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Independence Day

Entry updated 2 June 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1996). Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation presents a Centropolis Entertainment production. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Written by Emmerich, Dean Devlin. Cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Mary McDonnel, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid and Will Smith. 145 minutes (special edition 153). Colour.

A vast Alien Spaceship enters Earth's orbit on the morning of 2 July. Within hours a fleet of warships takes up position above Earth's most important cities and reduces them to rubble, with New York being the focus of destruction. Among the survivors of this Invasion and Disaster are the white American president (Pullman), an African-American fighter pilot (Smith) and a Jewish Computer genius (Goldblum). Their paths converge the next day at the military base Area 51 in New Mexico (see UFOs). There they come up with a plan to defeat the aliens, who are now destroying Los Angeles (see California), by shutting down their Force-Field shield devices, and opening them to nuclear attack. The following morning is 4 July: Independence Day, and the three heroes personally lead the successful counterattack against the alien menace.

Independence Day is pure popcorn entertainment, and possibly the most optimistic Disaster movie ever made. Billions of people are killed in scenes reminiscent of the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War Two, but this is glossed over and tragedy-free. The aliens are irredeemably evil and so there are no moral issues in humanity's struggle for survival and enthusiastic use of nuclear Weapons. It is also clear that the three leads represent their respective cultures, and so Independence Day assures us that in times of crisis, humans will put aside their petty differences and stand together for the common good.

Or rather, Americans will stand together and the rest of the world will stand behind them; because while directed by a foreigner, Independence Day is unashamedly nationalistic. The opening shot is the American flag, and the rest of the world is barely glimpsed, waiting for the United States to tell them what to do. This did not stop Independence Day from being a resounding commercial success internationally. The film was designed from the start to open in cinemas worldwide on the Independence Day weekend, an American holiday that celebrated freedom from tyranny.

Independence Day has one of the most celebratedly absurd scripts in mainstream movie history. To shut down the aliens' shields, the humans fly a captured fighter craft into the "mother-ship" and then infect the aliens' Computers with a virus from a laptop. There are apparently no difficulties in connecting a human computer to an alien network, nor in coding a virus that could be read by completely alien operating systems. Nevertheless, the film remains highly entertaining, primarily thanks to the combined charisma of its lead actors. The novelization is Independence Day (1996) by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and Stephen Molstad. [JN]


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