Directed and Co-Written by Roland Emmerich
Aliens invade the earth and now the fresh Prince of Bel Air and a few others must save the world.
This here was the resurgence of the disaster film genre but with an alien invasion twist. These types of movies are characterized by massive destructive set pieces and an all-star cast that comes together in the end and that is exactly what happens here. So many iconic locations are wiped out by the alien invaders. I remember how much of a shocker the White House was at the time.
This was a Who’s Who of the day with a cast of known and rising names like Will Smith (Captain Steven Hiller), Bill Pullman (President Thomas J. Whitmore), Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson), Mary McDonnell (First Lady Marilyn Whitmore), Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson-David’s), Randy Quaid (crop duster and abductee Russell Casse), Robert Loggia (US Marine Corps Commandant General William Grey), Harvey Fierstein (Marty Gilbert-David’s coworker), Vivica A. Fox (Jasmine Dubrow-Captain Hiller’s fiance), Brent Spiner (Dr. Brackish Okun- Head of Area 51 Research) and singer Harry Connick Jr. (Captain Jimmy Wilder Captain Hiller’s friend). Will Smith was definitely on his way up and this put him into the superstar realm.
One thing I am curious as to what this movie could have done for Matthew Perry’s career. Originally he was cast in the role of Captain Jimmy Wilder but that part obviously eventually went to Harry Connick Jr. I am not sure why he lost the role.
Despite the themes of alien invasion and mass destruction it is a very fun movie. You are almost hoping for an alien invasion to bring the world together. In the film we come together, and the grim moments set against mass destruction and of saving the human race are punctuated by stuff that looks fun for lack of a better term. It just gives you good vibes all around.
Some have taken swipes at this movie because even though the aliens invade the earth the only destruction you see and the cast is all in the United States and Americans are the heroes. I am not sure if that is necessarily a valid critique. Somebody has to be the hero and somehow I don’t think a bickering United Nations could come together fast enough to solve the problem. I am not talking the UN from a real-world perspective. I just do not see how even in a science-fiction plot like this you could make the whole process realistic. Does the UN suddenly have a standing army? Yes they have peacekeepers but those are donated by each nation. Not the same.
The spaceships are cool and the battle scenes are amazing. The initial dogfight stands out among science fiction battle scenes. I especially like the two-alien design. You have the biomechanical exterior and the smaller interior creature with big floppy tentacles. The film’s production designer Patrick Tatopoulos did an amazing job.
Nothing quite like this movie had been tried before. While there were alien vision films and there were disaster films, the two were put together in a way that was unique among both of those spectacle type films. They merged the two into a film that could easily fit into either genre. And it had no deeper message then we can kick alien butt.
I rewatch this movie way too much but it is a classic. I saw it twice in theaters and that is a rarity for me. Usually once in the theaters is enough for me but this got the honor of twice.
There is a great deal of wish fulfillment going on in this movie. Independence Day is what we would like to see. We as humans want the world coming together in the face of a disaster or just coming together. We all hope that we as a species could unite with common purpose against a common threat. That is the main appeal of this movie and that’s why people still revisit it today.
It is a great piece of science fiction as well as a wonderful piece of wish fulfillment. If only we could come together as easily as they did here…