(Roland Emmerich, US, 1996)
Roland Emmerich's remake of War of The Worlds is a slick, SF epic that shares much with the director's last smash hit, Stargate. A large cast of familiar faces each has to face the discovery of a vast alien spacecraft found approaching the Earth. As the hours pass, the mothership splits into many smaller craft, each of which positions itself over one of the world's major capitals. World leaders realise the intentions of the visitors when Moscow is the first city to be obliterated. Boy, were those teaser trailers for Independence Day exciting or what? Unfortunately the film itself failed to live up to my expectations. The picture painted by those early glimpses doesn't accurately reflect the final movie. Anyone expecting the ultimate in alien invasion movies can forget it. Before its release people were speaking in hushed tones about a decent, big screen version of the TV movie V, were making allusions to classic 50s invasion films, hoping to see mankind being challenged in its own back yard (literally) in face-to-alien face combat. But it was not to be. The writers have fashioned a great gung-ho 'human race Vs aliens' war film but emphatically not an alien invasion movie. The best moments are, inevitably the action set pieces and the comedy delivered by the great Will Smith as a fighter pilot - man's first physical contact with an alien is certainly a memorable one! There is just one moment in the film that hints at what this could have delivered. Submerged in a laboratory deep below the US government's secretive Area 51 military installation, realising he has no options left to defeat the aliens, the American president confronts a captive alien and asks him what his race expects mankind to do - "Die" is the simple reply.
I'm not convinced by Emmerich as a director. Independence Day suffers from similar shortcomings that actually managed to make Stargate appear dull at times. The rythym of the film is all over the place. After the opening, scene-setting half-hour, presented in true disaster movie manner, the brief periods of (admittedly) impressive action come to a grinding halt for some cliché-ridden character 'development'. Emmerich's ability is suited to delivering big-budget, good-looking hokum, when he tries to balance this with character work everything stops dead as it did in Stargate. The film isn't original in any sense and even I am growing weary of derivative epic action movies (SF or otherwise) featuring stunning special effects, no plot and precious little else. Even the method of killing the aliens is a technological update of that seen in War Of The Worlds. I'm sure many will think I'm being too harsh and much of anyone's reaction will very much depend on what you were 'expecting' from Independence Day. It may be a good 'war' movie but its a shame, not to say somewhat cheeky, that its makers haven't seen fit to acknowledge the classic literary source. I guess us unsatisfied SF fans can only hold out hope for Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! film (an adaptation of a 1960s bubblegum card set) to deliver a film that shows 'Fuck Off' aliens, carrying big guns, slaughtering humans on famous streets. Now that's my idea of a science fiction invasion movie.