Director: Roland Emmerich (1996)
Starring: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid
You betcha I'm gonna be that lazy. Independence Day is the Will Smith vs Aliens movie in which he doesn't wear a black suit or team up with Tommy Lee Jones. As befits its title, Independence Day is a fist-pumping America-saves-the-world movie that still manages to be good despite both its shonky science and the fact that it stars Will Smith being very Will Smith.
Much like they did under Tim Burton's supervision that very same year, aliens decide to invade. But if we're to examine Mars Attacks and Independence Day side-by-side, it's plain to see where the directors' respective loyalties lie. Where Burton's (superior) movie is a loving homage to B-movie cinema and trading cards, Emmerich's Independence Day is merely an excuse to blow up as much shit as possible and make Americans feel good in the process. Thanks to the likes of 9/11, Independence Day hasn't aged too well - one feels somewhat ill at ease seeing such great American landmarks destroyed within the blink of an eye - but is nevertheless a very entertaining movie.
There's that great iconic image of the Whitehouse being obliterated and grand scenes of carnage in the streets. A counter-strike is put together and Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are employed to save the world. These being the early days of Will Smith's acting career, where he still rapped and nobody trusted him to save the world without a grumpy white man by his side. Meanwhile, Randy Quaid goes a little crazy and even President Bill Pullman lends a hand.
In a scene which utterly traumatised me as a child, Data (Brent Spiner) from off've Star Trek is murdered by one of the aliens. For all the unsubtle explosions and hoo-ha-ing, Independence Day has its moments of genuine creepiness and unease. It doesn't rely too much on special effects, unlike the director's most recent, duller works. Alien spaceships and slithering monsters are far more interesting to watch than John Cusack or Dennis Quaid pouting at earthquakes.
The finale is silly, anticlimactic and dumb, but I love Independence Day. It's something of a relic of more innocent times; the days when Roland Emmerich could blow the shit out of whatever he wanted without people feeling bad; the days when Will Smith was just 'that guy from off've Fresh Prince'; the days when Jeff Goldblum made summer movies and Randy Quaid wasn't (too) insane. Independence Day is the blockbuster movie at its best.
Happy Independence Day.