Arguably the most influential catastrophic summer blockbuster of the 1990s, Independence Day hit the big screens 20 years ago today, on 2nd July 1996.
Directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich, the disaster classic sees the earth in dire straits with an invading alien force of unknown origin. Said alien force brings calamity and destruction to the entire world, which thankfully (and luckily) doesn’t stop the surviving human population to develop a last-chance counterattack to rid the earth of it’s alien menace.
Independence Day was initially due to be released on 3rd July, but due to high anticipation and demand the film was released a day earlier, opening on the day that the film’s story begins. Independence Day also had a star-studded cast of 90s regulars, including: Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn and Harvey Fierstein.
The film became the highest-grossing film of 1996 (grossing over $817.4 million), and briefly the second highest-grossing film worldwide, of all time. It also won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, and was nominated for Best Sound Mixing.
For what now seems as a normalized commodity, the special effects incorporated in Independence Day for it’s time were mind-blowing. The film – much like a majority of films during the CGI boom of the 1980s and 90s – utilized the artistry of combining practical and SFX. The reason audiences around had the lasting image of the White House exploded was it being a miniature of the landmark being blown up; to be able to trick the viewers eye into believing it to be the real White House through force-perspective shots. That singular sequence has become a milestone within visual effects in film. The use of models and miniatures of landmarks, cities, and aircraft give Independence Day an edge, and such an edge is unfortunately lacking in it’s recent sequel Independence Day: Resurgence.
Independence Day is not a masterpiece by far; it’s a film known for it’s cheesy dialogue, stereotypical characters, it’s in-your-face patriotism and plot holes. But it’s a film that helped define a culture already set within the 90s; a distrust of the government, a intrigue into alien life, the upcoming millennium and a fear of the unknown. Independence Day was the poster-boy for the resurgence of sci-fi and disaster films of the 1990s, becoming the catalyst for the outbreak of catastrophe films that followed.
Remind yourself of the seminal 90s destruction flick below, and don’t make plans for August.