I remember watching Independence Day in the theaters back in the day. Aliens hell-bent on destroying every last human on the planet, brave humans resisting with everything they could, what’s not to love?
Will Smith was great as Hiller. He had the bravado a lot of pilots have (I think it must be part of the job), and he was really good at his job. Vivica A. Fox did a wonderful job as Hiller’s girlfriend, Jasmine. I loved how she was the one to gather all the people together after the first strike and lead them to safety. Jasmine was a born leader, even rescuing the First Lady on the way.
Jeff Goldblum had the perfect role as David; it’s like the role was specifically made for him. Smart, a touch of arrogance, and socially awkward in many ways. Goldblum is great at these kinds of roles, and it worked really well in Independence Day, too. I’m one of those who tend to like Goldblum in films, though it may be because the films I see him in have him playing pretty much the same character every time. Judd Hirsch did a fine job as David’s father, too, giving many reasons why David was the way he was.
Bill Pullman really nailed his role as President Whitman. Whitman was willing to put aside his pride in order to have a chance at saving the world, and Pullman really showed the inner conflict within Whitman. The best scene was when Whitman rallied the troops with his Independence Day speech. That’s still one of the best scenes in cinema history.
I want to give a special nod to Mae Whitman and Lisa Jakub. Mae Whitman, who played the President’s daughter in Independence Day, went on to voice Tinker Bell in the Tinker Bell series of films. I’ve always had a soft spot for Tink, so it was good to be reminded of other work Whitman has done. She didn’t do a lot here, but she played a great kid. Jakub went on to co-star in George Lucas in Love, one of my favorite parody films.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the special effects. Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin went out of their way to do as many practical effects as possible. Even 20 years later, the effects still hold up as some of the best of their kind. The White House blowing up was spectacular, as were the walls of flame seen when the aliens destroyed the various cities. You should definitely watch the “Making of…” features so you can learn how they were done. This is how you do them right.
The soundtrack, by David Arnold, really struck a chord with me. It made Independence Day more exciting, and exuded patriotism every chance it could. This is somewhat entertaining since Arnold is from the UK. Regardless, he did an amazing job capturing the spirit of the film and giving the scenes a lift in just the right places.
Independence Day remains one of my favorites, even 20 years later. It’s a fun action adventure film filled with entertaining and likeable characters. The effects still have a “Wow!” factor after huge advances in technology which make them easier to do. I’m looking forward to watching the sequel.
Release Date: July 3, 1996 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some drinking and smoking)
Language: 2 (mostly minor, some deity and stronger)
Sexuality: 1 (brief exotic dance club scene)
Violence: 3 (science fiction battles, city destruction, fisticuffs, death)