Independence Day (1996) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day is the perfect example of a movie that did not age well over time.  Actually maybe the movie is just the same as it always was but I have changed drastically in tastes from when I was 15 to now at 30.  In 1996 there wasn’t anything I was more excited about than Independence Day, but looking back at it today the magic that I saw in that movie is unfortunately gone.

This is not something that makes me happy or that I am proud of because Independence Day was an important part of my movie experience life.  It was the first movie where the hype and anticipation was almost as exciting as the movie itself. Like I have stated previously in this series, by the time I was old enough to know anything about movies Star Wars and Indiana Jones were already part of American culture. And since they were always cool I didn’t get to anticipate those films or get wrapped up in the pre release circus.  With Independence Day I was hooked from the awesome Super bowl ad in January through the release of the film in early July.

I went to see the earliest show of the film and then went back again the next day.  I saw the film a good 3 or 4 times in the theater, bought the movie on VHS and used to watch the film every 4th of July like clockwork. I loved this movie and used to think it was what summer movies should be.  When I was 15 this is what I loved about the film:

  • Will Smith finally shed his Fresh Prince persona and became a genuine star because he was so awesome in this movie.  He made a great action hero, part relatable but badass, funny but serious and a guy I would want trust with the fate of the planet in his hands.
  • The special effects were awesome.  Seeing landmarks blown up was cool to see, the dogfights were exciting and the ships were great designs.
  • The movie was funny.   Even though the movie deals with the end of the world Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch and Will Smith get a chance to get in their good one-liners
  • The story just felt epic.  The movie was set from coast to coast and a main character was the friggin President of the United States. Not only was the President in the film but also he flies a plane himself and blows up the aliens.  How awesome was that!
  • The movie got you to root for the characters.  They were all likable and I wanted them to overcome their obstacles.


After rewatching the film.  I see the movie in a different light now.  Although I used to watch it every 4th of July that tradition died out about the time I was finishing college.   By this time watching the movie felt like more of a chore than a pleasure so I put it away and haven’t thought of the movie in years.  I might catch a few minutes when it is on TV, but never felt the urge to pop the movie in the DVD player and watch it from beginning to end.  After watching it I looked at the list of things I used to love about the film and the things that bug me almost line up with what I used to love.

The Super bowl teaser is outdated and kind of generic and not as exciting as I once remember.  The special effects, unlike the wonderful effects in T2 and Jurassic Park, are horrible compared to now.  The characters are paper-thin and given one character trait apiece and some are gratingly annoying.  The fact that the day is won thanks to the president flying a fighter plane, a Mac being able to infiltrate an alien mainframe and a crazy man blowing himself up feels like the creators were insulting our intelligence and not caring. On top of all of this I feel like the movie isn’t as fresh and unique as I once thought it once was.  Some of that might be because after this film was made many would be blockbusters tried to ape the formula over and over again, including star Will Smith and filmmakers Emmerich and Devlin.

The fact that movies wanted to copy the successful formula of Independence Day because the movie was a giant hit is not ID4’s fault.  After the down year of 1995 Hollywood was glad to see a movie that was a runaway success and one of the few movies that made over $300 million.  For years afterwards and still to this day we are seeing films use the formula of a big disaster destroying famous landmarks and a bunch of character actors form up and survive together, even though they are from all different walks of life.  After years of watching films like Deep Impact, Armageddon, Day After Tomorrow, Volcano, 2012 and many more the formula doesn’t seem as fresh as it did in 1996.  None of this is Independence Day’s fault, but since they just used the 1970’s disaster formula and made it new again means the creators don’t get a free pass either.

No matter how I might feel or not feel about the movie now it doesn’t change the fact that it is one of my favorite movie going experiences of my teenage years.  I loved getting caught up in the moment and treating the movie like an event in the manner that people did 20 years before with Star Wars. The movie was released at the right time in my life where I was old enough to be able to participate in the marketing machine but young enough so I didn’t realize I was being played like a puppet.   I don’t think I am done with Independence Day and I would not be surprised to find me looking back fondly on the film in 20 years because the movie will always be a big part of that one particular summer.

Posted by Ryan

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