In this day of summer blockbusters which actually bust no blocks, it is quite the relief to announce that in fact, Independence Day (inexplicably shortened to "ID4" by the filmmakers) not only busts blocks, it destroys them. Without mercy, ID4 pounds you in to submission, forcing you to embrace the disaster-movie fun it breezily attains.
Yes, ID4 is a mish-mash of every science-fiction cliché. Yes, the characters rarely rise above cardboard cut-outs of every stereotype in the book. But the filmmakers deliver on their promise to the audience -- this is one hell of a ride. Will Smith is the man. Bill Pullman is convincing as a President dealing with the end of civilization. And I especially liked Margaret Colin (No, not just for her name) as a presidential adviser.
Jeff Goldblum is also quite cool here; a little less nerdy than in Jurassic Park, a little more brainy action hero. Brent Spiner contributes a great supporting turn as the scientist in charge of the mysterious Area 51. (Conspiracy theorists will love this whole sequence of the film, where the Feds finally cop to what really happened in the Roswell UFO incident, 50 years ago.)
An interesting note for those of you that have seen the film. Dean Devlin spoke recently at Comic Con International - San Diego '96. (See my review of Comic Con for more information.) And according to Dean, there was a major change in the film just before its release. Randy Quaid's drunken pilot plays a crucial role in repelling the alien invasion. In the finished product, Quaid zooms to the rescue in his F/A-18 jet. But the shot originally had Quaid flying through the spectacular battle in his battered bi-plane, seen earlier in the film! The special effects wizards digitally replaced the bi-plane with the jet, Quaid was called back to the set for a last-second re-shoot, and the new shots were quickly integrated in the film.
But ID4 is more than just incredible special effects. Don't get me wrong -- they are spectacular. Somehow, though, we come to care about the plucky band of survivors as they battle to save the planet. And in this day of soulless twisters and possible missions, our feeling of empathy and excitement is perhaps the most special effect of all.
Last updated September 21, 1996