Roland Emmerich’s big budget sci-fi disaster action movie about an alien invasion of earth was the highest grossing film of 1996 and won an academy award for its special effects. Despite this the film was met with a mixed reception upon its release and probably owes more to its advertising for its success than anything else.
Unlike most invasion films the alien’s of Independence Day don’t sneak on to Earth and hide before attempting to destroy humanity but instead choose to rock up in some pretty impressive, for want of a better word, flying saucers. This was a conscious decision by Emmerich who came up with the idea for Independence Day whilst promoting Stargate and asked an interviewer what it would be like to wake up and find 15-mile-wide spaceships hovering over the world’s largest cities.
ID4 is very light on plot but makes up for this with impressive visual effects – in particular the scene when the White House is destroyed, a great supporting cast, and a few quotable, if not clever, one-liners. Unfortunately by using an ensemble cast and blending so many personal stories together it suffers from not having a clearly defined star, Will Smith (playing cocky USAF Captain Steven Hiller) gets the most screen time but only slightly more than Bill Pullman (playing President Thomas J. Whitmore). Named for the American holiday with which the invasion coincides the film displays over the top nationalistic overtones, the American soldiers being particularly gung-ho in their attitudes – launching a nuclear attack with little thought about the future consequences. In addition to this the scene when President Whitmore addresses the pilots before the final battle and declares that the entire world will call July 4th its Independence Day positively reeks of camembert whilst the scenes of the worlds various armies when they get the news that the American’s are organising an attack seem particularly patronising… as if the world couldn’t win a battle if it weren’t for the American’s.
Despite the lack of depth to the plot, the absence of a central character, and the mass of self-propaganda for the American nation the film manages to be enjoyable throughout and remains one of those films that you can watch again and again and still enjoy.
Emmerich has said in the past he’s been interested in writing a sequel to Independence Day and in October 2011 he and co-writer Devlin confirmed that they had an idea for 2 sequels to film back to back and have expressed a desire for Will Smith to reprise his role in both. Smith responded by saying he was interested but wanted $50 million for both films, personally I’m kind of hoping this means that a sequel won’t go ahead.