Entertainment Today and Beyond

Never Met a Zombi I Didn’t Like…

Roland Emmerich’s INDEPENDENCE DAY- a look back

independence day posterWhile Roland Emmerich’s 1996 film has a few detractors, which I’ll never understand, for my money Independence Day is one of the most satisfying summer blockbusters ever produced. While this summer has Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen cleaning up at the box-office, it simply can’t hold a candle to the experience of seeing Independence Day. I was fortunate to see it with a sold out audience of 1200 moviegoers at the famed NYC Ziegfeld Theater. The appreciation was very real as the crowd was roaring with applause throughout.

It was released July 3, 1996 but due to high anticipation theaters started to show it the night before. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, comparable movie-wise to the experience of witnessing a highly anticipated event film in the city that never sleeps. Reportedly director Emmerich got the idea to do an alien invasion film after a reporter asked him if he believed in aliens while promoting Stargate (a film I’m not a fan of). Emmerich and his producing partner at the time, Dean Devlin, decided that their alien invasion story would be very large scale. The concept and scope of the production were pure Irwin Allen (Emmerich has stated he is a big fan of the producer of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno) and he rounded up a cast to revival Allen at his best.

Independence-Day-WhitehouseThe most descriptive word for Independence Day is FUN. The movie was a blast from beginning to end and its diverse and very interesting cast created a sense of fun that was infectious throughout. This is the film that made Will Smith a star. While the info on Wikipedia (below) doesn’t mention it, actor Ethan Hawke (Training Day) was reportedly offered the role of Captain Steven Hiller. When he took a pass it went to Smith who gave the film a real energy and a great hero to root for. Bill Pullman was highly likable as the President and his patriotic speech about independence in the film’s third act still gives me goosebumps. Jeff Goldblum continued to be at his quirky best as a computer expert who discovers the alien invasion plot. Putting Smith and Goldblum in the same film was a stroke of pure genius and they played beautifully off each other.

The entire supporting cast also brought there A-game to the project with Randy Quaid as the alcoholic crop duster Russell Casse, Robert Loggia as General Grey the Presidents Chief of Staff, Vivica A. Fox as Smith’s love interest and Judd Hirsh as the sharped tongued Jewish father of Goldblum’s character. In my mind Independence Day is everything a big high profile summer popcorn film should be. It’s got a great concept, terrific cast, great sense of humor and is exciting throughout. It also featured a rousing musical score by David Arnold  that had you leaving the theater on a high.  LISTEN

Bottom line – summer films don’t get any better. Naysayer’s be damned! Since the summer Independence Day came out I’ve been hard pressed to have as much fun at the movies. There have been a handful of great one’s like The Dark Knight but they are few and far between. Independence Day wound up grossing $816,969,268 worldwide on a budget of $75,000,000. It ranks as the 19th highest grossing movie of all time. While there was talk about creating a sequel for years nothing ever materialized and there are currently no plans in the works.

Cast and characters-from Wikipedia

• Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller: An assured United States Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot at the forefront of the human resistance counter-offensive. His ambition before the alien attack is to join NASA’s astronaut training program. Devlin and Emmerich had always envisioned an African-American for the role, and specifically wanted Smith after seeing his performance in Six Degrees of Separation.

• Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore: A former Persian Gulf War fighter pilot and current President of the United States whose approval ratings early in the film indicate the nation’s dissatisfaction with his performance. To prepare for the role, Pullman read The Commanders by Bob Woodward and watched the documentary film The War Room.

• Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson: An MIT-educated computer expert who is a chess enthusiast and environmentalist, working as a satellite technician for a cable television company in New York City when he discovers the aliens’ invasion plot. He still has strong feelings for his ex-wife and later formulates a plan to defeat the invaders.

• Mary McDonnell as First Lady Marilyn Whitmore: The wife of President Whitmore, wounded while fleeing the destruction of Los Angeles and later dies from her injuries.

• Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson: A cigar-smoking Jewish immigrant and widowed father of David Levinson, whom he loves but also teases by referring to him as a cable repairman.

• Robert Loggia as General William Grey: A United States Marine Corps general who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and one of President Whitmore’s most trusted advisors. Loggia modeled the character after generals of World War II, particularly George S. Patton.

• Randy Quaid as Russell Casse: A widowed, alcoholic crop duster and veteran Vietnam War pilot who claims to have been an alien abductee ten years prior to the events of the film. He struggles to care for his three children. At the end of the film, he sacrifices himself to destroy an alien destroyer, gaining the admiration of his eldest son, whom previously held little respect for him.

• Margaret Colin as Constance Spano: The White House Communications Director and David’s ex-wife. Though she still loves David, she feels that he is underachieving, and divorced him to pursue her career alongside President Whitmore.

• Vivica A. Fox as Jasmine Dubrow: A single mother, Steve’s girlfriend and exotic dancer. She searches for fellow survivors in the aftermath of the Los Angeles attacks, finding the First Lady in the process.

• James Rebhorn as Albert Nimziki: The Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA. Rebhorn described the character as being much like Oliver North. The character’s eventual firing lampoons Joe Nimziki, MGM’s head of advertising and reportedly accounted for unpleasant experiences for Devlin and Emmerich when studio executives forced recuts of Stargate.

• Harvey Fierstein as Marty Gilbert: David’s flamboyant boss killed during the alien attack on New York City.

• Adam Baldwin as Major Mitchell: A United States Air Force officer who is the commanding officer at Area 51.

• Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okun: The scientist in charge of research at Area 51. He is later killed by a captured alien. Devlin, who is open to the idea of bringing Dr. Okun back in the event of a sequel, later implied the character is merely in a coma. The character’s appearance and verbal style are based upon those of visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun, whom Emmerich had worked with on Stargate.

• Harry Connick, Jr. as Captain Jimmy Wilder: The best friend of Steve and fellow pilot, killed while fleeing a failed attack on an alien spacecraft. Connick took over the part for Matthew Perry, originally cast in the role.

• Kiersten Warren as Tiffany: A friend of Jasmine and fellow stripper. She wants to go up on the First Interstate World Center to greet the aliens. Despite Jasmine’s requests to not go, Tiffany does anyway and is one of the first killed in the destruction of Los Angeles.


July 5, 2009 - Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News, Reviews |


  1. The thing I most remember about this film at the time was that I went to see the film shortly after its release, and in a packed house, the film detached and melted “on screen” in the middle of the movie. Everyone left PISSED. Thats the only time I remember that happening to me for a live screening. Vivica looked amazing in the movie and Smith became a star, that would be my lasting impression. Hope you had a good 4th!
    The Rake

    Comment by thebsk | July 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. My last melted screen was during a viewing of The Karate Kid 3.


    Comment by Chuck | July 7, 2009 | Reply

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