by Rory, the Bad Genious Summer Blockbuster
Let me take you back to July 2, 1996. Bill Clinton was running the country, Michael Jordan had just won another championship, and there were ruminations of a crazy dance called "The Macarena", which was about to take storm. America was feeling great. And, with that in mind, audiences flocked to Roland Emmerich's Independence Day. In fact, it is currently the third highest grossing film that is not part of a franchise (i.e. no sequels/prequels), behind Titanic and Finding Nemo (but ahead of ET). However, time has not been too kind to this film. It has become a forgotten blockbuster, and unfairly lumped in with lamer alien movies (Mars Attacks) or disaster films (Twister, Armageddon). To me, though, this film is an absolute classic. And, since it is that time of the season, let me take you through a wonderful trip through the 135 minutes that make up one of the greatest films ever.
0:00 - Ooh, the credits are exploding. I like where this is headed already. No fancy, over-the-top credit sequence here (I'm looking at you, Spider-Man). The date is July 2nd. Let's rock and roll!
0:01 - Shots of moon. Ominous shadow. Shots of Earth. And BOOM! Spaceships (revealed in a very Stars Wars way)! This movie doesn't fuck around getting to the meat and potatoes.
0:02 - R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World." This movie was the first time I ever heard this song, and I thought it was really scary. Eventually, I saw what Michael Stipe looked like, and was able to relax and enjoy the song.
0:03 - One thing that immediately jumps out is the stunning amount of diversity in the casting. Three minutes in and we have an Asian guy, a black guy, a woman, and a guy with a very weird accent. Nicely done, focus groups. ::slow clap::
0:04 - Robert Loggia!
He's easily one of the top 10 voices I wish I had for one day. I'd put him above David Bowie, but below Superintendent Chalmers.
0:07 - Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch play the most Jewish game of chess ever.
0:08 - Harvey Firestein, too. Between Goldblum, Loggia, Firestein, and Pullman, this is an amazing assembly of voices.
0:10 - We are introduced to Randy Quaid's Hispanic children. I'm really not sure how THAT happened, but chalk up Latinos to the ever-expanding list of diverse cultures in this movie (with gays and Jews represented as well).
0:11 - First shots of the alien saucers. And more GODDAMN white "gunshot" transitions. Well, no movie is perfect.
0:16 - The Secretary of Defense is a great "That Guy". I know I've seen him in something...and according to this impressive IMDB page, I'm sure everyone has.
0:20 - Yay! Fresh Prince! Finally! Shit, he's going back to sleep.
0:23 - The alien ships have taken their place. They came out of a smoke cloud, which reminds me of "Galactus" in the second Fantastic Four movie.
By the way, the music during the aliens' approach is ominous, foreboding, and completely classic!
0:25 - In one of my favorite scenes of the movie, Big Willie shatters the record of "person being completely oblivious of his surroundings". He ignores neighbors fleeing, news reports, and his son's warnings - making it ALL THE WAY out to his front stoop to pick up the newspaper. A look right, a look left, and then looking forward to see the BIG FUCKING SPACESHIP IN HIS FRONT YARD! Amazingly, this record is then immediately shattered by The Cougar, who ignores all the same warnings, and then brings out a cup of coffee to Will before noticing the 15 mile spaceship in her front yard.
0:30 - So, it has been established by Jeff Goldblum that there's six hours before the aliens attack. So, somehow he fights through traffic, gets to Hirsch's house, and gets on the road to Washington DC. The car is going slow, and the roads are packed. Six hours? That's a bit of a stretch, even in a movie about aliens blowing up the planet.
0:33 - Harry Connick, Jr. makes an appearance as bizarro-Carlton. He uses "bootie" more times than a white guy should. Solid gay marriage joke in this scene.
0:35 - Man, The Cougar doesn't notice shit, does she? She's dancing around a stripper pole before realizing that the bar is completely empty. She does a nice job showing compassion to her stripper friends.
0:37 - Jeff Goldblum gets in to the White House by "triangulating" something. I heart pseudo-science.
0:43 - It's been 20 minutes since the alien spaceships took their positions. The movie start off with a bolt of lightening, but now? Let's get to the "working overtime" part!
0:46 - And boom goes the dynamite.
I have to say, the special effects are still very impressive, especially for a movie being 13 years old. It is so nice to see the miniature sets explode and stunt cars go flying, whereas nowadays it would be all CGI.
0:47 - Just to note: Harvey Firestein was still stuck in the city. That six hour drive from NY to DC still bugs me. It is also great to see Air Force One is faster than fireballs.
