So Bad It’s Good #20 : Independence Day


Guilty Pleasures that we enjoyed – even though we don’t quite know why.

Movie Title : Independence Day

Released 1996

Starring Bill Pullman, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Collins, Robert Loggia, Randy Quaid, Adam Baldwin, Brent Spiner, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A.Fox, James Duval

Directed By Roland Emmerich

What is it? : The most sincerely over-the-top blockbuster ever made – excluding everything else director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devin did after. “Impendence Day” – or “ID4” as the FOX marketing jocks tagged it – marked the return of the disaster movie (and I don’t mean in a “Showgirls” or “Howard the Duck” sense). And like those earlier movies – particularly “The Towering Inferno” – the ridiculous plot was first and foremost to whatever stood in for the screenplay’s dialogue. But we loved it, didn’t we? We loved seeing Will Smith “kick E.T’s ass”!? We loved seeing Harry Connick Jr shot down whilst hovering over the Danger Zone!? We cheered when Randy Quaid exploded on impact!? We, er, laughed in our popcorn as Bill Pullman delivered that nauseating bit of patriotic poop about obliterating the aliens so we could all go home and celebrate the national holiday!

What’s wrong with it? As I said before, it’s a film that’s all razzle-dazzle – and that’s much pretty much it. The actors are all OK in it – and for what it’s worth, the directors have assembled a great ensemble cast – but they don’t have anything much to do here (except, I’m guessing, take home big cheques). Their dialogue is woeful. All their characters also lack motivation. And as for any of the lead characters actually evolving as people after this attack? Nope, doesn’t happen.

Actually, let me back-track a bit – Pullman makes for quite a good President. I’d love to see him in another movie playing the nation’s leader. It’s only when he opens his mouth do things go from good to tolerable. Having said that, he’s much, much better than Will ‘Over-Actor’ Smith. The boy acts like a crack-whore whose just been given $500 bucks by a cheery customer – he’s way too BIG for the film (yes, there’s such a thing as being too BIG for “Independence Day”) , and in some respects, is seemingly only in the movie so he can deliver the smart-ass lines they’ll later use in the TV commercials. He’s in fact doing the job of a trailer narrator. Remember these nuggets: “Who’s the man? Huh? Who’s the man? Wait till I get another plane! I’m a line ya friends up right beside you! Where ya at, huh? Where ya at?”, and how about this little ditty – “Oh, Elvis has left the building!” Way to sell a Big Mac, yo!

As for the film’s script, it’s a little messy – seemingly the story was plugged in after the filmmaker’s set up their grand-scale effects sequences. There’s not really any substance.

Oh, and how is it that the aliens don’t have anything to detect the threat of a Virus – when they’re prepared for everything else? Lazy plot points overlooked.

What’s right about it? It’s a bloody fun movie. It’s got some amazing special effects, some terrifically fun aerial fights, some ridiculous but (what the heck was with Brent Spiner’s character?) fun characters, and a storyline that movies so fast and so furiously you’d be forgiven for not picking up on the movie’s many flaws (as described above). It’s also probably the best film that Devlin and Emmerich have done – and judging by the box office on it, their most popular.

It’s one of those movie studio monsters that just keeps destroying stuff in its wake – – like the twenty other ‘good’ movies that opened opposite it that month – – and though you know it’s not going to lead to anything good, can’t stop watching.

Why is it so bad it’s good? : Any film that features the following speech (let alone a scene where a woman is clearly doing “OK” then, as soon as the husband walks outside her hospital room, suddenly passes away) can only be described as entertaining trash – in the real world, you’d be laughed off stage for such gobbledygook.

“Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

Makes me laugh every time.