Way back in the late 90's, my website included a blog-like page called "Rants and Raves", after which this blog is named. Because that page predated blog software (as well as the term "blog" itself), I had to maintain it by hand. Eventually it seemed not worth the effort, as I didn't have a lot to say, and older entries just got more stale as time went on. So I scrapped the page.
One entry was a review of the 1996 movie Independence Day. I'm reposting that review here for two reasons. The first is for posterity, so I have a page to refer people to when they ask why I think Independence Day is one of the worst big-budget Hollywood films ever made. The second is so that I can link to this page in my next blog entry.
P.S. Thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine for allowing me to recover the old Rants and Raves page, which I had deleted from my hard drive a long time ago.
Before I saw the movie Independence Day
, I had heard a little bit about it from my brother, who had seen it. Based on that, I expected it to be a fairly bad movie. When I actually saw it, I found that it greatly exceeded my expectations. Independence Day
was a horrible
film. The reasons? A shallow plot, and even shallower characters. And have you ever heard the term "suspension of disbelief"? Apparently, the makers of this film haven't.
The plot had no depth to it whatsoever. Synopsis: aliens arrive on Earth; aliens blow up a bunch of major cities; aliens then hang around in their spaceships, waiting until the humans figure out how to defeat them. It would have been more interesting to have seen the aliens actually invade Earth, taking over the cities, enslaving humans, and generally carrying out some sort of plan. Maybe I'm just longing for a remake of War of the Worlds
. But then, one would think that a big-budget high-tech-effects movie in the '90s could live up to the standard for alien invasion films set by War of the Worlds
so many years ago. But I guess that movie is from a bygone era when plot was more important than flashy explosions.
The characters were just as shallow as the plot. First of all, you have Will Smith playing the part of... Will Smith. Ok, so this time he's in the Air Force, but you can't watch him for more than 5 minutes before wondering if he's been keeping in touch with Uncle Phil in Bel Air. Somehow, I doubt that his character's part was written before
anyone knew that Will Smith was going to be cast. But besides the fact that Will Smith is playing Will Smith, a part he's reviving in the upcoming film Men in Black
, none of the characters were interesting enough to care about. Most of the characters were cardboard cutouts of overused stereotypes. Jeff Goldblum played John Q. Academic, a less engaging version of Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park
. And Brent Spiner played John Q. Enthusiastic Scientist. At least he wasn't wearing silver paint. It seems that a half-hearted attempt was made to give some of the characters a chance at meaningful interaction, but it never quite went anywhere. For example, Will's girlfriend, a stripper, had a nice chat with the First Lady about her career choice. Lots of potential for meaningful discourse, perhaps even conflict, but nothing ever came of it. It's probably for the best, though, for it probably would have been out of place in an alien invasion film.
Finally, too much of the film was too unbelievable to be at all engaging. For example, we learn that in order to escape an explosion that's barrelling through a tunnel, one can merely exit through a convenient side door, which the explosion will simply pass by. But even if we ignore the minor incidents where the universe defies even a ten-year-old's understanding of the laws of physics, most of the major plot points were just as incredible, if not more so. For example, an alien spaceship has been held at Area 51 since the 50's, but because no one was able to power it up, no meaningful study of the technology was able to be made in all of that time. It wasn't until the alien mother ship showed up and activated the captured ship that humans were able to study it. So when John Q. Academic (Jeff Goldblum) decides to give the mother ship a virus, he only has a few days
worth of research to go on. So we're expected to believe that within a few days, they were able to reverse-engineer the CPU of the ship to figure out the opcodes such that they could program it, write a working virus in the proper binary format to be executed on that CPU, figure out the networking protocols such that they could communicate with the ship, and modify the networking software on Jeff's Powerbook to speak that protocol. Either that, or the alien ships had PowerPCs running MacOS 7.5, and were able to recieve the virus via FTP over a TCP/IP connection. Either way, a team of top-notch scientists who were able to accomplish all of this couldn't think of anthing better to do than lower the alien ships' shields. I would have reprogrammed them to fly into the sun, myself. But here's the real kicker; once the shields are down, a ship can be easily destroyed by flying a fighter plane into the huge central city-destroying heat ray gun at the moment that it fires. Now, call me crazy, but this strikes me as the intergalactic equivalent of Bugs Bunny sticking his finger into Elmer Fudd's rifle so that it blows up in Elmer's face when he pulls the trigger. I cannot fathom how a 15 mile wide spaceship can be destroyed so easily, except to suggest that my earlier assessment was erroneous; perhaps the alien ships actually had Pentiums running Windows '95.