Roland Emmerich is the president, nay, Emperor of all things cheesy. Not as gleefully pretentious as Michael Bay and not as sublimely campy as Paul Verhoeven, Emmerich lives on his own planet seemingly unaware of the cliché of ultimate badness he epitomizes…but, so what? At the end of the day, he plays his role in Hollywood very well and makes all of those truly great movies out there possible – after all, if all movies were great, than none of them would be. And still, I love Independence Day and every other paranoia-laced stupid apocalypse movie Emmerich has made. Its all well and good to have to figure your way through the plot of a movie, but every once and a while you just want to sit back and watch overpaid actors overact and see world landmarks get blasted into smithereens, and never was there a more perfect summer blockbuster antidote to having to actually think than Independence Day.
Aliens have come to Earth: but their not the friendly kind, their the super-duper, evil, exterminate-the-human-race kind. So they systematically begin to laser-bomb the cities of the world, but not without humanity banning together to fight back…yep, that’s the plot of Independence Day. Along the way we get to meet a smattering of appropriately diverse archetypical characters, like Bill Pullman’s morally incorruptible U.S President Whitmore, Jeff Goldblum’s swarthy and mouthy computer genius Julius, Randy Quaid’s drunken crop duster Russell, and Will Smith’s wise-cracking hotshot fighter pilot Captain Hiller, not to mention strippers, mad scientists, and cutesy kids popping up along the way as well. But again, despite the gapping plot holes and the seething stereotypes and the all-intrinsic dumbness all stuck together, the movie works like gangbusters.
The film has some objectively good moments too – Pullman’s big speech is unquestionably rousing and Will Smith is not only tolerable but also rather magnetic in his very first big movie role coming off of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” – but it’s the straight-up giddiness of human versus alien dogfights and watching things explode that make this movie fantastic. Granted this isn’t even Emmerich’s best work, oftentimes teeming with a lack-of-confidence in its dusting-off-1950’s-sci-fi-tropes sort of way, but it’s a hallmark film for the writer-directors, and not because it was one of his first big budget English-language movies. In an era where other garbage apocalyptic thrill rides were floating around out in the world, people remembered Independence Day, and they still remember it – it’s timeless fun in the way that only great bad movies can be. The corn is still here and its still ripe for the picking.