INDEPENDENCE DAY ** 1/2
The action take place on a very near future's July 2,3 and 4, when Earth is attacked by alien machines. The enemy follows the principle of those nested Russian dolls, only limited to three. A mothership one-fourth the size of the moon contains mega-saucers (about 15 miles wide) that contain critters.
The mothership (it looks sometimes like a megamongous manhole cover), travels to Earth, releases its ominous saucers that position themselves over major Earth cities, casting giant shadows. They shoot rays that destroy totally New York, Los Angeles and Washington. You wonder why they use the ray-by-ray method instead of a single H-Bomb equivalent. But then this is a kid-flick of the "You who enter here abandon all logic" persuasion.
It is also, among a host of deja vu things, a return to the 50s and 60s Cold War fears that sometimes appeared in the guise of space invaders; a monster/horror movie; 70s and 80s space movies; and a countdown flick.
There are lots of American heroes around. Highest ranking is President Bill Pullman, a former fighter-plane hero of the Gulf war, but with most of the prowess done by fighter top gun Captain Will Smith. (He has a charming girlfriend, stripper Vivica Fox. She has a kid and a great dog). The brains are supplied by Jeff Goldblum, a computer/communications nerd/genius, whose ex-wife Margaret Colin just happens to be the President's Chief of Staff. (Needless to say the couple are still in love).
Many people and vehicles populate IP, which is a no-brains, special effects film, and a fun movie. But at some point after the destruction of the cities (impressive), the film gets increasingly comic-bookish and begins to bore --in my case around minute 80. After this one gets a surfeit of effects at the expense of plot and characters. Some of the effects in the final battle are downright cheap and cheesy composites, like video games.
Matters slide down after the Freak Show of an alien critter saved in a secret laboratory years ago, with its craft, after it crash-landed in New Mexico. The alien is straight out of "Alien" movies -- a disgusting, slimy, gooey, oozy affair with tentacles. My interest kept waning, except for worrying about Ms. Fox's lovely big dog. It survived unharmed.
ID is as synthetic as they get. The final solution against the aliens is a twist of the 1953 "War of the Worlds" where Martians were destroyed by germs. Here the germs are updated to computer germs or viruses. While I'm at it, let me tell you that I'm writing this on a computer on which I have lavished days of work to get out of a glitch, while Goldblum's laptop does wonders in seconds even after the destruction of the cities.
The characters are by and large cardboard creations in whom cliches extend to everything: actions, reactions, facial expressions, gestures --and dialogue with lines like:"All we can do now is pray" or "What your father did was very brave. You should be proud of him."
The father in question is another cliche. Vietnam veteran Randy Quaid, who claimed to have been abducted, abused and release by aliens is a subject of mockery and an alcoholic crop-duster pilot. But can't we guess right away that at the end he'll be sober, and a hero? Can't we also guess that the President will join the other brave pilots to attack the outer-spacers? OK, but I draw the line at the crash session where civilians (older former pilots) get instructed in flying the latest US planes --and Captain Smith figures out how to operate the old alien craft!
ID tries to a be Politically Correct, but I am not sure that stressing the Jewishness of Goldblum's father (Judd Hirsch) in caricatural fashion, or, similarly, the gayness of a Government scientist (gravel-voiced Harvey Fierstein), were thought through by the film's German writer-director. There are no Asian-Americans, by the way.