Independence Day (1996) Directed by Roland Emmerich

I'd like to congratulate two people: myself for watching and enjoying Independence Day. And Nick for putting up with me all these years when I refused to watch the film whenever he was going to (at least once every year) and I claimed I had seen it and hated it. Turns out I had no recollection of ever seeing any of the film. I was just prejudiced.

OK, it's not a good movie. It's not artful, inspiring or very inventive. It's not even scary. It reminds me of being 12 and liking Jurassic Park. But on this particular night I was looking to watch something hideously simple, I wanted to see some UFOs and aliens, some Americans and some near-complete-destruction of the world. I didn't mind seeing a bit of stereotypical 1990's romance either. Sometimes at the end of a long and monotonic day that's all I can handle from my cinema.

Of course, Independence Day left many a thought lingering. For example, if there are intelligent beings somewhere wouldn't they just want to take a moment to listen to the Beatles for example and just marvel at the creativity of us humans at our best? Couldn't we convince them that there are good things here worth keeping? And most importantly, why is it that we always imagine the other as a hostile rogue who's out to kill everyone at once? Doesn't that describe our own current world status better than anything else? I must have said this many times before, but it does matter how we imagine our future to be. We make it. Also, thanks Independence Day for giving us an outdated view on the roles of women in the world: hookers, mothers, wives, soon-to-be-wives, people to be saved from the alien attack.
And thank you for launching Will Smith, the movie star.

My disbelief, shock and awe when Astrid said to me the other night: "I want to watch a robot movie" was palpable. "Sci-fi ?" I responded. I hadn't fulfilled my yearly watching of Independence Day for 2013, so I was amazed when Astrid uttered "OK" to my suggestion of the movie. Even more surprise hit me when Astrid revealed during us watching the film that she had never seen it after all. I have made my feelings known before as regards Independence Day when I covered director Emmerich in our rather erratic A to Z column last year. This time I focused mostly on the acting performances in Independence Day, especially those of Will Smith and the very under-appreciated Jeff Goldblum.

If Will Smith had been able to bottle the essence of his performance here, he would've been a better actor and even more successful. This is Smith in his prime, where the delivery of his lines is just the right side of him keeping a straight face. It's effortless and it's cool. Will Smith in Independence Day is keeping it real. Has there been a more eccentric action-hero movie star than Jeff Goldblum? The smart- arsed-cynicism-virgin-on-boredom and 'I'm too good for this shit' attitude always makes Goldblum stand out in this kind of fare. Despite The FlyJurassic Park (twice! – check out Malcolm's Chaos tumblr) and Independence Day, Goldblum has been underused. I last saw him in Hal Hartley's disappointing Fay Grim and you'd wish Hal would just make a movie for Jeff in the central role. He seems to have been shunted into TV and not even the best of that kind. A waste of an actor who's always interesting and often dryly funny, attributes pushed to the fore in Independence Day, Goldblum quietly steals the movie.

Stars of the New Hollywood era, Randy Quaid and Judd Hirsch add extra quality and more gags to the b-movie-like mix (Independence Day is a true homage to the b-movie sci-fi flick of the 1950's). Although Independence Day's look has deteriorated badly (especially the special effect side of things), the energy, humor and overall good feeling this film generates has remained. Independence Day is simply classic. Two follow-up films are being groomed for 2015. Sadly, Smith has already bailed out – not such a good career move I think. This gives the producers a perfect opportunity to throw Goldblum back in the big mix. Here's hoping.


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