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Independence Day (1996 film)

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Independence Day
Independence day movieposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by Dean Devlin
Written by Dean Devlin
Roland Emmerich
Starring Will Smith
Bill Pullman
Jeff Goldblum
Mary McDonnell
Judd Hirsch
Margaret Colin
Randy Quaid
Robert Loggia
James Rebhorn
Harvey Fierstein
Vivica A. Fox
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by David Brenner
Production
company
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • July 2, 1996 (1996-07-02)
Running time
145 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million[1][2]
Box office $817.4 million[1]

Independence Day is a 1996 American epic science fiction disaster film co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich. The film stars Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Vivica A. Fox, and Harry Connick, Jr. The film focuses on a disparate group of people who converge in the Nevada desert in the aftermath of a destructive alien attack and, along with the rest of the human population, participate in a last-chance counterattack on July 4, the same date as the Independence Day holiday in the United States. The screenplay was written by Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin.

While promoting Stargate in Europe, Emmerich came up with the idea for the film when fielding a question about his own belief in the existence of alien life. He and Devlin decided to incorporate a large-scale attack when noticing that aliens in most invasion films travel long distances in outer space only to remain hidden when reaching Earth. Shooting began in July 1995 in New York City, and the film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.

The film was scheduled for release on July 3, 1996, but due to its high level of anticipation, many theaters began showing it on the evening of July 2, 1996, the same day the story of the film begins. The film grossed over $800 million worldwide, becoming the second-highest-grossing film at the time. It is currently the 51st-highest-grossing film of all time and was at the forefront of the large-scale disaster film and science fiction resurgences of the mid-to-late-1990s. The film received positive reviews upon its release, with critics mainly praising its groundbreaking special effects, musical score, and acting (particularly Smith's performance), though some criticized its storyline and character development. It won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, while it was nominated for Best Sound Mixing. A sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, is scheduled to be released on June 24, 2016.

Plot[edit]

On July 2, 1996,[3] a 550 km wide alien mothership enters Earth's orbit and deploys 36 saucer-shaped "destroyer" spacecraft, each 15 miles (24 km) wide. As they take position over some of Earth's major cities, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), an MIT graduate working for a cable company in New York City, discovers hidden transmissions in Earth's satellites which he realizes is a timer counting down to a coordinated attack by the aliens. With the support of his estranged wife Constance Spano (Margaret Colin), the White House Communications Director, he and his father Julius (Judd Hirsch) gain entrance into the Oval Office to notify President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) about the attack. Whitmore orders large-scale evacuations of the targeted cities, but the aliens attack with advanced directed-energy weapons before these can be carried out. Whitmore, portions of his staff, and the Levinsons narrowly escape aboard Air Force One as Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York and other major cities around the world are destroyed.

On July 3, the Black Knights, a squadron of Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets, participate in an assault on a destroyer near the ruins of Los Angeles. Their weapons fail to penetrate the craft's force field. Dozens of "attacker" ships are launched by the aliens in defense, and a one-sided dogfight ensues in which nearly all the Hornets are destroyed. Afterwards, many American military installations, including NORAD, are destroyed, killing the Vice President and most of the Cabinet who had been hiding there. Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is the only pilot to survive the Los Angeles assault by luring a single attacker to the Grand Canyon and causing their aircraft to crash into the desert. He subdues the injured alien and is rescued by Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), who is traveling across the desert with a group of refugees. They take the alien to nearby Area 51, where Whitmore and his remaining staff have also landed. Area 51 conceals a top-secret facility housing a repaired attacker and three alien bodies recovered from Roswell in 1947.

When scientist Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) attempts to autopsy the alien, it regains consciousness and attempts to escape. When questioned by Whitmore, the alien attempts a psychic attack against him, but is killed by Whitmore's security detail. Whitmore then mentions that while he was being attacked, he saw the alien's thoughts; what its species is planning to do. They are like locusts; their entire species travel from planet to planet, destroying all life and harvesting the natural resources. Whitmore reluctantly orders a nuclear attack on the destroyers; a B-2 Spirit fires a nuclear missile at one of the destroyers above Houston, but the missile fails to penetrate the force field of the destroyer and the remaining strikes are aborted.

On July 4, Levinson devises a plan to use the repaired attacker to introduce a computer virus and plant a nuclear missile on board the mothership, theorizing that this will disrupt the force fields of the destroyers. Hiller volunteers to pilot the attacker, with Levinson accompanying him. With not enough military pilots to man all available aircraft, volunteers including Whitmore and Casse are enlisted for the counterstrike.

