Will Smith Capt. Steven Hiller
Bill Pullman President Thomas J. Whitmore
Jeff Goldblum David Levinson
Mary McDonnell Marilyn Whitmore
Judd Hirsch Julius Levinson
Margaret Colin Constance Spano
Randy Quaid Russell Casse
Robert Loggia General William Grey
Harvey Fierstein Marty Gilbert
Harry Connick Jr. Capt. Jimmy Wilder
James Rebhorn Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki
Adam Baldwin Maj. Mitchell
Brent Spiner Dr. Brakish Okun
Bill Smitrovich Capt. Watson
James Duval Miguel Casse
Vivica Fox Jasmine Dubrow
Lisa Jakub Alicia Casse
Mae Whitman Patricia Whitmore

Directed by Roland Emmerich. Screenplay by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. 1996. Running time: 145 Minutes.

decpick_1.jpg (15713 bytes)Somebody once remarked that the more interesting people in the music industry aren’t the musicians, but the people behind the scenes – the marketers and managers. These are the real creative ones he argued. The band members and musicians are actually the dull and uninteresting ones. To a large extent this is true of Hollywood as well. Nowadays the marketing exercise and the resultant hype before a movie’s actual release are a lot more interesting than the movie itself. Ever felt the trailer was better than the film itself? Then you know what I’m talking about . . .

In one case in Hollywood, the men behind the scenes and the men ultimately responsible for the end product itself are one in the same. I’m talking of course about the creative team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin who has delivered so many blockbusters recently – StarGate and Independence Day – that Hollywood has entrusted them with supervising the pre-publicity of their films beforehand. They decide which trailers are released when, what the posters should look like, what interviews should be given and so forth beforehand. No matter what you may think of StarGate and Independence Day, I don’t use the word "creative" lightly. When it comes to hype, Emmerich and Devlin are the masters. Witness the current feverish anticipation of Godzilla . . .

In the end nowhere is this more apparent than with Independence Day, another case of "yeah, but the trailer was better." And it was! Audiences cheered at the sight of the White House being blown up by alien invaders. In fact, the advertising was so good that it managed to convince one participant at a newsgroup that the movie couldn’t be bad – in spite of what other people in the newsgroup was saying – even though he hadn’t seen the movie himself yet! Convincing people that a movie can’t possibly be bad, even though they haven’t seen it themselves? Emmerich and Devlin missed their call in life: I’m sure they could have made a bigger fortune at Madison Square than where they are now . . .

Was Independence Day so bad? Well, to be honest the special effects weren’t as good as a lot of people made it out to be. Also, if only the film were as clever as its prerelease publicity! Despite the narrow-minded American patriotism of the movie (for an extended discussion read the June Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick of the Month), the film is awash in stupidities:

  • A spaceship about a "fourth the size of the moon" we are informed is approaching the earth. Does its gravitational pull cause tidal waves like an object of that size would? Noooo . . .
  • The Jeff Goldblum character discovers that the aliens are in fact using earth satellite transmissions to time their eventual attack. Why they should do this is unclear – don’t they have their own equipment?
  • Not only that, but the Goldblum character is able to predict when they would attack. Very weird that: that aliens from another solar system would be using minutes and hours like we do. I suppose that their planet by some incredible coincidence also takes 365 days or so to revolve around their sun . . .
  • The only way aliens, which have the technology to have traveled what must be thousands of light-years, have of destroying something is by hovering a few kilometers right above it and then firing its lasers. I suppose that technological progress doesn’t necessarily mean that one should develop guided missiles before discovering interstellar flight . . .
  • Somehow aliens with the resources to move a spaceship "one fourth the size of the moon" between stars would be interested in the mineral wealth the earth has to offer. Can these aliens even spell "economic viability"?
  • And then there’s ultimate unlikelihood: that aliens this sufficiently advanced would fall for a scheme so half-baked as the one hatched by the Goldblum character. Not to mention the fact that they use software compatible with 20th century software . . .

And that’s just a few of the plot holes and idiocies Independence Day foisted upon moviegoers. We won’t even be going be into the various characters and their travails or as to why no one seems particularly perturbed by a huge chunk of the planet’s population and cities being blasted to smithereens . . .


Copyright © December 1997 James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page




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