Reflecting on watching Independence Day
It's been 24 years since Independence Day came out, and one of my favorite Fourth of July memories is when I saw the movie with my dad during that holiday in theaters. I loved the movie, and must have watched the movie at least fifty times since seeing it then.
For those who haven't seen the movie, it's not a very complicated plot. Aliens invade earth, destroy everything, and then we find the weakness to the alien's power and we destroy the aliens. So what is it about this movie that time after time I keep going back to it engaged and ready to watch?
One reason is that it's just so cool. The aliens don't come to earth on a stereotypical and relatively small flying saucer that you might see out of the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, but these ships are huge and could cover one city block. What's cool about their size is the way they invade too; they don't come into earth firing right away, but they kind of just take a territory and stop, waiting for the right moment to strike. So our first impression of these giant discs are them just hovering above certain spots, anticipating evil but not knowing in the form of what.
Another aspect of this film's coolness is the intrigue to know about the science behind the aliens and the whole Area 51 mystique. We are taken into this desert land with this zany scientist near the film's end who shows us the "freak show," or the anatomy of two aliens that were stranded in the desert from the 1950s and we proceed to learn a lot about the aliens from the scientist's point of view. I'm glad they include this part into the film because that feeds our much needed curiosity.
Independence Day uses the very stereotypical Us versus Them theme that has been used in countless films. And just like in countless films, the villain is at first seemingly more powerful than the hero. Take the movie Predator as an example. The predator in that movie was obviously stronger than Arnold Schwarzenegger, but we know all along that Arnold is going to beat the predator somehow, some way.
So why should watching this all familiar theme be so addictive? One reason is that I especially enjoy watching the part when the United States uses its fighter planes to blow the spacecraft out of the sky. Well, let's think about it this way. Would I enjoy this movie or would people for that matter enjoy it if the aliens won? I think there's something in our blood, the same reason so many people enjoyed 300 - that causes us to root for the underdog in situations and furthermore, root for our team. The United States was not only my team as a resident of this country, but was the underdog in the movie.
This movie made us hate these aliens; there was nothing to like about them - they were the anti-ET. Now if the US were doing a co-op mission to kill ET, forget about it. But, the simple fact that this movie satisfies my coolness level, nurtures my curiosity and feeds my inner Us for Them need, makes it a formula to keep coming back. There are other variables in there that play in, such as without the decent acting by Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum, I never would have been as intrigued; however, the simple story does the trick time after time by the above mentioned reasons.