04 April 2010
Okay, so yes, it's got the really ridiculous virus-that-stops-the-aliens thing. Yes, that's terrible. But really, why nobody makes a stink about the jet fighters flying around like they're X-wings, armed with exactly four missiles each, somehow capable of holding off swarms of weird little antigrav alien pods... well, I'm just not sure the virus thing is the biggest hole in this plot. But come on. Nobody watches Independence Day for its stellar plot. They watch it because it's a slow, steady, reasonably tense build up of an alien invasion followed by the simplistic jingoism of America Kicking Some Alien Motherfuckin Ass. Am I right? Who's with me? U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
Personally, I was watching it for its act-one set up, for how it introduced characters and subplots and then how it managed to bring them together. ID4 is pretty famous for its cardboard characters, over-dramatic conflicts, and its weirdly comedic death scenes. But watching act one in particular, I'll grant you this: each ridiculous cartoony scene is about delivering one more piece of the puzzle, slowly building an intriguing picture out of details. The script breaks the exposition into a series of disparate character vignettes, letting us discover each tidbit as whoever wherever also discovers it. This tends to short-change you on character development, alas, but it does prove a well-paced exposition-delivery system. Gradually we learn about an alien force so awesome and mind-blowing... I mean, the mother ship is one-third the size of our Moon! Each invasion ship is fifteen miles wide! (Good thing a single nuke can bring down everything: whatever those ships are made of, it's weirdly flammable.)
It's hard not to talk in ironic exclamation points about the film, but I can't deny it's really watchable. I prefer The Day After Tomorrow myself, which I intend to also rewatch soon for the same "research." And I'm always defending Bill Pullman as a kick-ass President. Well, Pat, you'll be pleased to read this, if you ever do: I rescind that statement. The truth is, he's a pretty weak President after all, a muddled character that never really gets interesting. To be fair to Mr. Pullman (whom I still love disproportionately), that's true of every character in this. See above. Not famous for its amazing script. Famous for being kinda fun.
But speaking of Bill Pullman: watching him and Robert Loggia in a movie together makes me crave Lost Highway. I'll have to watch that again soon, too.