter jock; and an ending lifted straight from the notebook of Orson Wells. But this in no way took away from my enjoyment of the film. Emmerich did a great job of building suspense into the beginning of the movie and making the aliens terrifying.

The action once it started was almost non-stop, though I was hoping the that destruction of more cities could have been depicted; as it was the annihilation of New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angels was realistic if not a bit unnerving. Most of the special effects were top-notch with the exception of the live alien; parts of him seem, rather 1960’s.

Will Smith, as he is wont to do, stole the move with his high energy, street wise and cocky bravado. It helps of course that the man is buff. In sharp contrast Bill Pullman plays his character in a drastically understated manner; so much so, that he almost disappears altogether. Vivica A. Fox makes her big budget debut in this in this film; at least this is the first time I saw her, and makes a big splash as the alluring ghetto-wise African American single mother (cliché) who becomes the heroine of the tale.

Final Read: Independence Day is a fun if not terrifying movie to watch. Like its predecessor War of The Worlds from with it barrowed, Independence Day is a wild ride and although there was little character development there didn’t have to be; the action was a character all its own and that was very well developed indeed.

Principle Actors: Bill Pullman, Mary McDonnell, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Will Smith, Vivica A. Fox, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, Margaret Colin.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Format: Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Limited Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.
Number of Discs: (1)
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi destruction and violence.
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: May 11 2004
Run Time: 153 Minutes
DVD Features:
o Available Subtitles: English, Spanish;
o Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround);
o Commentary by: Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (scene specific)Unknown
o Format, special effects supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith Unknown Format;
o Multi-story option: Viewer can select original theatrical release or special edition release with 9 minutes of added footage


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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More Independence Day (movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . January 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
All this money they spend and what do we get? A reworked ending of WAR OF THE WORLDS! Boo! Hiss!
review by . April 19, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
"Independence Day" could have been a great film. It's got the huge explosions that draw in big summer crowds, it's loaded with fodder for popcorn popping, but after that...Honestly, this isn't a terrible movie. It will hold your attention for the entire duration of the film. The visuals, especially the opening sequence showing you just how tiny the moon and our little neck of the universe can be, are fantastic. The special effects are top-notch and the acting is over-the-top, loud-mouthed and fun. …
About the reviewer
Vincent Martin ()
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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Independence Day
(also known by its promotional abbreviation ID4) is a 1996 science fiction film about a hostile alien invasion of Earth, focusing on a disparate group of individuals and families as they converge in the Nevada desert and, along with the rest of the human population, participate in a last-chance retaliation on July 4 – the same date as the Independence Day holiday in the United States. It was directed by Roland Emmerich, who co-wrote the script with producer Dean Devlin.

While promoting Stargate in Europe, Emmerich came up with the idea for the film when fielding a question about his own belief in the existence of alien life. He and Devlin decided to incorporate a large-scale attack when noticing that aliens in most invasion films travel long distances in outer space only to remain hidden when reaching Earth. Principal photography for the film began in July 1995 in New York City, and the film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.

The film was scheduled for release on July 3, 1996, but due to the high level of anticipation for the movie, many theaters began showing it on the evening of July 2, 1996, the same day the film begins. The film's combined domestic and international box office gross is $816,969,268, which at one point was the second-highest worldwide gross of all-time. It holds the 25th highest worldwide gross of a movie all-time, and was at the forefront of the large-scale disaster film and science fiction resurgences of the ...
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Cast: Randy Quaid, Rance Howard, Leland Orser, Frank Welker, Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Anthony Crivello, Bill Smitrovich, John Capodice, Robert Loggia, Michael Winther, Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox, Jerry Dunphy, Richard Speight, Jr., Jay Acovone, James Rebhorn, Margaret Colin, John McLaughlin, Thom Barry, Adam Baldwin, Giuseppe Andrews, Greg Collins, Nelson Mashita, Jack Moore, Jim Piddock, Malcom Danare, David Pressman, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Deenie Dakota, Thomas F. Duffy, Kimberly Beck, Bobby Hosea, Jana Marie Hupp, Lisa Jakub, Tim Kelleher, Carlos Lacamara, Dan Lauria, Jon Mathews, John Bennett Perry, Jeff Phillips, Robert Pine, George Putnam, Elston Ridgle, Raphael Sbarge, Pat Skipper, Brent Spiner, Lisa Star, John Storey, Mark Thompson, Lyman Ward, Mirron E. Willis, Arthur A. Brooks, Harvey Fierstein, Barry Nolan, Frank Novak, James Wong, Robin Groth, Richard Pachorek, Kevin Sifuentes, Ross Elliot Bagley, James Duval, Andrew Keegan, Mae Whitman, Devon Gummersall, Kiersten Warren, Joey Andrews, Joe Fowler, Randy Oglesby, Ross Lacy, John Bradley, Fred Barnes, Wayne Wilderson, Adam Tomei, Sayed Badreya, Eleanor Clift, Joyce Cohen, Jack Germond, Steve Giannelli, James J. Joyce, Morton Kondracke, Carlos Lara, Michael G. Moertl, Mike Monteleone, Julie Moran, Marisa Morell, Vivian Palermo, Matt Pashkow, Eric Paskel, Lee Strauss, Troy Willis, Eric Michael Zee, Arthur Brooks
Director: Roland Emmerich
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: July 2, 1996
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Runtime: 2hrs 25min
Studio: Centropolis Entertainment, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
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