Twenty years ago, I was a sophomore in college. That was the first summer where I didn’t go home for break and instead stayed at school and got a few more credits. I went to a small, private university and it was absolutely dead in the summer. Almost everybody took off, leaving only a hundred of us or so staying on campus. We formed a strange bond, those of us that stayed, hanging out though we weren’t really friends in the normal school months. My roommate stayed too and we mostly just hung out watching TV when we weren’t in class or in school. We were too broke to do anything else.
But oh, we were excited by Independence Day. Remember these were early days into using computer graphics to make action movies more explode-y and exciting. The previews for it looked amazing. I remember very clearly my roommate writing on his calendar in big, bold marker letters “ID4” on its release day. Technically, it was coming out July 3rd since that was Friday but it was all about the American Independence day of July 4.
It was something spectacular to look forward to in the drudgery of summer life at university. The day finally came, we showed up early to get good seats and then it finally came on. We loved it. We knew then it wasn’t good movie, but man, was it a whole heaping lot of dumb fun. The effects were astonishingly good and watching those aliens blow up stuff like the White House was just incredible. Will Smith was at his wisecracking best (and this film made him a gigantic superstar and unofficially the king of the summer blockbuster).
Honestly, my love of it died down pretty quickly. I saw it again with a friend a couple of weeks later and it was already wearing thin. The weaknesses of the story were more pronounced the second time through and the spectacle was less impressive. By the time it came out on VHS a few months later, I was making fun of my roommate for actually buying the thing. We never watched it.
Two decades later and I’m more forgiving. I caught some of it on television a week or so ago and I rather enjoyed myself. It's still not a good movie, but the effects hold up pretty well and it's still a lot of dumb fun. It's something I can put on in the heat of summer, perhaps on this year's Independence Day, and enjoy making fun of with my family.
This anniversary edition comes in a few different versions, the coolest of which is encased in a cool-looking alien ship. It's loaded with extras including extended cuts, documentaries, booklets, and more.
Also coming out this week that looks interesting:
Joy: A drama from the usually interesting David O. Russell about the lady who invented the Miracle Mop. Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Isabella Rossellini. I almost made this my pick of the week, in fact I wrote a few paragraphs on it before switching to Independence Day, but the power of Will Smith’s wisecracks changed my mind.
Easy Rider (Criterion Collection): A cultural landmark that ushered in the New Hollywood phase of movies in the 1970s, made Jack Nicholson a star, and helped bring the counterculture to the mainstream. I’ve never seen it, and honestly, I’m not sure that I care to anytime soon. I recognize its importance and yet every time I see a scene of it or catch a little of it on television I’m always bored.
The Fifth Wave: Sci-fi flick about a young girl (Chloe Grave Moretz) trying to survive in a world devastated by waves of alien invasions.
Remember: Atom Egoyan directs Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau in this drama about a widower struggling from memory loss who embarks on a cross-country odyssey with a Holocaust survivor to find the former Nazi responsible for the death of his family members.
The Last Ship: The Complete Second Season: TNT series about a Navy ship that survives an apocalyptic event that wipes out half the world’s population and must now develop a vaccine before returning home. Sounds interesting, though with Michael Bay executive producing I immediately become less interested.
Ted vs. Flash Gordon: I’ve seen some goofy pairings of films that get packaged up in the same boxed sets but this has to be the goofiest. This is surely what they are going for as the cover features Ted, the talking teddy bear from the movie dressed up like Ming the Merciless.