When Independence Day was released back in 1996 it erupted onto our cinemas amidst a furious media storm. Everybody was raving about it. I too got caught up in all the excitement, ready to witness the movie of the year where the trailer promised us such glorious action sequences and iconic visuals: an explosion of the Whitehouse, the Empire State building being incinerated and other mind blowing special effects never seen before! When I woke up two and a half hours later I was, safe to say, a little disillusioned, a feeling that seemed to kick start the rapid decline of my admiration of Will Smith.
All those years making me laugh in The Fresh Prince? Poof! Gone.
In fact, I can honestly say that there is not one Will Smith film I’ve seen that I’ve actually enjoyed. Does no-one else notice that he plays pretty much the same character in most of his films? That his films have no substance or depth to them? It’s like watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air grown up and given various jeopardous professions just to see how he deals with them! (I exclude Ali and Pursuit of Happyness in this as I haven’t yet seen them – I’ve just put them off because I know he’s in them.)
So, since it all began with Independence Day, and since I’m constantly being told how great Will Smith is I decided to quell what I hope wasn’t an unfair bias on a man’s whole career and dig out the DVD to watch with eyes seventeen years older.
The movie begins with what I can only assume is a Star Wars homage as we see the underside of a giant spacecraft flying overhead, casting a shadow on the moon as it heads towards Earth.
So ten seconds in I’m enjoying it. Could I really have been wrong all these years ago? Nope, twenty minutes in and I was already biting my fist in cringey frustration. When I watched this the first time I just remember being extremely bored, struggling to keep my eyes open. The second time however, I felt a whole myriad of emotions: annoyance, disgust, anger, frustration. Even when I tried to switch my brain off, the gaping plot holes and unrealistic action sequences just kept dragging me back to its cruel, torturous reality!
The first hour is spent establishing the characters and blowing up most of the world’s major cities. We have Will Smith arrogantly declaring he’s going to “kick E.T.’s butt” in a way only an American can pull off with no sense of sarcasm or indignation. In his defence though, he does at one point get to punch an alien, in full armour, right in the face knocking it out for over three hours – enough time to drag it across the desert to Area 51. Eh… What?
This film unfortunately is filled with scenes like this: when Smith’s girlfriend escapes a blazing fireball raging through an expressway tunnel by opening a maintenance door, (something no-one else thinks about), she anxiously whistles for her dog to get out the car and jump to safety beside her seconds before the flames hit. What about all the people running past she could have saved, and why did the flames not enter the room she was in? She did leave the bloody door open!
After the first action-soaked hour the aliens graciously take a hiatus from attacking the Earth so the director can establish and develop some of his characters a bit more. We have Jeff Goldblum, the tree-hugging genius who gets genuinely upset for the Earth’s welfare when people don’t recycle their cans. The front line, fighter pilot president Bill Pullman who ostensibly feels every American death at the hands of the aliens and Will Smith as the Fresh Prince all grown up and joined the Air-Force.
Then there’s Goldblum’s wonder laptop that can hack into advanced alien technology even though the laptop I had back in 1996 could barely play Solitaire, and that was cutting edge at the time!
The problem America has against the aliens is that their weapons can’t penetrate the alien shields. This sends Goldblum’s character into such a fit of despair he drinks a whole bottle of Tequila and starts throwing things around. In the midst of this drunken tantrum he gets his eureka moment, a blinding flash of inspiration that with his super laptop he can inject a virus into the alien mothership to disable their shields. Now I’m not going to compare myself to a great man like Jeff Goldblum but after a bottle of Tequila I wouldn’t even be able to see a laptop never mind write an alien shield-crippling virus on one – he even persuades the top brass that he’s the man to fly up and do the job himself!
Next come the inevitable calls to all the other world leaders explaining the plan. This I just found insulting, especially the two Brits who, with an accent straight out of a bad Robin Hood movie, state ‘it’s about bloody time they did something!’ By this I take it only the Americans are capable of doing anything and the rest of the world just sits idly by waiting for them to save us all? Bollocks!
Before the final assault on the mothership, Will Smith fits in a marriage to his girlfriend and Bill Pullman delivers a ‘rousing’ speech to the masses which had me writhing on my floor, spasming to the rancid smell of cheddar emanating from my TV.
What started as a bored apathy towards Independence Day has now evolved into a full blown hatred. Director Roland Emmerich has created something that epitomises everything wrong with Hollywood and American movies. Having the best special effects or the biggest names can’t disguise a poor plot and really bad dialogue. The American patriotism throughout stuck in my throat and Will Smith will forever be on my c*** list for making me watch this movie again!