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INDEPENDENCE DAY Revisited

Just what the aliens ordered on the 4th of July weekend

By Scott Collura     July 04, 2003


The Mothership lands on Earth in 1996's ID4
© 1996 Centropolis Entertainment

It's the Fourth of July weekend! No work, no school... nothing to do but hang out and pass the time mindlessly. And while the more ambitious among us might prefer to actually do something this weekend like maybe go to the beach, have a barbecue, or even get some exercise the couch potatoes of the world know that holidays are always the best excuse to zone out in front of the TV.


Many holidays have very specific films attached to them (IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE anyone?), but good old Independence Day never really found a flick to call it's own until 1996 when a small little picture that happened to be called INDEPENDENCE DAY made its debut. You know the one. Aliens attack; the world shudders. Jeff Goldblum teams up with the Fresh Prince; the world cheers. Rewind and play again.


So ever since the picture hit theaters, and then video, and subsequently DVD, the beach-phobic among us have had something to do on the Fourth rather than watch the Sci-Fi Channel's TWILIGHT ZONE marathon (after all, how many times can you sit through EYE OF THE BEHOLDER?).


But I sense some doubt among the more emotionally healthy and physically active out there. Still itching to go swimming and play volleyball today? Then this is my last chance to convince you submitted for your approval, why INDEPENDENCE DAY (ID4 for short) is a great Fourth of July movie!



1. The World Is Destroyed And We Still Win!


Back in the day, before CGI and advanced visual effects, audiences had to content themselves with minor displays of armageddon a desolate city street here, a half-buried Statue Of Liberty there. But ID4 gives us triple our money in devastation and then some. Not only do we see New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles destroyed, but we also are treated to glimpses of mass panic and madness all around the world. And to top it all off, after Goldblum's character causes the alien invaders' ships to malfunction they all crash into what is left of the global cities beneath them! It's a win-win situation for everyone though, for while civilization as we know it is more or less destroyed, humanity nonetheless prevails just in time for the Major League Baseball All-Star Break!


2. There's Romance And Tears Amongst The Action!


If your significant other is less than thrilled at the prospect of "another space movie," then rest assured that all the chick-flick moments that will be needed to acquiesce his or her fears are here. Does Will Smith get reunited with his lost love? Hell, yeah they even get married before the big attack! Will Bill Pullman's President Whitmore and his young daughter see their dying wife/mom one last time? Just long enough to evoke tears throughout the audience! And Goldblum? He and his dad have several tender moments, not to mention Jeff's being reunited with his lost love. It's more than enough to keep your wife (or husband) quiet during the good parts!


3. Not Much Makes Sense, But It Doesn't Matter!


How can Will Smith's supersonic jet maneuver through canyons and mountains? What's the Empire State Building doing in the middle of a major avenue when it actually stands between streets? What happens to all the innocent souls who happen to be beneath the alien ships when Goldblum causes them to crash to Earth? No one tells the President that Area 51 exists, even when threatened with alien extermination? Many such glaring moments of illogic can be found in INDEPENDENCE DAY, but what do you expect? Scientific accuracy? This flick is all about explosions, space battles, and fun and that's exactly what you get.


4. Data Shows Up!


Once everyone's favorite android shows up in ID4, you just know you're in for a good time. And no, I'm not talking about Haley Joel Osment the android in question would be none other than Brent Spiner, the actor who plays STAR TREK's resident automaton, Lieutenant Commander Data. Spiner appears midway through the picture as Dr. Brakish Okun, the keeper of the torch at the highly guarded and secretive Area 51 base where it turns out that, yes, the United States government has been hiding alien bodies for the past fifty years. But the real fun here is Spiner's wacky hippie of a scientist, so enthralled by the "nifty" gadgets the aliens have left behind and so immersed in his work that he eventually winds up possessed by an alien telepath! Things only go downhill for Dr. Okun from there, but Spiner's more-than-a-cameo amounts to one of the funniest aspects of the film.


5. The President Earns His Salary For A Change!


Bill Pullman's President Whitmore is the young, handsome type. So young, in fact, that when it comes time to set out and battle the aliens in the climactic finale, Whitmore calls upon his previous expertise as a fighter pilot and climbs into the cockpit of a jet to participate! This is the sort of presidential generosity that only Harrison Ford can understand. Alas, one can only wonder if our real-life president, good ol' George W. a former pilot himself would similarly rise to the occasion. At least if Al Gore was president we'd know we could always build a new prez if the old one broke.


6. Jeff Goldblum Gets To Save The Planet!


After two decades of appearances in truly memorable sci-fi films, everyone's favorite anxiety-ridden player, Jeff Goldblum, finally gets to do good by the human race in ID4. First he played the pod-bound Jack Bellicec in 1978's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS remake before filling the shoes of ill-fated Seth Brundle in Cronenberg's 1986 THE FLY. Finally, Goldblum suffered through EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY where he had to wear blue fur and JURASSIC PARK where his character spent half the film with a broken leg (and the gloomy prospect of having to appear in the sequel). But finally in INDEPENDENCE DAY Goldblum gets the chance to be the hero of the film as his character decimates the entire fleet of invading spacecraft with a computer virus! I guess even aliens can't resist the prospect of Anna Kournikova pictures.


7. Cool Fireworks!


Who needs bottle rockets or jumping jacks? I mean, where else can you expect to find such awesome fireworks than in a Hollywood sci-fi/action bonanza? Space battles, nuclear missiles, exploding motherships! And you don't even have to worry about Mom yelling that you could lose a finger!

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