When I first read that Katy of the amazing Girl Meets Cinema was planning a blogathon for B-movies I was pretty puzzled about which film I would pick. I generally don’t gravitate towards your typical big budget Hollywood films outside of awards season. In Katy’s introductory post for the Blockbusted Blogathon, she mentioned Independence Day (1996, dir. Roland Emmerich) as a good example of a B-movie of the alien invasion genre, and I was overcome by memories – for some reason, I loved this film as a kid, even though it gave me some crazy nightmares about aliens and worldwide destruction. I decided to revisit the film for this blogathon and I’m quite glad I did!
The rules of the Blockbusted Blogathon:
1. Choose a super cheesy blockbuster B-rated movie(s).
2. In your post, include a picture(s) of your selection (etc) and reasons why you love that particular movie.
3. Remember this blogathon is not about “bad movies”; it’s about our unbreakable bond towards a cheesy blockbuster-esque movie with a setting, story, or character that introduces or deals with something not from this ordinary realm.
Without further ado, here are a couple of reasons why I still find some value in Independence Day, all these years later.
1) Interesting Story Structure
The film is constructed in terms of three days – July 2, July 3, and July 4 (also known as Independence Day, believe it or not). The film is told from the point of view of many different characters as their separate stories eventually meet in the Nevada desert: the president of the USA (Bill Pullman); the smart guy (Jeff Goldblum); the drunk pilot with a traumatic past (Randy Quaid); the charismatic fighter pilot (Will Smith); and the fighter pilot’s exotic dancer wife (Vivica A. Fox). Although there were some characters that I wanted to see more than others, I tend to really enjoy films that are told through this structure – characters with their own points of view coming together to share a story by the end of a film.
2) Familiar Actors
Independence Day plays host to a number of actors, beyond the main players, who have very familiar faces nowadays. A random military guy who is the commanding officer of Area 51 is Jayne Cobb from Firefly (Adam Baldwin). The president’s tiny daughter is Ann Veal from Arrested Development (Mae Whitman). Who? Also, the First Lady of the United States (aka the FLOTUS) is Madam President Laura Roslin from Battlestar Galactica (Mary McDonnell). It’s little things like this that add an extra layer of entertainment value; at least, that’s how it works for me.
3) Iconic Moments
When watching Independence Day, I also recognised a couple of iconic moments that have stuck in my mind as being referenced quite a bit in television and film. Firstly, during the first half, the film cuts between scenes with a loud booming noise and a white flash that transitions one scene to another. I had completely forgotten that it did this, but it only happened in the first half where the characters hadn’t yet met up with one another. I’ve seen this referenced in either The Simpsons and/or Family Guy, and maybe something else as well. Then we have the iconic moments to do with the alien craft – firstly, the image of Washington DC being overtaken by shadow, as we don’t see the actual craft, but just its approximate size as it blocks out the city. Lastly, who could forget the laserbeams the alien craft shoots down to pinpoint an important building and city to annihilate. I think the moments with these laserbeams are the ones which people will recall the most vividly when thinking about this film. I definitely remember having nightmares about the laserbeams as a kid.
4) Some Impressive Visual Elements
Some visual elements of the film can be quite beautiful and eerie, provided that the CGI elements of the scene aren’t moving quickly. When the CGI elements are stationary or moving slowly, they look so creepy yet stunning – the image of the clouds burning over NYC as the alien craft enters Earth’s atmosphere comes to mind, or any time when the alien craft is hovering over a city. However, when things start exploding and airplanes start flying everywhere, the visuals can look fairly 80s-standard. One of my most favourite visual elements of the film, however, is its use of shadow. This is one of its iconic moments (discussed above), and the encroachment of the shadow on the city landscape is done very well and builds up a lot of good suspense and tension.
5) 90s Nostalgia
The old 90s computer technology is hilarious when contrasted with the high tech of the aliens. Seeing the super old school Mac operating system perhaps having an influence on a huge alien mothership is super weird and funny. Maybe I have a strange sense of humour though. There’s some great 90s fashion worn by Jeff Goldblum, who gets about in a checkered shirt over a t-shirt with a jumper tied around his waist. He also occasionally wears a shell necklace.
6) Miscellaneous Appreciations
The score by David Arnold is quite good. And although the film is long and takes a while to get to the big space action, once it gets there, it’s built enough momentum to be nicely thrilling. Ultimately, it might be just another big budget Hollywood B-movie, but it actually is a lot of fun.
I’m always really interested to see what happens when people revisit films they loved in their childhood. For me, when revisiting both this and the first two Sister Act films, I haven’t been too disappointed. My childhood memories haven’t let me down yet!
If you want to take part in the Blockbusted Blogathon, the deadline is the 24th May – plenty of time to explore a B-movie classic!
Watch this film at Amazon!