With the successful implantation of the virus, Whitmore leads the attack against an alien destroyer approaching Area 51. Although the force field is deactivated and the fighters are able to inflict damage, the hull of the destroyer is too big to inflict serious damage. As a result, the fighter's supply of missiles quickly becomes exhausted. As the destroyer prepares to fire on the base, Casse has one missile left, but it jams. He decides to fly his plane directly into the alien weapon in a kamikaze attack, which kills him but destroys it. The Americans inform resistance forces around the world about how to destroy the alien ships. The nuclear device destroys the alien mothership as Hiller and Levinson escape unharmed back to Earth. The whole world then celebrates its heroes' victory as well as its true 'Independence Day'.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

F/A-18 Hornets of VMFA-314, "Black Knights"

The idea for the film came when Emmerich and Devlin were in Europe promoting their film Stargate. A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a film with content like Stargate if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover 15-mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the world's largest cities. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said, "I think I have an idea for our next film."[7][15][16]

Emmerich and Devlin decided to expand on the idea by incorporating a large-scale attack, with Devlin saying he was bothered by the fact that "for the most part, in alien invasion movies, they come down to Earth and they're hidden in some back field ...[o]r they arrive in little spores and inject themselves into the back of someone's head."[17] Emmerich agreed by asking Devlin if arriving from across the galaxy, "would you hide on a farm or would you make a big entrance?"[17] The two wrote the script during a month-long vacation in Mexico,[15] and just one day after they sent it out for consideration, 20th Century Fox chairman Peter Chernin greenlit the screenplay.[11] Pre-production began just three days later in February 1995.[7][15] The U.S. military originally intended to provide personnel, vehicles, and costumes for the film; however, they backed out when the producers refused to remove the script's Area 51 references.[7]

A then-record 3,000-plus special effects shots would ultimately be required for the film.[16] The shoot utilized on-set, in-camera special effects more often than computer-generated effects in an effort to save money and get more authentic pyrotechnic results.[7] Many of these shots were accomplished at Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California, where the film's art department, motion control photography teams, pyrotechnics team, and model shop were headquartered. The production's model-making department built more than twice as many miniatures for the production than had ever been built for any film before by creating miniatures for buildings, city streets, aircraft, landmarks, and monuments.[18] The crew also built miniatures for several of the spaceships featured in the film, including a 30-foot (9.1 m) destroyer model[19] and a version of the mother ship spanning 12 feet (3.7 m).[20] City streets were recreated, then tilted upright beneath a high-speed camera mounted on a scaffolding filming downwards. An explosion would be ignited below the model, and flames would rise towards the camera, engulfing the tilted model and creating the rolling "wall of destruction" look seen in the film.[21] A model of the White House was also created, covering 10 feet (3.0 m) by 5 feet (1.5 m), and was used in forced-perspective shots before being destroyed in a similar fashion for its own destruction scene.[22] The detonation took a week to plan[11] and required 40 explosive charges.[22]

A World War II training aircraft with a camera mounted on its front navigated through the walls of the Little Colorado River canyon, and the footage was used as pilot point-of-view shots.[23]

The film's aliens were designed by production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. The actual aliens of the film are diminutive and based on a design Tatopoulos drew when tasked by Emmerich to create an alien that was "both familiar and completely original".[24] These creatures wear "bio-mechanical" suits that are based on another design Tatopoulos pitched to Emmerich. These suits were 8 feet (2.4 m) tall, equipped with 25 tentacles, and purposely designed to show it could not sustain a person inside so it would not appear to be a "man in a suit".[25]

Principal photography began in July 1995 in New York City. A second unit gathered plate shots and establishing shots of Manhattan, Washington D.C., an RV community in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the Very Large Array on the Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.[25] The main crew also filmed in nearby Cliffside Park, New Jersey before moving to the former Kaiser Steel mill in Fontana, California to film the post-attack Los Angeles sequences.[26] The production then moved to Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada,[27] where the deserts doubled for Imperial Valley and the Wendover Airport doubled for the El Toro and Area 51 exteriors.[28] It was here where Pullman filmed his pre-battle speech. Immediately before filming the scene, Devlin and Pullman decided to add "Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!" to the end of the speech. At the time, the production was nicknamed "ID4" because Warner Bros. owned the rights to the title Independence Day, and Devlin had hoped if Fox executives noticed the addition in dailies, the impact of the new dialogue would help them win the rights to the title.[7] The right to use the title was eventually won two weeks later.[11]

