Independence Day

WOW!!! Judgement Day is just a bigger version of Visu-Hell Reality. Picture Turner gone mad with a paint brush in the best tradition of Cecil B. without Chuck on the mountain top and you get an idea of those whirling, swirling clouds that choke open like the mouth of Hades to announce the unseen visitors from another planet as their hidden crafts approach the stratosphere. Yes, folks, this is really the Red Sea and the only chariots of fire are riding in the sky. What a day for a barbecue!

In a world filled with the cinema of breath-taking effects and computer truths, if you're out for the big kicks, it's worth your while to see a solid story with a strong cast under the direction of a magician backed up by a top-notch D.P., a master of special effects, and a clever crew. So, what else is there to say?

It's a Don't miss, which you probably already knew before you began reading this. But, things being the way they are and since momentarily I have control of the written word, let me take you a little further anyway. Humor me. Let me ramble. Watch me pitch.

Take the main premise of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, starting off with a shot of an American flag and marking stone on the moon to get those U.S. patriotic juices suitably flowing, introduce several mother ships (larger than the one in Close Encounters), let them approach earth like something from X-files, fill them with creatures similar to Giger's Alien (showing them in similar short sharp shocks to tease), let them use mankind's technology against itself (in a Terminator kind of way), build to a point of attack, and then show them blasting the hell out of the Empire State Building, the White House, and the rest of the earth in a way not even the combined muscle of Arnold, Sly and Jean-Claude could begin to deal with and you wind up with a new kind of Independence Day.

Underneath it all, it must remain a modern-techno-version of an us-against-them 1950's World-War-Two film. Sort of like watching The Longest Day in living color with FX and (a different batch of) aliens. Take someone who has courage and guts like a character out of The Right Stuff and you're on the path to heroism and history of a kind that can only manifest itself in America. That's why it all starts on the 2nd of July and leads to culmination on the 4th, the Independence Day of the United States (get it?) that can become the Independence Day of the entire United Earth against all evil forces from outside. Everyone will fight for freedom because freedom is worth fighting for, isn't it. Kill those creepy-crawlies. Of course, a couple of "wuzzes" will put glue into the works along the way, but the Big Battle becomes inevitable, in a Star Wars kind of fashion, leading to a kind of Dr. Strangelove finale.

The star appeal is sort of like that from a 70's disaster film in which the cast is designed to draw you to the cinema where you can see them giving brilliant performances in limited roles so no one is able to get the upper hand. Lots of stars with lots of stories and any one of them can die at any time: sort of an "Airport Millennium" or "Global Inferno" or "Burnt on the 4th of July". Keep the audience guessing is the "modus operandi."

And, of course, the disaster film envelope opens wide the potential for ensemble acting. How's this sound?: Jeff Goldblum (of The Fly and Jurassic Park fame) as David Levinson, the intelligent, clever cable guy and computer genius who sees through the alien tricks once he discovers and deciphers their secret code. Judd Hirsch (of Taxi fame) as David's father Julius, whose blunt comments often reveal the good old practicality of Jewish common sense. Harvey Fierstein (of Torch Song Trilogy fame) is David's camp boss who is neurotic and nervous and whose exclamations are often quips. Bill Pullman (of While You Were Sleeping fame) as Waspish President Whitmore, a man filled with the solid and stable values that made America great and who isn't afraid to go in and get his hands dirty alongside his fellow citizens. Mary McDonnell (of Passion Fish fame) as Marilyn Whitmore, the Waspish president's Waspish wife, who still has enough time, even when in danger, to respect people for who or what they really are. Robert Loggia (of Mancuso, F.B.I. fame) as General Grey, a military no-nonsense good guy who really, really cares about his men. Randy Quaid (of L.B.J.: The Early Years fame) as Russell Casse, the patriotic alcoholic pilot, widowed father of two Hispanic children, and suspected nutcase who, when all is said and done, is a man whose values are founded upon some good old-fashioned morals.

