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A giant object nears the earth and freaks us humans out.
We’ve all suspected aliens, but now there is no doubt.
When several ships break off from it and hover over cities,
The world debates what they should do in jittery committees.
A pilot in the desert by the name of Russell Casse,
Who insists he was abducted, fears they’ve come to kill our race.
Then David Levinson, a tech who’s skilled in playing chess,
Discovers there’s a countdown that is unknown to the press.
He has his Jewish father drive him that night to D.C.
In hopes his ex-wife Constance might enable him to see
The President Tom Whitmore. When he warns the President,
They leave the city just before a terrible event.
In every major city with a spaceship overhead,
The aliens shoot beams that cause destruction as they spread.
The government reciprocates but cannot harm E.T.
Because a shield surrounds the ships, which shoot them as they flee.
A Captain Steven Hiller, whose own lover did survive,
Prevails against one alien and captures it alive.
The President and David and the rest on Air Force One
Then fly off to Nevada, where some research has been done.
Apparently at Roswell, these same aliens were caught,
And their captured ship’s been studied ever since it first was brought.
When Steven brings the creature, they do surgery until
It massacres the doctors and confirms they’ve come to kill.
Though all seems lost since many, like the First Lady, have died,
Smart David comes up with a plan he hopes will turn the tide.
Both he and Steven fly the spacecraft to the mothership
To spread a harmful virus that will make their defense slip.
Meanwhile, everybody, counting Whitmore too and Casse,
Prepares to fight the vessel that is headed for their place.
When David sends the virus, all the vessels’ force fields drop,
So Casse goes kamikaze, bringing E.T. to a stop.
When Steve and David blow the mothership back to the stars,
They crash to earth and hug their wives while smoking big cigars.
America then tells the world how best to blow away
The enemy from whom we claim our independence day.

Independence Day is the epitome of a big special-effects-laden summer popcorn movie, back before the Transformers films gave that genre a numbing bad name. At first, it seems like a campy alien movie spoof with a host of comedic touches, such as the opening song being R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” Plus, our first attempt to communicate with them involves bright lights because…well, they must have seen Close Encounters. Then, when the aliens actually attack, the level of absolute devastation takes the audience aback with the sheer scope of it all; after that, the two tones go back and forth, such as when they introduce Brent Spiner’s geeky Dr. Okun at Area 51 only to brutally kill him off in a scene reminiscent of the Alien movies.

Considering the immensity of the destruction here, which is actually quite sobering, it’s surprising that the writers infused so much campy humor into the proceedings, helped by Jeff Goldblum as smartest-person-in-the-room David Levinson, Judd Hirsch as his stereotypically Jewish father, and Will Smith as the brash pilot Steven Hiller. They each have some moments of drama as they think about the apocalypse that’s upon them, but most of the time they’re there for laughs or to deliver amusing action movie slogans.

Director Roland Emmerich has a penchant for destruction, and he puts special effects to good use in that department, though they’re not perfect. If you want to see government buildings blown apart spectacularly, this is your movie. Despite many disaster movie clichés, some elements have found their way into other films. For instance, Spielberg’s aliens in War of the Worlds look suspiciously like the ones in this film. The end is quite satisfying overall, even if the President’s speech about July 4 becoming the world’s Independence Day wasn’t well-received overseas. Still, it’s an American movie, so what the heck?

Overall, it has some foul language and some less-than-moral elements, and there are too many underdeveloped characters for viewers to really get emotionally involved with the story, but, as entertaining blockbuster fare, Independence Day is pretty impressive.

Best line: (news reporter in Los Angeles) “Once again, the L.A.P.D. is asking Los Angelenos not to fire their guns at the visitor spacecraft. You may inadvertently trigger an interstellar war.”

VC’s best line: (Constance, referring to a career) “Haven’t you ever wanted to be part of something special?”  (David, referring to their marriage) “I was part of something special.”

Artistry: 3
Characters/Actors: 6
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 7
Originality: 4
Watchability: 6
Other (language): -3
TOTAL: 31 out of 60

Next: #300: The Godfather (that’s right)

© 2014 S. G. Liput