The production team moved to the Bonneville Salt Flats to film three scenes, then returned to California to film in various places around Los Angeles, including Hughes Aircraft where sets for the cable company and Area 51 interiors were constructed at a former aircraft plant. Sets for the latter included corridors containing windows that were covered with blue material. The filmmakers originally intended to use the chroma key technique to make it appear as if activity was happening on the other side of the glass; but the composited images were not added to the final print because production designers decided the blue panels gave the sets a "clinical look".[29] The attacker hangar set contained an attacker mock-up 65 feet (20 m) wide[18] that took four months to build.[11] The White House interior sets used had already been built for The American President and had previously been used for Nixon.[22] Principal photography completed on November 3, 1995.[11]

The film originally depicted Russell Casse being rejected as a volunteer for the July 4 aerial counteroffensive because of his alcoholism. He then uses a stolen missile tied to his red biplane to carry out his suicide mission. According to Dean Devlin, test audiences responded well to the scene's irony and comedic value.[7] However, the scene was re-shot to include Russell's acceptance as a volunteer, his crash course in modern fighter aircraft, and him flying an F/A-18 instead of the biplane. Devlin preferred the alteration because the viewer now witnesses Russell ultimately making the decision to sacrifice his life,[7] and seeing the biplane keeping pace and flying amongst F/A-18s was "just not believable".[30] The film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.[11]

Music[edit]

The score was composed by David Arnold and has received two official CD releases. RCA released a 50-minute album at the time of the film's release. Then in 2010, La-La Land Records released a limited edition 2-CD set that comprised the complete score plus 12 alternate cues.[31]

Release[edit]

While the film was still in post-production, 20th Century Fox began a massive marketing campaign to help promote the film, beginning with the airing of a dramatic commercial during Super Bowl XXX, for which Fox paid $1.3 million.[32] The film's subsequent success at the box office resulted in the trend of using Super Bowl air time to kick off the advertising campaign for potential blockbusters.[33][34]

Fox's Licensing and Merchandising division also entered into co-promotional deals with Apple Inc. The co-marketing project was dubbed "The Power to Save the World" campaign, in which the company used footage of David using his PowerBook laptop in their print and television advertisements.[35] Trendmasters entered a merchandising deal with the film's producers to create a line of tie-in toys.[36] In exchange for product placement, Fox also entered into co-promotional deals with Molson Coors Brewing Company and Coca-Cola.[37]

The film was marketed with several taglines, including: "We've always believed we weren't alone. On July 4, we'll wish we were", "Earth. Take a good look. It could be your last", and "Don't make plans for August". The weekend before the film's release, the Fox Network aired a half-hour special on the film, the first third of which was a spoof news report on the events that happen in the film. Roger Ebert attributed most of the film's early success to its teaser trailers and marketing campaigns, acknowledging them as "truly brilliant".[38]

The shot of the White House's destruction was the focus of the film's marketing campaign. A fleeing helicopter was added to the shot in the final print.

The film had its official premiere held at Los Angeles' now-defunct Mann Plaza Theater on June 25, 1996.[39] It was then screened privately at the White House for President Bill Clinton and his family[40] before receiving a nationwide release in the United States on July 2, 1996, a day earlier than its previously scheduled opening.[41]

After a six-week, $30 million marketing campaign, Independence Day was released on VHS on November 22, 1996.[42] It became available on DVD on June 27, 2000, and has been re-released on DVD under several different versions with varying supplemental material ever since, including one instance where it was packaged with a lenticular cover.[43] Often accessible on these versions is a special edition of the film, which features nine minutes of additional footage not seen in the original theatrical release.[44] Independence Day became available on Blu-ray discs in the United Kingdom on December 24, 2007,[45] and in North America on March 11, 2008.[46] The Blu-ray edition does not include the deleted scenes.

Censorship[edit]

In Lebanon, certain Jewish and Israel-related content of the film was censored. One cut scene involved Judd Hirsch's character donning a kippah and leading soldiers and White House officials in a Jewish prayer. Other removed footage showed Israeli and Arab troops working together in preparation for countering the alien invasion. The Lebanese Shi'a Islamist militant group Hezbollah called for Muslims to boycott the film, describing it as "propaganda for the so-called genius of the Jews and their concern for humanity." In response, Jewish actor Jeff Goldblum said, "I think Hezbollah has missed the point: the film is not about American Jews saving the world; it's about teamwork among people of different religions and nationalities to defeat a common enemy."[47][48]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

One of the film's creatures on the cover of the July 8, 1996 issue of Time.

