STARRING: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, Harvey Fierstein, Harry Connick Jr.

1996, 145 Minutes, Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Description: On July 2nd, communications systems worldwide are sent into chaos. A number of enormous objects are on a collision course with Earth that are revealed to be gigantic alien spacecraft. After attempts to communicate with the aliens go nowhere an ex-scientist turned cable technician discovers that the aliens are going to attack. On July 3rd, the aliens destroy New York, Los Angeles and Washington. The survivors devise a plan to fight back and July 4th becomes the day humanity will fight for its freedom. July 4th is their Independence Day...

The hype paid off well: Independence Day is the sort of movie it seem everybody has seen. Science fiction has been good to 20th Century Fox. Remember the Star Wars movies and the Alien movies? I'm actually surprised that Fox doesn't make more of them . . .

So did Independence Day live up to its hype? Well, that depends on what you were expecting. If you were expecting the kind of film that is meant to be enjoyed with a large popcorn in one hand and an even larger Coke in the other while putting the brain in neutral, then you no doubt wouldn't be disappointed. There's certainly enough fast-paced action, laughs, special effects, stereotype characters, clichés and a loud enough soundtrack.

If you were expecting something more . . . Then well, you're most likely to be disappointed. Having seen Stargate recently for the second time (don't ask why!) it's easy to see that it's made by the same director, namely Roland Emmerich. Independence Day (like Stargate) is a pastiche of several movies and ideas.

"Take along a barf bag for those excruciating patriotic scenes!"

Really, for such a high-tech special effects movie, this is really an old-fashioned affair: it's V meets War of the Worlds. It also borrows liberally from every disaster movie imaginable. It is, after all, a sci-fi plot line that's almost as old as the genre itself - the earth being invaded by aliens. There's hardly an original bone in this movie's body - even down to the Star Wars-like attack-on-the-Death Star finale. Still, audiences flocked to see this one.

Maybe the attraction (as many commentators have never tired of pointing out) lies in having adversaries that's truly evil (especially in the shortage of bad guys that followed the end of the Cold War) and audiences like things in black and white, but that's probably not it. Like most summer holiday hits pointing out plot holes (why don't the aliens simply nuke earth from outer space? Surely if they have the technology to have traveled trillions of light years to get here that would be no problem?) is pointless. Switch your brain down and enjoy it. And take along a barf bag for those excruciating American patriotic scenes . . .

Still, leaving the theatre I couldn't help wondering whether that big budget couldn't have been ploughed into a more worthy project and suddenly I felt like rereading Arthur C Clarke's Childhood's End - that sci-fi classic that gave a totally different twist to giant UFOs hovering over the earth. And that was written in the 1950s!


# 49
of the
Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies
of all time



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