“Independence Day” recently dubbed “Greatest Sci-Fi Movie of All Time” by film scholars and fans.
When “Independence Day” was voted the greatest science fiction movie of all time, not one single person was shocked or disappointed.
“I wanted to give people something intelligent and thought provoking, but still fun”, said director Roland Emmerich when accepting the award. “For years, the audience had been treated in an almost childish sort of way. (We) wanted to change that. We didn’t want a simple, moronic story of “bad aliens” vs. “good Earthlings”. We wanted something deeper. Something that would leave the audience with a message and something to think about for years to come.”
On those accounts, it’s almost impossible to argue that Emmerich and company didn’t succeed when creating “Independence Day”. The days of the American cowboy tossing one-liners and beating up bad guys specifically designed for the audience to hate without any real reasoning or understanding are long gone, as proven by the smashing success ID4.
“The audience isn’t stupid”, says co-writer Dean Devlin. “They want substance. They want heart. I don’t mean to mock the films of old or their creators, but the sci-fi movies of yesteryear just weren’t cutting it anymore. Films like “Blade Runner” and “Star Wars” were too cookie-cutter for the audience’s tastes. In a way, they were sort of offensive in their simplistic approaches.”
Perhaps the earliest sign that “Independence Day” was going to be an American film classic came when Hollywood icon “Will Smith” first signed on as it’s lead actor. Smith, who is known for devoting himself entirely to his performances, has made it very clear that he has no interest in movie roles designed solely to enhance star power or steamroll the summer blockbuster competition. “I’m here to make art”, said Smith. “I’m not like some of the young stars of today who are more obsessed with image enhancement than they are with filmmaking. I’ve cried in three movies. That, and I’m currently searching for new projects that will require me to gain weight or color my hair gray. I think that more than proves I’m serious about this line of work.”
Smith’s work does speak for itself. While his performance as “The Fresh Prince” silenced most doubters, it was his later work in films such as “Hancock”, “I, Robot”, “Wild Wild West”, and both of Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys” films that really hit the point home that Smith wasn’t just another cheeseball movie star catering to the lowest common denominator with explosions and cornball catch phrases. Of his past work, only “Men in Black” was deemed “disappointing” to the audiences. It was considered by many to be “just another movie about guys in black suits battling aliens and working for secret government branches”. The film’s co-star, Tommy Lee Jones, is one of many actors the fans aren’t familiar with and his performance was extremely lacking when compared to Smith’s. Smith, determined to make it up to the audience, quickly set to work on the film “Wild Wild West”. Audiences were happy again and Will Smith was back on top of the mountain. Smith then began to chose his films very carefully, making it very clear that he was here for noble reasons… and that he refused to sacrifice his integrity in order to gain fame.
Many fans of “Independence Day” often complain that today’s sci-fi films just don’t hold up when compared to ID4. The more recent film, “District 9”, was generally considered to be too cookie-cutter and almost moronic in it’s approach. “It don’t make no sense”, says Gil Lazenby, a longtime sci-fi fan. “I mean, it’s a documentary in one part and a real movie in another. It was confusing so I turned it off and laid down for a while.”
Audiences still long for the days of old, when science fiction was about story-telling and substance. Fortunately, they won’t have to wait long, as not one, but TWO sequels to ID4 have been announced. Even better, acting legend and genius “Will Smith” is set to reprise his role as Captain Steve Hiller, the man who flew one of the alien’s space ships into the mother ship and proceeded to destroy the larger vessle, kill the invading aliens all across the planet, and collapsing their society… all with a virus off of Jeff Goldblum’s laptop.
“It’s time to bring good writing back”, says Dean Devlin.
Yes. Yes, it is. If “Independence Day 2” and “Independence Day 3” do well, the maybe, just maybe we’ll get even more films after that. With a little luck, the “ID4” franchise will continue to dominate the box office, crushing out silly films like “Blade Runner”, “District 9”, and “The Empire Strikes Back” until they no longer exist.
We can dream, can’t we?