Film Reviews

SECOND LOOK: Independence Day (1996)

Written by John Hussey

As a nineties kid I remember the build-up to this massive block-buster extravaganza. Not necessarily from the trailers but from the newspaper articles. I remember keeping one of them for a long time as I glared at the pictures of the alien’s invasion and the devastation it left behind on iconic landmarks. It’s fair to say that Independence Day left a mark, both before, and after its release. In the wake of its sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, and its 20th anniversary, lets take a look back at the film that changed disaster movies forever.

As a kid this film had everything to offer to me: aliens, action, tons of explosions, and even space battles. But the funny thing is it actually took me a long time to finish watching this film. Long story short it was always on the television late at night and with it being so long, and me being so young, I could never stay awake to watch the explosive third act that I longed to see, especially since I constantly got told how great it was.

Of course once I watched it all the way through there was no turning back. It has become one of my favourite films of all time, and for good reason. Plus it’s got some of the best film quotes in the history of film-making. Who can forget Will Smith‘s infamous welcoming scene to the aliens? A punch to the face followed by the lines, “Welcome to Earth!” and “Now that’s what I call a close-encounter”.

The narrative itself wasn’t anything new. We had the basic set-up of an alien force coming to Earth and invading, although it’s hard to call it ‘invading’ when their sole intention was to bring about our total annihilation, but I digress. The originality came from the extensive usage of CGI, combined with its blend of puppetry, to deliver a deep and personal experience as to what it would be like to have our national landmarks obliterated by alien technology. The special effects in this film were, and still are, impressive and set a new bar in how filmmakers could tell stories.

Along with this we had a great cast, especially through our leads Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. Smith plays the action-hero of the film Captain Steven Hiller, Goldblum plays the technology genius David Levinson and Pullman plays the influential leader President Whitmore. Each of these characters are clearly opposites and yet they share a unique chemistry onscreen, coming together for the third act to formulate the perfect team-up.

Smith added in a lot of humour to the mix, whilst still remaining serious throughout, which in general served as one of the core aspects of the film. He’s definitely one of the most memorable part of Independence Day and helped to take some edge off the film in its most darkest moments, i.e. the countless lives lost during the alien’s attack. Goldblum added his usual flare and delivered a different character entirely through his normality and geeky nature, to which gave us a central guide into the heart of the film’s situations. Then we had Pullman being a strong political guide to the film’s events. I loved how his character raised to the occasion during the third act through kicking some alien arse, along with delivering one of the most memorable speeches in film history: “Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

The film felt deep within its emotional factors, creating a complete contrast to the jokey scenes, in which one them sees a delirious Smith taking his frustrations out on a fainted alien. There are many moments that make you want to cry because of how personal the scenes get to the characters involved. One scene in particular is when Whitmore’s wife passes away. It is so tragic in how Hiller’s wife, Jasmine, manages to find her in the ruins of Los Angeles, thereby eventually reuniting her with her family, only to be told that her injuries were too far gone. This scene really made you realise how much you hated the aliens because of how much they had taken away from these characters. It made Whitemore’s actions from then on feel more personal and you are glad to see him gain the hard-earned victory.

The third act of this film was were everything came together for a perfect package of action, tension and pure emotion. With Whitemore leading the ground force for one final assault above Area 51, it was up to Smith and Goldblum (one of the best pairings of all time!) to deliver a virus inside the mothership before having a victory cigar once the fat-lady sung. This all exploded into an epic battle where humanity pulled out all the stops to gain control back over their world by coming together. What finished it off was the noble sacrifice of Randy Quaid‘s character Russell Casse who decided to give up his life to destroy the alien’s ship in order to protect his family after the missiles on his plane failed to fire. This was added further by his final line: “Hello boys. I’m BACK!!”

Overall this film is a classic. There is so much to talk about but what’s the point when I could just say go watch it yourself and discover first hand what I mean. It’s a wonderful film filled with action, suspense, thrills, pure emotional drama and above all, fantastic characters. It’s a shame that the sequel didn’t live up to its predecessor but that’s an article for another time. As a final verdict, all I can say is Independence Day is a gem and will certainly stand the test of time.

What do you think about Independence Day? Is it a classic that never gets old? Please share your opinions in the comment section below or on our Twitter Page!

About the author

John Hussey