Will Smith (of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" fame) appears as Marine Captain Steve Hiller, the Afro-American fighter pilot who has always dreamed of flying high in a space shuttle, but didn't know it was gonna be in an alien craft. He deservedly gets superb points for coming as close as anyone possibly could to being the "star" of the film. (But why'd he have to kick that alien so nasty-like? Not nice, boy, what would your mama say?) Of course, we all knew that Will can act since we saw him in that fabulous piece of work Six Degrees of Separation. On the side of the unintentional bad guys (meaning: so dedicated they don't know how questionable their actions are) we have James Rebhorn (of Silkwood) as Secretary of Defence Nimziki and Brent Spiner (better known to "Trekkies" under the name of Data) as Dr.Okun, the scientist who can't wait to open up another gooey alien. Add in Margaret Colin (of Chicago Hope fame), Harry Connick, Jr. (of Copycat fame) with the talents of Viveca Fox and James Duval and you have an all-star cast in which everyone is expendable (in accordance with the story line, naturally).

Jeff Goldblum, commenting on the movie, said that it's "about how different people can join together for a common, grand and noble purpose, and how the best in them comes out in the process. The enormous threat brings out our sense of brotherhood and responsibility and causes us to connect with what's really important, and I liked that about it."

Really, Jeff? Considering this aspect, the television clip used in the film from The Day the Earth Stood Still becomes an interesting and ironical choice if we stop to reflect upon and compare the (thematic?) plot line of Independence Day itself. In the earlier film Michael Rennie, as Klaatu, appears from his saucer-like saucer wearing a silver-lameÀ suit and opens a tool-like gift of peace and brotherly love which appears surprisingly like some extra-terrestrial egg beater. At this point, a trigger-happy soldier, fearing evil is afoot, believes attack is imminent and knows it is his mission to keep America safe. In other words, he shoots the alien. This doesn't quite kill Klaatu, so later in the film the militia give it another try. End of potential interplanetary peace? Not quite. Lucky for Michael that he brought Gort, the robot with the pressure-cooker helmet, along for the ride.

Lucky too that Patricia Neal remembered those immortal words, "klaatu barada nikto". On parallel lines, this 1950's film has several similarities built into it, but decides to present us with the positive elements of another life form (much in the way of Close Encounters or E.T.) whereas Independence Day deliberately opts for the evil foreigner from another planet whose malevolent intentions could ultimately become the catalyst to unite earthlings by bringing them together for the realization of the destruction of their common enemy. Is this a positive outlook on life? Is this the way for nations to reach out to one another? Sounds like it's loaded with lots of questionable political ideologies and scattered throughout with dangerous insinuations dressed to look like sheep. Oh, those vicious sheep. Why should we worry; we've got the bomb. Think I'm going too far? Don't get me wrong. I'm not insinuating that there's anything subversive about this film. In fact, I'm prone to agree with so many others that it's fabulously exciting to watch, more enjoyable than most cinema spectacles of recent years and has absolutely nothing relevant at it's core. So, what's subversive? The subliminal seeds might very well be there, but not in any intentional way. So, why worry?

Poor aliens. Once again they're getting a raw deal, just like they did in the fifties when they served as a metaphor for those stinking pinko-commie-reds. (If someone had thought of having the aliens shoot up in their ships this time around perhaps it might have been utilized to show exactly how bad drugs are for you.) They, however, are not the point of order in this film. The monsters here have been drawn as a heartless race of locust-like creatures bent on total destruction. Emanating from main stations as if leaving a cave for their ruthless attacks and caring less about mankind than mankind cares about itself. They're merely an extension of a problem already familiar to us. But, since they don't really look like us, they'll be easier to kill.

Independence Day was conceived by director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin (a team that previously gave us that visual treat Stargate) as a "popcorn movie" that would give people an exciting and fun ride. It unquestionably succeeds in its goal.

On the other hand, it might be better and wiser to really start considering positive action toward the situation of the world's population for solving the plight of so many hungry and needy human beings by beginning negotiations between all nations on earth. Otherwise, how are we going to deal with the situation when they actually do arrive? Don't depend on Mulder to help you.

The Green Hartnett would like you to add your efforts toward the movement of equal rights for aliens, Global Legislative Organization for the Registration and Integration of Aliens (GLORIA). In the meantime, those of you who won't make the effort can keep watching the skies.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett