|'Simply too entertaining far too often to hold even its most cringeworthy moments of patriotism against it'.|
As affectionately held as it is by many who grew up during the 1990s, Independence Day is far from a classic. It's too long for a start, clocking in at a hefty two hours and twenty five minutes. There's plenty that could be stripped from its middle section: the detour to Area 51 could easily be pared down, and the sequence where the American military attempts to "nuke the bastards", in the words of President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), could have been excised completely.
The rampant pre-Team America jingoism continues to show the film's age more and more as time wears on. "It's from the Americans. They want to organize a counteroffensive" intones a British soldier, in an RP accent straight out of the 1950s, after receiving a telegram during the final act. "It's about bloody time!" replies his equally well-spoken brother in arms, as if the whole world has been sitting back and dutifully taking everything the alien invaders have been pummelling them with whilst waiting for the USA to swoop in and save the day.
In the world of Roland Emmerich, though, that's pretty much the case every time he threatens to blow the world up in the name of entertainment, with Independence Day setting the standard for the director's future efforts such as The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. But where his 1996 film succeeds in making this work in a way that his later efforts do not is easy to see. Independence Day is simply too entertaining far too often to hold even its most cringeworthy moment of patriotism - that would be Pullman's ham-tastic motivational speech to a rag-tag band of Air Force pilots and, er, Randy Quaid - against it.
Even if you can't get on board with America saving the day, there's still plenty to like here. Will Smith's breakout performance as Steven Hiller showcases everything that would make the actor a blockbuster mainstay throughout the rest of the 1990s and beyond. Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson climbs a few rungs up the unlikely action hero ladder after his supporting turn in Jurassic Park, finding a pleasing balance before he would push things too far in The Lost World. It's Goldblum's chemistry with pretty much everyone else that holds much of Independence Day together so enjoyably, most notably with Smith during the finale but also with Judd Hirsch as his father Julius, the two actors forging a likeable double act throughout.
Whilst a few of the special effects are perhaps looking a bit tired now, many of them still hold up well thanks to Emmerich's keen eye for a memorable shot. The attack on the White House is the one everyone remembers, but the opening sequence showing footprints on the moon being wiped out by the reverberations of the alien mothership passing overhead is a personal favourite. Whilst it may not be a classic, it's hard to deny that Independence Day is still a lot of fun to return to regularly, something not so true for many other Hollywood blockbusters reaching their twentieth birthday.