Independence Day was the highest-grossing film of 1996.[1] In the United States, Independence Day earned $104.3 million in its first full week,[49] including $96.1 million during its five-day holiday opening, and $50.2 million during its opening weekend.[50] All three figures broke records set by Jurassic Park three years earlier.[49] That film's sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, claimed all three records when it was released the following year. Independence Day stayed in the number-one spot for three weeks, and grossed $306,169,268 in the domestic market[1] and $510,800,000 in foreign markets during its theatrical run.[1] The combined total of $817,400,891 once trailed only the worldwide earnings of Jurassic Park as the highest of all time.[51] It has been surpassed by multiple 21st century films since, and currently holds the 51st-highest worldwide gross of all time for a film. Hoping to capitalize in the wake of the film's success, several studios released more large-scale disaster films,[52] and the already rising interest in science fiction-related media was further increased by the film's popularity.[40]

A month after the film's release, jewelry designers and marketing consultants reported an increased interest in dolphin-themed jewelry, since the character of Jasmine in the film wears dolphin earrings and is presented with a wedding ring featuring a gold dolphin.[53]

Critical response[edit]

Upon its release, Independence Day received praise for its visuals and sense of fun, but criticism towards its writing. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 60%, based on 57 reviews, with the site's critical consensus reading, "The plot is thin and so is character development, but as a thrilling, spectacle-filled summer movie, Independence Day delivers."[54] On Metacritic the film has a score of 59 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[55]

Critics acknowledged the film had "cardboard" and "stereotypical" characters,[4][41][56][57][58] and weak dialogue.[52][58][59][60] Yet the shot of the White House's destruction has been declared a milestone in visual effects and one of the most memorable scenes of the 1990s.[61][62] In a 2010 poll, the readers of Entertainment Weekly rated it the second-greatest summer film of the previous 20 years, ranking only behind Jurassic Park.[63]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film his highest rating, declaring it the "apotheosis" of Star Wars.[41] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+ for living up to its massive hype, adding "charm is the foremost of this epic's contemporary characteristics. The script is witty, knowing, cool."[57] Eight years later, Entertainment Weekly would rate the film as one of the best disaster films of all time.[52] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times felt that the film did an "excellent job conveying the boggling immensity of [the] extraterrestrial vehicles [...] and panic in the streets" and the scenes of the alien attack were "disturbing, unsettling and completely convincing".[4]

However, the film's nationalistic overtones were widely criticized by reviewers outside the U.S. Movie Review UK described the film as "A mish-mash of elements from a wide variety of alien invasion movies and gung-ho American jingoism."[64] The speech in which Whitmore states that victory in the coming war would see the entire world henceforth describe July 4 as its Independence Day, was described as "the most jaw-droppingly pompous soliloquy ever delivered in a mainstream Hollywood movie" in a BBC review.[65] In 2003, readers of Empire, voted the scene that contained the speech as the "Cheesiest Movie Moment of All-Time".[66] Conversely, Empire critic Kim Newman gave the film a five-star rating in the magazine's original review of the film.[55]

Several prominent critics expressed disappointment with the quality of the film's special effects. Newsweek's David Ansen claimed the special effects were of no better caliber than those seen nineteen years earlier in Star Wars.[58] Todd McCarthy of Variety felt the production's budget-conscious approach resulted in "cheesy" shots that lacked in quality relative to the effects present in films directed by James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.[39] In his review, Roger Ebert took note of a lack of imagination in the spaceship and creature designs.[67] Gene Siskel expressed the same sentiments in their on-air review of the film.[38][dead link]

American Film Institute lists

Accolades[edit]

