Independence Day: On-This-Day Thursday

Every Thursday, an older film released on this opening weekend years ago will be reviewed. They can be classics, or simply popular films that happened to be released to the world on the same date.
For July 2nd, we are going to have a look at Independence Day.


I don't have much to say for this one. I have always felt as though Independence Day was one of the most overblown, overrated films of my youth. People often point to it as a rare instance of director Roland Emmerich firing on all cylinders. I just see it as guilty as charged. How does this film truly differ from 10,000 BC, The Day After Tomorrow or 2012? Is it the special effects (which were good enough to win an Oscar)? What was wrong with the effects in those other films? Was it the woke disaster statement that acted as a thrill in the theatres and a think piece outside? Again, how is it any different from those other films?

The slight edge that Independence Day has is that its statement gets clouded by its action. You can't escape those other films as being wonky, heavy handed political messes. With Independence Day, you get a story about claiming freedoms during a takeover. It happens to involve extra terrestrial beings. You had box offices draws like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. You also had huge marketing buzz. Emerich and company are always good at drumming that up. Yet ID4 stuck around longer than any other film of his that disappointed after their releases. It was the refinement of how films got promoted through trailers and billboards.

Maybe that's what it was. The film hit many of us at such a young age, that its action and effects were everything that we had hoped for. Its message disguised by CGI and science fiction didn't matter to us, as long as they were blowing shit up. There's obviously nothing wrong with having a political statement in your films, either, as long as the argument is well executed and captivating enough to make an impact. District 9 had a great take on segregation done in a sci fi universe. Here, the statements get lost amongst your usual "time to bring out the weapons" priorities. District 9 had an opening act done in mockumentary style, then it placed the lead character into the conditions he was once above. In ID4, every stance is an excuse to further the action, not the argument.

This shot right here is why Roland Emmerich will always have a career.

This shot right here is why Roland Emmerich will always have a career.

Sure, people love this film for its mindless fun. There is no law that says you can't have fun during a film. With its action choreography, ID4 does most things right for its time. How many times can you watch stuff breaking just to see stuff break? I mean, I know there are audiences out there into this kind of stuff. I just can't do it. For me, action should punctuate parts of a film, not be the entire structure. I love cake, and I reserve it for the end of big dinners. I still need substantial food before I engorge in sweets.

That's the main issue here. It's the dessert. It always has been. It tries to play off as the pan seared rack of lamb, but it's cake. There are action films with brains equipped to them. Mad Max (three of them, actually). The Matrix. Compare Neo's quest to understand the illusionary world compared to ID4's "we fight. this time it's aliens" approach. Yeah, it's far from Emmerich's worst film, but that's like preferring to be kicked in the shin rather than the face.

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Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.