0:48 - FINALLY my girl VAF notices something before another character, spotting the fireballs before her son does. This is actually a very scary scene (especially since I was 11 when I saw it). Good to see the dog survive, though.
0:49 - We're into July 3rd. I've only known Randy Quaid's family for one day, and I already hate them. They are the Luc Longley to Smith/Goldblum/Pullman's MJ/Scottie/Rodman. (To continue the analogy, Loggia is definitely Ron Harper.)
0:52 - I love a good briefing for a mission scene. Very Star Wars-esque. Poor Harry Connick Jr., he might as well be wearing a red shirt at this point.
0:58 - Great No-ments in History: "Jimmy NOOO!!!" - Will Smith
1:01 - Another fantastic scene with Will Smith shit-talking the downed alien ship. After punching out the alien: "Welcome to Earth! Now that's what I call a close encounter." Action movie writing at its finest. Usually, two witty alien puns would be dispersed throughout the movie. However, this movie breaks the paradigm and delivers two back-to-back. On my bucket list is punching someone in the face, and then saying that line.
1:03 - "All you need is love. John Lennon. Smart man. Shot in the back. Very sad." - Judd Hirsch. Yes, that made me laugh out loud. No, I'm not on any drugs while watching this.
1:07 - Goldblum and Pullman find out about Area 51. Quaid and Smith run into each other in the desert, and the closest military base is, you guessed it, Area 51. And you thought they'd have to come up with a stupid way to get characters from Los Angeles, New York City, New Mexico, and Washington D.C. together.
1:11 - We're overtly told that the aliens are similar to humans, and that they are interested in our planet. There's a heavy-handed message layered into this movie somewhere, and by god, I'll find it even if it kills me!
1:15 - Man, That Guy is a total dick. I demand he gets his comeuppance!
1:18 - The Cougar admits she voted for "the other guy" while talking to the first lady. I know I'm making a big assumption, but could Pullman's character be a Republican?
1:19 - The alien autopsy scene is pretty cool, but the writers seemed to get a little lazy. Words like "icky" and "thingamajig" are used by the mad scientist.
1:23 - So what do the aliens want us to do? Die. Motherfucking die. These guys are completely bad ass.
1:29 - That Guy talks Republican Lone Star into a nuclear strike, which fails. I demand he gets his comeuppance!
1:33 - The President's wife dies. I've been bombarded by too many human emotions at this point - the fight between Goldblum and his ex, the reuniting of the Fresh Prince and The Cougar, and now this. Although, I'll always remember a fantastic bit on Weekend Update, where Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton raved about how much he loved this scene.
1:34 - We're into July 4th. Money time! And a drunk Goldblum!
And Judd gives him the classic "catch a cold" idea. This scene is genius!
1:37 - "I gave it a cold." Love it. It's all about signals, Jerry, signals! Kudos to sharp shooting by Adam Baldwin as Major Mitchell.
1:40 - That Guy gets his ass chewed out by Kick Ass President Lone Star. Hit the road, bitch! That's some good comeuppance!
1:41 - And the USA alerts the world that they are smarter than them. U S A! U S A!
1:47 - Fuck and yes.
GAH! I want to run through a GODDAMN brick wall!
1:52 - Goldblum is busting out all the classic Goldblum-isms. "Yes, Fat Lady." "Oops? What Oops?" "Yes yes." "No no."
1:59 - The virus is in! It's tough to keep updates - this is getting intense. Ooh, nice hit from Lone Star! Time to kick ET's ass!
2:04 - Spoiler Alert: Randy Quaid saves the day.
This that you can abuse yourself with alcohol for years and still save the entire planet. What's the time limit on spoiler alerts, by the way? I say six months. So, if I just ruined this for you, I'm sorry, but you had 12 years and six months.
2:07 - The space ship that is 15 miles long and right over the military base explodes, and then drifts listlessly over to the abandoned area of the desert, causing no major harm to anyone down below. Um. Moving on.
2:10 - Little known fact: screaming makes you drive faster.
2:13 - Excellent "Conquering Hero" shot. Another thing to add to my bucket list: walk away proudly while something is burning behind me.
2:15 - "Didn't I promise you fireworks?" "Yeah." Time to rebuild civilization. Credits roll.
Overall, it's a fantastic example of a summer blockbuster - cliche but lines, great action scenes, corny scenes of human emotion blatantly designed to tug at audience emotions, a sharp sense of humor, and characters that fit perfectly within their archetypes. If you've forgotten about this movie, I highly recommend going out today and watching it this weekend.