The basic story covers three days, from an alien
invasion on July 2 to a U.S. lead counterattack on July 4.
This worldwide crisis starts when 36, 15 mile wide
spaceships make their appearance to the people of the earth, as
they settle over each major city of the earthly nations. People
in the government and in the general populace wonder if these beings
are friendly or not. One brilliant M.I.T. graduate, David Levinson,
working as a cable television installer/ expert, figures out what
they are up to, when he discovers a hidden signal, counting down,
in a satellite. He races to Washington D.C., with his father for
support, to inform the president, and his ex-wife who is on the
president's staff, of the impending attack.
Sure enough, just as the White House was evacuated,
the signal counted down to 0, and each spaceship destroyed the city
it was hovering over. Thus begins the battle for survival and freedom.
"These extraterrestrial don't want to phone home - they want
Much of the action settles on 4 different storylines,
involving a handful of key characters. One storyline follows the
U.S. President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman);an offbeat scientist,
David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum); the scientist's wise and colorful
father, Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch); David's ex-wife, Constance
& president's assistant (Margaret Colin). A second storyline
follows a cocky Air Force pilot, Captain Steven 'Eagle' Hiller (Will
Smith). A third storyline follows his girlfriend, Jasmine Dubrow
Hiller (Vivica A. Fox), her little boy & the president's wife,
Marilyn Whitmore (Mary McDonnell). The fourth storyline follows
a boozy, former Vietnam pilot Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), and his
three teenage children. Each story tells of their adventures because
of the attack, and all four storylines come together right before
the last major attack against the alien mothership, under a bold
plan envisioned by David Levinson, who figures out how to dismantle
the mothership's protective shield long enough to make it vulnerable
to missile attack by the world's fighter planes.
This exciting, poignant screenplay was written
by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who also directed this film.
These two have teamed up to create other films as well, such as
"Stargate" and "Moon 44."
The cast did a great job fulfilling the drama and
excitement of the screenplay. I especially liked the performances
of Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith together, when they fly in an alien
vessel to the mothership to put a virus in the main computer.
The film's much trumpeted FX are mostly wonderful,
particularly those featuring giant alien space ships and stuff blowing
up, particularly the White House. On a picky note, several of the
film's matte paintings are hokey, particularly one with a crudely
painted Capital dome in the background.
"Independence Day" has many elements
in common with "Stargate" which also was directed by Emmerich
and scripted by Dean Semler. They both feature aliens and cool giant
spaceships. The big difference is a matter of scope, both in the
scripts and the budgets to film them.
Many people have called "Independence Day"
"Star Wars" for the 1990's. While it probably has more
in common with "War of the Worlds" (1953), the film's
energy, FX, and excitement do bring to mind the excitement I first
felt seeing "Star Wars" at Mann's Chinese Theater in 1977.
And yes, certain key elements of the American led attack on a giant
alien vessel near the film's end COULD be compared to the rebel's
triumphant assault on the Death Star at the end of "Star Wars."
This is also my favorite scene in the film.
Quote from President Whitmore:
"I saw... his thoughts. I saw what they're planning to do.
They're like locusts. They travel from planet to planet, their
whole civilization. After they've consumed every natural rescource
they move on. And we're next. Nuke 'em. Nuke the bastards."
If you enjoyed INDEPENDENCE DAY, you may like STAR WARS, STARGATE, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, MARS ATTACKS!, STARSHIP TROOPERS, ALIENS, MEN IN BLACK, and/or WAR OF THE WORLDS.