Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summertime: Independence Day (1996)

Director: Roland Emmerich
Composer: David Arnold (damn his manipulative score!)

Notable Cast:
Captain Steven Hiller- Will Smith
President Whitmore- Bill Pullman
Jasmine- Vivica A. Fox
David- Jeff Goldblum
David's father- Judd Hirsch
Jimmy- Harry Connick, Jr.
Russell Casse- Randy Quaid
Defense Secretary- James Rebhorn (died in 2014)
President's daughter- Mae Whitman
Marty- Harvey Fierstein

Notable Awards and Nominations:
OSCAR- Best Visual Effects
nomination- OSCAR- Best Sound
Grammy- Best Instrumental Composition written for TV/Movie- David Arnold


Opening Remarks
It's hard to believe this movie turns 20 next year... makes me feel old :P
I remember when it first came out and what a huge blockbuster it was. I saw it on DVD a couple times, but don't think I really appreciated it until I got older and was able to understand more of the dialogue. Back then, the only thing I really got out of it was the epic presidential speech, the special effects and Will Smith being hilarious.

Oh those days when Will Smith was awesome...

I never thought this was the best movie in the world, but I wasn't aware it was considering "bad" in a lot of circles :P It's not super believable and thrives on special effects more than the things that really matter to a movie- a strong storyline and characters able to support it.

Unlike "Jaws," I don't mind so much seeing this year after year... but I do mind watching it when we have company over and they spend a good chunk of the movie talking about how this president is so much better than ours... that Obama never would have taken the offensive against the aliens, wouldn't have gotten directly involved with the final assault because he has no military experience, etc, etc.
I get that he isn't well liked among my family and their friends, but I don't need the political commentary every goddam time we watch this movie.

Although in truth, I only had to endure that commentary once or twice in the years we'd watched the movie.
I have my grievances with the Defense Secretary character, but beyond that, I just want to enjoy the movie- not relate it to real life and how our country has gone to hell over the past several years.
On that particular note, it's absolutely ridiculous how politically correct we've gotten lately so we don't offend every American.

Plot, Characters and Additional Commentary

Basic set-up: aliens are coming to Earth to annihilate the human race.

We have multiple storylines unfolding at once and like any good soap opera, all these characters come together in one way or another and contribute to the destruction of the aliens or helping out their fellow man.

The movie actually starts on July 2nd (54 minutes) and takes place between it, July 3rd (48 minutes) and July 4th (40 minutes).
Within the first day, Washington D.C., L.A. and New York are decimated.

Will Smith plays a pilot with aspirations to become an astronaut, but for whatever reason, NASA keeps rejecting him (can't imagine why... maybe he's too much of a maverick for their tastes?). He's on vacation, but upon this alien invasion, he gets called into work, leaving behind his stripper girlfriend (who he has yet to commit to) and her 5? year old son.
Not many people would find Jasmine's demeanor believable, but I commend her for it. In a later scene, she comes forward about her profession and says "it's good money... and my baby's worth it." There's such a stigma surrounding strippers and adult entertainers, so I personally find it refreshing that she owns up to it for these reasons.
[But maybe that's just me being biased because I'm currently writing about some characters who adult entertain for varying reasons].

Like I said before, these were the good old days when Will Smith was cool. I never watched "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and I got rid of his album after finding out I only liked 2 songs on it (the rest of was rap... excuse me for not knowing that in advance! We didn't have Internet back then).
But between "Independence Day" and "Men In Black," he was a huge star and one of the funniest actors on the planet... then he got serious with a bunch of dramatic films, dropped a few bombs (the latest being "After Earth," which nearly ruined his son, Jaden's, career... unfortunately not enough to ensure they stopped making "Karate Kid" movies... I still haven't gotten over the fact they did that remake, which out of love for the original, I am refusing to see EVER).

And the latest word is that Will Smith won't even be in the supposed sequel they've been planning for this movie... in that case, it's going to suck big time...
I enjoy a lot about Jeff Goldblum's performance in this movie, but that isn't enough to keep me engaged in this movie. Will Smith is responsible for so many laughs (many are real Laugh Out Loud moments) that keeps us going through the tragedy of it... and just might have made it bearable for a lot of people who find fault in the believability, the excessive special effects and the overbearing score.

