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Independence Day

With Independence Day: Resurgence coming out here in the UK today and those who voted to leave hailing this day as our National Independence Day, I thought it would be apt to take a look back at the first movie: simply called 'Independence Day'. It is a somewhat strange title to give to a major Hollywood blockbuster given that Independence Day is only really of significance to Americans but there's no denying that it has strong connotations attached to it: connotations of power, freedom and...apparently alien invasions. The film came out in 1996 and was a surprise blockbuster success. It's little surprise it got a sequel, even if it took twenty years for one to be released.

The film sees satellite technician David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and army pilot Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) team up to stop an alien threat when an extraterrestrial mothership appears in Earth's orbit and sends thirty six smaller spacecraft to hover around the world's major cities and military bases. An all-out war ensues between humanity and the aliens; of course humanity wins and the aliens are defeated.

And that sums up my problem with the film. It's all very cliche. The aliens don't come in peace, we fight them, humanity wins etc... Oh, and of course the aliens are defeated on America's Independence Day. Bet you didn't see that coming. I'm not sure why this film is often considered a classic; there's nothing particularly original about it. Whilst I am a fan of science fiction, this film is very generic and straightforward in its plot and there's nothing to set it apart from other movies of the genre. I feel like I've seen it all before and there's no real unique angle to it.

The only moment that truly made me go 'wow' compared to other films of the sci-fi genre was when the alien ship destroyed the White House - and that was shown in the trailers anyway. Still, it was a very impactful shot masterfully constructed by digital effects producer Tricia Henry Ashford. It is incredible how the spaceship takes up the entire top half of the frame and the blue light striking the building puts some of today's effects to shame.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying Independence Day is a bad movie, it's just not a film that stands out as much as people claim. It is entertaining to watch and I imagine it would have made a good popcorn blockbuster at the cinema but it doesn't offer much substance. The characters are blandly sketched (of course, as Bill Pullman plays the president he has to give a cheesy 'big uplifting speech') and there's nothing to particularly make you care for them. Even Jeff Goldblum, as brilliant as he is in the film, can't save his character from appearing rather lifeless.

The only true highlight among the film's cast is Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller. Captain Steven Hiller is a very fun and engaging character to watch; he has a number of brilliant wisecracks such as 'just a little anxious to get up there and whoop E.T.'s ass'. This is the kind of role Will Smith is brilliant at playing and it's not hard to see why Independence Day was one of the films that helped launch his career. He has so much likeability onscreen and is the one character in the movie you truly invest in.

Overall Independence Day isn't a bad movie, it's just overly hyped and full of a number of predictable cliches. The plot is very generic and there is nothing about the film that particularly stands out over the other science-fiction movies out there. Every character other than Captain Steven Hiller is bland and lifeless, which is one of the reasons why I doubt I'll ever watch the sequel. I'm not sure how a second Independence Day could be anything other than tedious without Will Smith to add much needed charisma to it. The best moment of the film is the alien ship destroying the White House and that was shown in the trailers anyway.