It’s not very often that I remember an exact date I saw a movie, but I saw this movie on July 3rd, 1996. I know that because the movie came out on July 2nd, 1996, and I remember being in the theater and getting so pumped when I saw the date up on-screen of the day I was seeing it. That date only happens one time a year and it was the day I was seeing it! Holy shit! Also, I remember getting the poster for this movie and rather than it having the full title on there, it just said “ID4“. Guys, you do realize there’s no 4 in the title? So if you abbreviate it like that, it makes no sense? I’m pretty sure I’ve watched this movie every first week of July, and this year was no exception. I think this might have even been the first VHS I ever purchased with my own money, because it was released around the time of my birthday, so I even got the version that came with a holographic lenticular cover. THAT WAS SO COOL IN THE 90’S!
I DARE YOU TO LISTEN TO THIS SPEECH AND NOT GO OUT AND KILL EVERY FUCKING ALIEN YOU SEE. I’m not talking about people from other countries, I mean the outer space kind.
Something is interrupting a bunch of satellites and shit and then we find out it’s aliens. FUCKING ALIENS! We also know that it’s aliens because they park their spaceships over a bunch of major cities across the world. Some people are pumped, others are freaking out. On July 2nd, the spaceships that have been hovering over these cities start BLOWING THE FUCK OUT OF EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE IS SUPER-BUMMED. Most people are just trying to run away from the aliens but no one really knows where to go. The President (Bill Pullman) is informed about Area 51 and the spaceship being held there, so him and his buddies go hang out there with Brent Spiner. While this is happening, Will Smith is fighting aliens with a jet, but eventually resorts to punching an alien in the face and drags it through the desert until Randy Quaid picks him up and everyone goes to party at Area 51. Everyone’s all chilling and shit, and on July 3rd, Jeff Goldblum realizes that he can use his computer to give the aliens the Y2K virus or something and then they can get blown up. Bill Pullman fucking LOVES this idea, so he gives a speech on July 4th about celebrating a holiday that day and how it’s no longer freedom from Euros but also freedom for all humans from aliens. I think he says something about celebrating “Freedom Day of the World”, but I could be wrong. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum give the aliens the virus, Bill Pullman and Randy Quaid blow up the aliens, and everyone’s happy. Well, everyone except for the dead aliens.
I remember watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel about the making of this movie and its special effects. A documentary about the current state of special effects would just be nerds drinking Red Bull and sitting at a computer.
WHY DON’T THEY MAKE MOVIES LIKE THIS ANYMORE?! Wait, I guess they did, because Roland Emmerich made some movies after this one, just none of them were as successful. It was probably because Godzilla bombed so hard, followed by The Patriot not really getting anyone stoked, that by the time he made a movie as ridiculous as The Day After Tomorrow in 2004, no one was really interested in his unique brand of apocalyptic blend of action, science fiction, and comedy. I’d even say that Independence Day might be the pinnacle of action movie blockbusters of the 1990’s. It certainly owes a bit of thanks to the success it had that summer with Mission: Impossible and Twister to show its trailer in front of. These movies weren’t the action movies of the 80’s, which were either PG rated family adventures, or the were rated R and had too much violence to appeal to a wide audience. Independence Day started a summer tradition of Will Smith movies, and despite this one not necessarily being the most financially successful, but it was definitely the catalyst that brought back big budget summer blockbusters.
I know it’s funny to tease Mr. Smith by misquoting him as “Welcome to Earf” but must we really mock someone who punches an alien, lights a cigar, and says, “Now thash what I call a closhe encounter”?
Maybe I’m alone in my thoughts about this movie sparking an action movie resurgence, so all that aside, is this movie even any good? Being an American, I can’t really say how foreigners might feel about the victory for humanity coinciding with our holiday celebrating freedom, but do I even care about how non-Americans feels about this? I don’t think any non-Americans even read this, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. What DOES matter is the chemistry between Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, as well as the chemistry between Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. In other words, HOW AWESOME IS JEFF GOLDBLUM!? The humor and timing of those comedic moments are what really make this movie hold up with repeat viewings. At the time of its release, the special effects were what blew everyone’s fucking minds, and I guess they hold up somewhat well. The reason being that this movie came out a few years before CGI took over everything, and the CGI in this movie looks pretty cartoony, but combined with the practical effects of shit blowing up over and over and over again, you appreciate that much more the look of practical effects as well as give credit to people who built all those miniatures of buildings that were just all blown to shit. Something that I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of is that my ratings aren’t necessarily indicative of the overall quality of a film, but rather its entertainment value. With that in mind, I look forward to a time when some sort of TV network in the future does 24 hour marathons of this movie on future Independence Days and I get to be the crotchety old weirdo who watches every showing and my grandkids ask everyone when precisely I lost my mind.
Wolfman Moon Scale