Award Subject Nominee Result
CAS Awards[70] Best Sound Mixing Chris Carpenter, Bob Beemer, Bill W. Benton and Jeff Wexler Nominated
Academy Awards[70] Nominated
Best Visual Effects Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney and Joe Viskocil Won
Saturn Awards[70] Best Special Effects Won
Best Science Fiction Film Won
Best Director Roland Emmerich Won
Best Writer Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin Nominated
Best Costumes Joseph A. Porro Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Brent Spiner Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Vivica A. Fox Nominated
Best Young Actor James Duval Nominated
Best Music David Arnold Nominated
Best Actor Jeff Goldblum Nominated
Will Smith Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards[70] Favorite Movie Actor Nominated
Favorite Movie Won
Hugo Awards[70] Best Dramatic Presentation Nominated
Young Artist Awards[70] Best Young Actor – Age 10 or Under Ross Bagley Nominated
People's Choice Awards[70] Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture Won
MTV Movie Awards[70] Best Action Sequence Aliens blow up cities Nominated
Best Movie Nominated
Best Male Performance Will Smith Nominated
Best Breakthrough Performance Vivica A. Fox Nominated
Best Kiss Will Smith and Vivica A. Fox Won
Grammy Awards[70] Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television David Arnold Won
Satellite Awards[70] Outstanding Visual Effects Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney and Joe Viskocil Won
Outstanding Film Editing David Brenner Won
Mainichi Film Awards[70] Best Foreign Language Film Won
Japanese Academy Awards[70] Nominated
Amanda Awards[70] Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards[70] Favorite Actor – Sci-Fi Will Smith Won
Universe Reader's Choice Awards[70] Best Actor Won
Best Supporting Actress Vivica A. Fox Won
Best Science Fiction Film Won
Best Special Effects Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney and Joe Viskocil Won
Best Director Roland Emmerich Won
Best Score David Arnold Won
Best Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub Won
Best Writing Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin Won
Golden Raspberry Awards[70] Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million Nominated

In other media[edit]

Books[edit]

Author Stephen Molstad wrote a tie-in novel to help promote the film shortly before its release. The novel goes into further detail on the characters, situations, and overall concept not explored in the film. The novel presents the film's finale as originally scripted, with the character played by Randy Quaid stealing a missile and roping it to his crop duster biplane.

Following the film's success, a prequel novel entitled Independence Day: Silent Zone was written by Molstad in February 1998.[71] The novel is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and details the early career of Dr. Brackish Okun.[72]

Molstad wrote a third novel, Independence Day: War in the Desert in July 1999. Set in Saudi Arabia on July 3, it centers around Captain Cummins and Colonel Thompson, the two Royal Air Force officers seen receiving the Morse code message in the film.

A Marvel comic book was also written based on the first two novelizations.

Radio[edit]

On August 4, 1996, BBC Radio 1 broadcast the one-hour play Independence Day UK, written, produced, and directed by Dirk Maggs, a spin-off depicting the alien invasion from a British perspective.[73] None of the original cast was present. Dean Devlin gave Maggs permission to produce an original version, on the condition he did not reveal certain details of the movie's plot and the British were not depicted as saving the day.[73] Independence Day UK was set up to be similar to the 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds; the first 20 minutes were set as being live.[73]

Computer games[edit]

An Independence Day video game was released in February 1997 for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC, each version receiving mostly tepid reviews.[74][75] The multi-view shooter game contains various missions to perform, with the ultimate goal of destroying the aliens' primary weapon. A wireless mobile version was released in 2005. A computer game entitled ID4 Online was released in 2000.[citation needed]

Toys[edit]

Trendmasters released a toy line for the film in 1996.[76] Each action figure, vehicle or playset came with a 3 1⁄2" floppy disk that contained an interactive computer game.[77]

Sequel[edit]

In June 2011, Dean Devlin confirmed that he and Emmerich had written a treatment for two sequels to form a trilogy, with both Emmerich and Devlin having the desire for Will Smith to return.[78] In October 2011, however, discussions for Smith returning were halted, due to Fox's refusal to provide the $50 million salary demanded by Smith for the two sequels. Emmerich, however, made assurances that the films would be shot back-to-back, regardless of Smith's involvement.[79]

In March 2013, Emmerich stated that the titles of the new films would be ID Forever Part I and ID Forever Part II.[80] In November 2014, the sequel was given an official green light by 20th Century Fox with a release date of June 24, 2016, noting that this will be a stand-alone sequel that will not split into two parts as originally planned, with filming beginning in May 2015 and casting being done after the studio locks down Emmerich as the director on the film.[81] In December 2014, Devlin confirmed that Emmerich would indeed be directing the sequel.[82] On June 22, 2015, Emmerich announced the official title, Independence Day: Resurgence.[83]

With regards to Smith's decision not to return to film a sequel, director Emmerich told Screen Crush that "In the very beginning, I wanted to work with him and he was excited to be in it but then after a while he was tired of sequels, and he did another science fiction film, which was his father-son story [After Earth], so he opted out."[84]

Independence Day: Resurgence will be released on June 24, 2016.[85]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
12 Monkeys
Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film
1996
Succeeded by
Men in Black