Independence Day Midnight Movie Review
By Bret Dorman
I work at a job right now where I have to watch fireworks twice a week (at Navy Pier). This week, while they were going off, I was watching some of the people watching the fireworks and noticed a strange phenomenon. No matter how old you are or how intelligent you try to appear to others through physical or verbal communication… when you are watching fireworks and you clap, laugh with joy, ‘ooh’, ‘ahh’, or cheer… you WILL look like a moron.
I don’t care if you are doing it because you love fireworks, are drunk (which only adds to the ‘moron’ case) or actually are a moron… for those collected moments of a couple of seconds while you root for fireworks, your I.Q. temporarily drops to 5. After they are done and you go back to being normal, you can have your MENSA Card back.
I only bring this up because this is in essence, the only way I can accurately describe a crowd of people watching Independence Day.
The Story: Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is a guy who likes to fly things. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is a guy who like to type things. Together, they join forces on July 4th to beat up a bunch of Aliens (puppets, CGI) who like to blow things up. Also, Bill Pullman is The President.
Why Independence Day shouldn’t work: it is the same old story filled with stereotypes we’ve all seen before. The story is designed for kids but marketed to teens and only really enjoyed for what it is by adults. Its just a bunch of explosions that set up the story for other explosions.
Why Independence Day does work: The cast. The ridiculousness. Using explosions as exposition.
Will Smith delivers a career defining performance. For someone who had only been in a few movies and a silly TV Show, he takes command of the screen not with the desperateness of someone trying to show everyone who he could be, but with a natural charm that shows everyone who he is. If you were to take a pole of Most Fun Movie Quotes to say, I think “Woooooo! I GOT to get me one of these!” might be near the top. And its not because of the context of the movie or the grammar of the quote, its because of Smith’s screen presence.
Jeff Goldblum on the other hand was no stranger to playing his outsider nerd type of role. And here he doesn’t try to do anything different with it, except for perhaps doing it more. The awkward pauses, the looks, the ‘uhh’s and ‘ah ha’s. the frenetic speech patterns and odd emphasis not on single words, but entire sentences… its all Goldblum just delivering his Awkwardly Awesome A-Game to a Hollywood Blockbuster generic/inaccurate role not for the sake of truthfulness, but our entertainment. Thank you Mr. Goldblum.
As far as the rest of the movie goes, the movie can at times feel over-bloated, but we need every family and side character subplot, ridiculously one sided action sequences, and attempts at humor to make us do one thing… actually want to pump our fist in the air at the end of The President’s “This… is our Independence Day!” speech. And well… mission accomplished.
Its also pretty ridiculous to think that Randy Quad’s character Russel Casse is a tragic hero because he is ‘too American’. USA! USA! USA!
Finally, I can say of all the Roland Emmerich movies, this is one of the better ones. I’m not into the whole ‘Disaster Movie’ (which he has done too many of) thing for the simple reason that you can’t fight the weather. So basically instead of doing something cool your characters are just running away like wimps. Note there are two exceptions to this. 1) The Incredible Hulk (2008 one, with Ed Norton directed by Louis Leterrier) – After a thunger clap and lighting flash, The Hulk actually throws a boulder at the sky. 2) Firestorm – Ex-Football Player (now Football Commentator/Ford Truck Spokesman) actually fights fire with fire.
But with Independence Day, Emmerich actually has a script to work with that is competent to a certain degree (first pump for America!), rolls right over anything that doesn’t make sense so we can just get to the fun stuff, and actually makes exploding buildings as a major Earth Destroying plot line exciting and fun.
Why You Must See It At Midnight: Because no matter how old you are or how intelligent you try to appear to others through physical or verbal communication… when you are watching Independence Day at The Music Box Theatre and you clap, laugh with joy, ‘ooh’, ‘ahh’, or cheer… you WILL be joined by me and others and we will ALL look like morons. But its worth it.