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INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996)

This classic film predicts a day, July 2nd to be exact, when all international communication systems are bogged down by a strange (extraterrestrial) interference. The military soon learns that several large-scale objects are on a crash-course collision with Earth; further investigation reveals they are not the meteors scientists expected them to be.  When attempts to communicate with this "extraterrestrial" life form fail, the White House calls in David Levinson, an ex-scientist turned cable-technician, to investigate.  But on July 3rd, nearly the entirety of New York, Washington, and Los Angeles are destroyed by close hovering alien space craft.   Remaining survivors set out to Area 51, a place rumored to host alien spacecraft of their own.  Using a surviving space craft model from a former "Earth contact," Levinson sets to work devising a plan to fight back against the aliens alleged threats of human genocide, employing the help of military pilots and wise-cracking sidekick Capt. Steven Hiller along the way to mankind's fight for their independence.

The cast includes: Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid, Mary McDonnell, Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, and Judd Hirsch.

Director Roland Emmerich's "Independence Day" is a big, sprawling, FX laden, yet surprisingly character friendly Sci-Fi crowd pleaser.

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Promotional Lines: "Don't make plans for August."
"EARTH Take a good look. It could be your last."
"We've always believed we weren't alone. On July 4th, we'll wish we were."

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The basic story covers three days, from an alien invasion on July 2 to a U.S. lead counterattack on July 4.

This worldwide crisis starts when 36, 15 mile wide spaceships make their appearance to the people of the earth, as they settle over each major city of the earthly nations. People in the government and in the general populace wonder if these beings are friendly or not. One brilliant M.I.T. graduate, David Levinson, working as a cable television installer/ expert, figures out what they are up to, when he discovers a hidden signal, counting down, in a satellite. He races to Washington D.C., with his father for support, to inform the president, and his ex-wife who is on the president's staff, of the impending attack.

Sure enough, just as the White House was evacuated, the signal counted down to 0, and each spaceship destroyed the city it was hovering over. Thus begins the battle for survival and freedom. "These extraterrestrial don't want to phone home - they want our home."

Much of the action settles on 4 different storylines, involving a handful of key characters. One storyline follows the U.S. President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman);an offbeat scientist, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum); the scientist's wise and colorful father, Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch); David's ex-wife, Constance & president's assistant (Margaret Colin). A second storyline follows a cocky Air Force pilot, Captain Steven 'Eagle' Hiller (Will Smith). A third storyline follows his girlfriend, Jasmine Dubrow Hiller (Vivica A. Fox), her little boy & the president's wife, Marilyn Whitmore (Mary McDonnell). The fourth storyline follows a boozy, former Vietnam pilot Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), and his three teenage children. Each story tells of their adventures because of the attack, and all four storylines come together right before the last major attack against the alien mothership, under a bold plan envisioned by David Levinson, who figures out how to dismantle the mothership's protective shield long enough to make it vulnerable to missile attack by the world's fighter planes.

This exciting, poignant screenplay was written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who also directed this film. These two have teamed up to create other films as well, such as "Stargate" and "Moon 44."

The cast did a great job fulfilling the drama and excitement of the screenplay. I especially liked the performances of Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith together, when they fly in an alien vessel to the mothership to put a virus in the main computer.

The film's much trumpeted FX are mostly wonderful, particularly those featuring giant alien space ships and stuff blowing up, particularly the White House. On a picky note, several of the film's matte paintings are hokey, particularly one with a crudely painted Capital dome in the background.

"Independence Day" has many elements in common with "Stargate" which also was directed by Emmerich and scripted by Dean Semler. They both feature aliens and cool giant spaceships. The big difference is a matter of scope, both in the scripts and the budgets to film them.

Many people have called "Independence Day" "Star Wars" for the 1990's. While it probably has more in common with "War of the Worlds" (1953), the film's energy, FX, and excitement do bring to mind the excitement I first felt seeing "Star Wars" at Mann's Chinese Theater in 1977. And yes, certain key elements of the American led attack on a giant alien vessel near the film's end COULD be compared to the rebel's triumphant assault on the Death Star at the end of "Star Wars." This is also my favorite scene in the film.

Quote from President Whitmore:
"I saw... his thoughts. I saw what they're planning to do. They're like locusts. They travel from planet to planet, their whole civilization. After they've consumed every natural rescource they move on. And we're next. Nuke 'em. Nuke the bastards."

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If you enjoyed INDEPENDENCE DAY, you may like STAR WARS, STARGATE, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, MARS ATTACKS!, STARSHIP TROOPERS, ALIENS, MEN IN BLACK, and/or WAR OF THE WORLDS.