Monday, December 15, 2014

Movie #286: Independence Day

Independence Day is an alien invasion flick (and pretty much a remake of War of the Worlds) directed by Roland Emmerich and starring freaking everybody - Jeff Goldblum, Robert Loggia, Will Smith, Vivica Fox, Bill Pullman, James Rebhorn, Randy Quaid, and Adam "Gamergate" Baldwin.

(Seriously, I knew he was a conservative dickbag, but him revealing himself as a misogynist dickbag kinda spoils his performances for me.)

Anyway, aliens invade. They kill us a lot. As Eddie Izzard points out, the movie built itself up with the disaster porn angle; the White House, the Empire State Building, and so forth being lasered all to shit. The movie's perspective jumps around a lot, giving us glimpses of the principal characters: David (Goldblum) is an engineer working for a cable company who figures out that the aliens are gong to fuck us over, and who used to be married to Connie (Margaret Colin) who is now chief of staff or something to President Whitmore (Pullman). Captain Hiller (Smith) is a Marine pilot who wants to be an astronaut, about to propose to Jasmine (Fox) who is a stripper for some fucking reason. Russell Case (Quaid) is a crop duster who used to be a fighter pilot in 'Nam and was later abducted by aliens. And so on and on.

Converging plotlines put these characters together at Area 51, where David comes up with the idea (with some help from his father, played with aplomb by Judd Hirsch) of introducing a computer virus into the alien's mothership, nuking it, and then attacking the city-sized ships on Earth with a ragtag team of fighter pilots from around he world coordinated by Morse code.

The movie is absurd on the face of it. It's an action popcorn flick in a way that only the 90s could produce, and if you're too young or too cool to remember, this movie was in theaters forever. It was hugely popular and profitable.

I...actually really like this movie. I mean, yes, millions if not billions of people die, but the disaster porn is presented in a way that makes that clear but keeps the focus on the destruction of buildings (whereas Spielberg's more recent War of the Worlds focused on individual people getting disintegrated, with the result that the movie wasn't any fun.

It's also a nice window into its time; Emmerich still makes movies where cities get leveled, but it's different when buildings in New York are being blown up, y'know? (The Twin Towers are visible in a couple of shots, and it's a little bit of a gut punch.) Will Smith is trim and young, Goldblum is doing his best "aggressively nerdy science Jewish guy" bit, and Pullman is just believable as a young president elected after being a war hero in the first Gulf War (you might not remember, but for a time, people wore buttons saying "Schwarzkopf for President: Let's Just Get It Over With."

Now, it's got its problems. Wholesale death and destruction, and the prevailing feeling after the initial wave of attacks is basically "eh." The threat never really feels too real, but then, you don't want the gravity to sink in, because then it wouldn't be fun anymore. There is no reason for Fox' character to be a stripper - not to suggest there's anything wrong with it, but it doesn't remotely mean anything in the movie and it seems to be there just to allow a couple of cheap laughs and a scene where she dances. But in general, I still like the takeaway and the conclusion I reached in my earlier review of the movie (which I linked above): Humans fight about a lot of stupid shit, and we should get it together before something really bad happens.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch Value: High

Next up: (Indiana Jones in) Raiders of the Lost Ark*

*Yes, I know the official title is Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I'm damned if I'm gonna watch Temple of Doom and Last Crusade and then wait two years to get to R.