Sci-Fi Friday: ‘Independence Day’ (1996).

I’ve never been very keen on celebrating the Fourth of July. A lot of it has to do with my understanding of this country’s true history, by which I mean the stuff they never taught in high school. To me, it isn’t worth celebrating, and certainly not with unnecessary pyrotechnic displays that scare our pets (who we claim to love) and disturb our PTSD-afflicted veterans (who we claim to honor). And really, given the current state of things, just what the hell are we celebrating anyway?

Regarding the Fourth, my father always called it “the saddest day of my life.” He also said that about Thanksgiving. But he was Native American, so I guess that fits. As for me, the Fourth doesn’t make me sad, because I usually let it pass without any sort of observance.

Although I could do without the goddamn fireworks.

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So when I hear the words “Independence” and “Day,” the only thing that comes to mind is the cover of my DVD of the 1996 film Independence Day. I remember seeing it in the theater on opening night, and returning the following weekend to see it again. I remember buying a copy of the official novelization (which I still have) and the soundtrack album on CD (which someone stole). By the way, the score for this film is phenomenal. I also bought a couple of the toys, including a 13″ tall action figure of the Alien Supreme Commander. It still sits proudly on my bookshelf.

There’s nothing I don’t like about this movie. I mentioned in an earlier post that, in some of my favorite sci-fi films, nothing blows up. But I do still enjoy the films where everything blows up. And everything blows up in Independence Day. Much of which I wouldn’t lament being rid.

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(This is a screenshot from Independence Day. Please don’t sent the Secret Service.)

Yes, this is not what you’d call a “thinking man’s” science fiction story. But it does have great special effects. Independence Day was filmed using a lot of old-school effects techniques, including using puppetry and building physical models of city blocks and fighter jets and national monuments (which they then blew up).

But even better than the special effects were the characters. Who could forget Jeff Goldblum’s brilliant but underachieving David Levinson? Will Smith’s cocky but goodhearted Steven Hiller? And there was James Rebhorn’s cold and sleazy defense secretary Nimziki and Randy Quaid’s lovable and intoxicated Russell Casse and, well, you get the idea.

ID4_02And then there’s Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore. The man who absolutely ruined the office of the President for all time, because no one could possibly live up to his character’s strength, determination, and leadership ability. His pre-attack speech at Area 51 still gives me chills when I watch it, and I’ve seen this movie a hundred times. Hell, I got chills just now, writing about it. He is the President we need, but not the one we’d ever end up with. Only in the movies, as they say.

And only in the movies would we ever, as a species, rise up in harmony to defeat our common enemy and secure our future on this planet, our future as one united people on one fragile ball of dirt hurtling through space.

Oh, and they made a sequel to Independence Day, too. I have nothing to say about that, other than to send along a hearty “screw you” to the filmmakers for recasting Mae Whitman’s part.

See you next time.


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