20 Years On: “Independence Day”

Most films have a legacy of some sort. Good, bad, in between, there’s usually one there. As time goes by, this legacy should at least steer an interested viewer in the right direction, but every now and then, the legacy you’ve come to know could prove to be something else entirely. Not only can the truth hurt, but it can be surprising.

The 20th Century Fox film “Independence Day”, is an exciting spectacle, but one I can’t fully understand the reason for so many people liking. Perhaps it’s always been just hype.

This sci-fi action film stars Will Smith (upcoming films “Suicide Squad”, “Collateral Beauty”), Bill Pullman (“Independence Day: Resurgence”, “American Ultra”), Jeff Goldblum (“Independence Day: Resurgence”, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Mary McDonnell (upcoming episodes “Major Crimes”, “The Closer”), Judd Hirsch (“Independence Day: Resurgence”, “The Big Bang Theory”), Margaret Colin (upcoming film “Equity”, “Heirloom”), Randy Quaid (“Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach”, “Real Time”), Robert Loggia (“Independence Day: Resurgence”, “Jagged Edge”), James Rebhorn (“The Ordained”, “Homeland”), Harvey Fierstein (upcoming “Hairspray Live!”, “Family Guy”), Adam Baldwin (upcoming episodes “The Last Ship”, “Castle”), Brent Spiner (upcoming episodes “Outcast”, “Independence Day: Resurgence”), James Duval (“Hawaii Five-0”, “Appetites”), Vivica A. Fox (upcoming “The Wrong Child”, “Independence Day: Resurgence”), Lisa Jakub (“Double Fame”, “The Royal Diaries: Isabel – Jewel of Castilla”), Ross Bagley (“Gnome Alone”, “Judging Amy”), Mae Whitman (“Jake and the Never Land Pirates”, “DC Super Hero Girls”), Bill Smitrovich (“Documentary Now!”, “Grey’s Anatomy”), Kiersten Warren (“Girl Missing”, “The Mentalist”), and Harry Connick Jr. (“Dolphin Tale 2”, “Angels Sing”).

The film was directed by Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day: Resurgence”, “Stonewall”) and written by Dean Devlin (“Independence Day: Resurgence”, “Leverage”) and Emmerich (“Independence Day: Resurgence”, “2012”).

The film originally opened on July 3, 1996. It would go on to be nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one; two BAFTA Awards; and 11 Saturn Awards, winning three among other nominations and wins.

I may feel that I’ve been misled, but I’m oddly okay with this. I’ve finally finished the film. I think I started it over 15 years ago and never got around to seeing how things turned out. I also never made any true attempts. On that I’m not sure why that was. However, unlike with “Finding Nemo”, I’m not as excited or pleased about the fact that the sequel was what got me to watching this film. If my experience with this film had been somewhat better, then I may even be enjoying the fact that now I must talk about this film. I really hate that the sequel opened this weekend, as it also made me move this film from its July post date. Stupid film!

For a film that I think has been all hype for 20 years, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it. It was fun, exciting, and makes for a great addition into the many films about aliens. When thinking about what the film had to offer, it gave people everything they expected and would hope from an alien invasion film!

Lots and lots of action! Some of this action even manifested itself in intense sequences of destruction! I was amazed at the fact that when the aliens started destroying buildings and cities, that I was a bit afraid. Somehow the execution got an emotional response from me that wasn’t just disbelief or shock. When it all ended I was so relieved, which is also probably the extent to which I cared about any of the characters. As likable as they all were, even Quaid’s obnoxious drunk character, I didn’t have much allowing me in or telling me this is why I should care. Mind you, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Humanity is what I cared about, but no one individually. Sorry guys, but Smith’s wisecracking character wasn’t all that.

Once all the destruction had occurred, which was preceded by a pretty good set up on mystery for the characters, but was ultimately a pointless exercise for the audience, the fear and need to take action arose! It came in the form of military personnel and big action sequences that couldn’t fully distract you from the fact that the CGI used is terrible. Was it terrible in 1996? I don’t know. The VHS copy I watched, which I’m surprised still worked, was not a good indicator. The graphics for this film probably always looked this way, but as this was the mid-90s, not many people could probably identify bad from good. Still, with enough excitement packed into these sequences, I was able to look past this and enjoy the deaths of many people, who clearly thought they stood a chance against the aliens, even though it was quickly learned they came equipped with shields.

Explosions, death, attempts at dramatic human moments, which do nothing to make the characters more interesting, are all expected, but what audiences really want, are aliens! They came to destroy our world, the least they could do is make an appearance. Fortunately they do, and the look is perfect! Helping to make this look good, are practical creature effects. Okay, I actually don’t know if they are, but I’m fairly certain the alien that Smith punches in the face and then drags in his parachute is practical. It just made the believability that much better and allowed for the alien design to be showcased even better! All the other aliens we see are more likely than not, CGI. Unlike with the battles, these don’t look terrible. They probably could’ve been better, but it’s the ‘90s, so what can you do?

More and more I’m beginning to think these aliens really sealed the fun factor for me. However, after that, there just wasn’t much left to truly care about. The story was truly unoriginal, but in this case, like with a few other movies I’ve seen, you can actually look past this. It’s how Devlin and Emmerich wove in the other exciting elements, even the dreadful character drama that never truly fit in, and actually bored me. While this may be the case, as is the fact that I was entertained, I still can’t help but feel I was misled. I was expecting something else. I think this has more to do with the scale of this film. I expected huge, epic, of which you could easily say this was, but somehow I still disagree. It really think it comes down to how I had it built up in my head. Not everything turns out as we imagine.

The legacy that a film develops over time can be a good thing. It will somehow encourage those who haven’t seen it, to do so. It’ll take a mediocre film and turn it into some kind of classic, which hopefully won’t ever be remade for those that are too lazy and stupid to check out the original. Or, it’ll have a legacy that say that no one ever really thought the film a good idea, and should be avoided at all costs. I’m sure there are some films like that out there. Whatever legacy a given film has really does make all the difference. Decades after thinking that maybe you wanted a sequel, and the original creative team comes in and gives you one, you could be rethinking this and realizing that this blockbuster B-movie may have been fine all along, as a standalone film.

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