Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Independence Day (1996)
Fox Home Video | Review by Dan Taylor

The trailers started in the summer of 1995. We were promised a summer spectacle -- a STAR WARS for the 90s, if such a thing is possible. Hype madness kicked into overdrive, and seeing the White House destroyed by aliens was the effect du jour.

By the time I slid into my uncomfortable seat (strategically placed in front of the lowest common denominator moviegoer in existence) I'd become awash in the aura surrounding the flick. Hell, it had aliens, that Will Cosby... how could the flick possibly go wrong?

Ummm, can I count the ways? And no, that ain't no rhetorical question... I'm not sure I can count that high. The bigger question is where to start...

First, I realize that there's a certain suspension of disbelief associated with any cinematic experience. Heck, Warner Bros. even played on that by promising "You'll Believe a Man Can Fly," in the pre-release hype for SUPERMAN. And granted, the flick is about an alien invasion that's thwarted by a rag-tag band of freedom fighters (can you say "STAR WARS?"). However, while I'm willing to buy the flick's major "invasion" plot thrust, I cannot, will not, and never will buy the giant leaps of logic and convenience piled on by the filmmakers.

Okay, maybe I can buy the whole "cable guy's ex-wife works for the President" convenience. (Remember, I said "maybe.") Am I also to believe that in this enormous nation, the hootchie girlfriend of the African-American Luke Skywalker will just happen to rescue the First Lady in time for her to die in hubby's arms? And, that said hootchie would put in just one more shift at the Lap Dance Academy after flyboy tells her to pack and bring her kid to the base he's operating from?

Second, I know that the main concept of any successful film is a two-step process: a) create likable characters; b) try to kill them. The aforementioned STAR WARS did that, quite successfully, by introducing all the major characters within the first half-hour. However, their final roles within the film weren't written on their foreheads during the first screen appearance. Unlike, say, Randy Quaid, Will Smith, Jeff Goldlum and everyone else in the damn ID4 cast! Dumbing it down for the audience is one thing, but this is ridiculous!

Finally -- because I'm not even going to discuss the hackneyed script and the flick's inconsistent tone -- comes the topic of the movie's female roles. Never have I seen a film where somewhat strong and independent (I've been trying to avoid that word, but it does fit) women become mere window-dressing for the "heroes." Goldblum's ex, an adviser to the most powerful person in the free world, becomes an afterthought as he and Will Smith plan to defeat the alien army. Smith's flame -- a single mother doing her best to raise her son -- survives the initial invasion, rescues the First Lady and drives a big rig. Up till the point she returns to his side. Once there her role could be summed up as "Supportive Chick for Hero to Come Home To." [Let me state that I'm no bra-burning feminist, but when I notice sexism like this, it must be pretty damn bad!]

Ugh. What could have been a fun-filled time-waster was just a waste of my time. Frankly, I'd rather sit home and watch STAR WARS on laserdisc again. Oh, and why -- in the name of all that's unholy -- does this sucker clock in around two-and-a-half friggin' hours? A pointless exercise.


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