On July 2, 1996, the mother ship of summer movie invasions landed in theaters. It came out of nowhere ... and hovered. Unsuspecting cities nationwide found eager adolescents lining up for blocks. And with the mercilessly swift firepower of a sophisticated alien spacecraft, Independence Day proceeded to obliterate its formidable box-office competition—to the tune of $85 million in just five days!
Independence Day is an action-packed science fiction thriller about aliens trying to wipe out the human race during Fourth of July weekend. And what fireworks! The tension begins when enormous flying saucers park menacingly over earth's largest cities and proceed to demolish miles of densely populated real estate (an intense and unnerving sight). But those feisty earthlings won't go quietly. In a "save the planet" campaign more dire than any recycling drive, the nations of the world unite for a retaliatory strike led by an honorable U.S. president, a crack marine fighter pilot, a computer whiz and a colorful medley of supporting characters.
A high-tech hybrid of 1950s alien invasion films and the Irwin Allen disaster pictures of the 1970s, Independence Day has been called this generation's Star Wars. But adults who grew up with Darth Vader may want to think twice before exposing their children to a vicious assault so close to home. E.T.'s disgruntled cousins level familiar landmarks such as New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and—ulp!—Colorado Springs. Millions of people die. And though few of the casualties' demises are unduly graphic, a number of likable characters don't live to see another barbecue, which will certainly bother more sensitive viewers.
In addition to impersonal violence and mass destruction, adults will object to the film's frequent uses of profanity and the Lord's name in vain. Also inappropriate for youngsters are occasional crudities, the enthusiastic endorsement of cigar smoking, and a brief scene featuring a scantily clad stripper (whose career choice is condoned).
Still, Independence Day is not without its virtues. It depicts alcoholism as unhealthy, and sacrifice as noble (a climactic offensive against the aliens provides a dramatic illustration of John 15:13). The President of the United States is portrayed as an honest man of personal and professional integrity who cares more about people and principle than he does about politics. In addition, the final third of the movie deserves praise for its celebration of parent-child relationships, the institution of marriage and a kindly Jewish man's rediscovery of faith.
While this dynamic thrill ride consists of some positive twists and turns, it's difficult to applaud profanity-strewn entertainment that lures young audiences with the promise of wholesale carnage. Independence Day packs quite a punch, but it's one many families may prefer to dodge.