Speaking of that score, it is freaking manipulative. When people die or we see destruction everywhere, it is so loud and overbearing that you are coerced into feeling depressed or devastated or (in the case of one death) cry your eyes out.

The Defense Secretary is played by the late James Rebhorn... not one of his finer moments. He annoyed me a bit in "My Cousin Vinny" because he was the expert witness that almost got the defendants thrown in jail for something they didn't do, but when Marisa Tomei's character gave her testimony, he conceded to her points and agreed he might have made a mistake.
He has no silver lining in this movie... except for admitting that Area 51 really exists. If not for that, the aliens would've won. Otherwise, though, he's practically gutless, insisting on taking the easy way out rather than reassuring that the American public is taken care of. He also happened to be the one person against trying out David (Jeff Goldblum)'s idea that gave us the ultimate victory.

Maybe it's because the only Jeff Goldblum movies I've seen were this one and the Jurassic Park movies... but I'm in the minority of the movie-viewing public. I really do like him a lot. Sure, his character is a little lame about his whole "I want to save the Earth" thing and he gets drunk when the military launches an unsuccessful nuclear strike (if I were to get that drunk during an alien invasion, it'd be over more important things... not that I'm belittling nuclear attacks... they still scare the crap out of me)

I seriously do enjoy him in these movies... not so much the Jurassic Park sequel where everything kinda suffers... but in these other two. And nobody could have played this particular character better than him.

The president Bill Pullman plays isn't exactly in the best part of his presidency when this crisis happens. The flurry of negative press is delivered by his press secretary at such a rushed pace that I cannot remember any of it.
But it's times like these that really define a presidency- how you react under pressure amidst circumstances such as this.

Randy Quaid plays a drunken inept crop duster who once, get this, got abducted and probed by aliens. Most people would look at that biography and laugh their asses off because it falls in line too perfectly with this movie... but it's great that he gets to get involved and winds up playing a heroic role in our overall victory.
It comes a little too late, but his stepkids get to remember him as a hero and less for his lack of parenting skills.
I do find it a little ridiculous that his daughter's one bit of characterization is that she doesn't want to die a virgin and keeps making eyes at the young guys she comes across.
Lisa Jakub had much more going for her in "Mrs. Doubtfire."

He doesn't have much screentime, but Harvey Fierstein (also from "Mrs. Doubtfire") is there as well. Again, one of my favorite voices EVER among actors :P
Watching the movie this time around was the first time I really watched him in this movie, rather than just listening to him... I then recollected how he had a boyfriend/partner in "Mrs. Doubtfire" and looked him up. For whatever reason, it took me this long to kinda realize that he's gay :shrug: that would explain all the hand movements and the whine in his voice when he was stressing about calling his mom about the invasion.
...yeah, my gay-dar has never been the sharpest, but so what? And apparently, according to some IMDB messageboards, he really is a nice guy in real life. Not that I ever had any doubts about that.

As far as aliens go, they may not look like much when they're in suspended animation... but in action, they're pretty terrifying. Also infuriating when it comes to the impenetrable shields on their ships. If the aliens in our own world are that much more advanced than us... we're pretty much screwed.

Even more so now that Will Smith won't be in the sequel. He was the only pilot skilled enough to outmaneuver an alien and the only person brave enough to talk smack to their faces.
The entire time he's out on the salt flats either confronting the alien or dragging its ass across the desert... best part of the entire movie :P

"And what the hell is that smell?!" [totally improvised- more to the salt flats than the alien itself- then he proceeds to kick its ass even more]

Final Comment

Gotta love the parody of this in the 2nd Austin Powers movie when they demonstrate the power of the "laser" on the White House.

"That was just footage from the movie 'Independence Day' but the real laser would be a lot like that... yeah."

But it terrifies the president [this is back in 1969] so much he gives in and pays the ransom... but almost blows up the moon:

The President: Jiminy Jumpin' Jesus, I can't believe we're gonna pay that madman. I got nukes out the ying-yang. Just let me launch one, for God's sake.
Commander Gilmour: Sir. Are you suggesting that we blow up the moon?
The President: Would you miss it?
[looks around the table]
The President: Would you miss it?

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