Pal, I have seen more than my fair share of offensive movies. I have endured scenes of torture and rape, suffered through hideous descents into drug-fueled madness, and even watched a character take a flame thrower to a bus load of children, for Pete’s sake.
But I recently watched a movie that truly takes the cake, a film so offensive it makes all those other sick-fests seem like child’s play. The movie to which I am referring is Independence Day.
Independence Day was released in 1996, was directed by Roland Emmerich and stars Will Smith. It is a thrilling, light-hearted and rousing action adventure about humankind successfully fighting off an alien invasion. It is rated PG and was, by far, the biggest grossing movie the year it was released.
It’s one of the most offensive things I have ever seen. There are so many reasons why, but I’ve narrowed it down to the top 7. Oh, and spoiler alert, if you are the one guy left in the world who has still not seen this movie, but wants to, stop reading right now. I give it all away.
7. It imitates Satan
Everyone knows how the Devil works. He is wonderful when you first meet him, seducing you with his charm and luring you in. Next thing you know, you’re licking his fiery balls in Hell.
Independence Day works the same way. The first 20 minutes are awesome, a model of how to build suspense as city-sized alien ships break through our atmosphere without warning or explanation and silently settle over major centres all around the world. Then stupid shit starts to happen. From there the movie just gets stupider and stupider, but by the time you realize what’s happening, it has eaten your soul.
6. The aliens’ motive is moronic
There is a popular (and logical) theory that any alien species sophisticated enough to figure out interstellar travel and make their way across unfathomable distances to find us would almost certainly come in peace. They would be infinitely older, wiser and smarter than us and would not feel the least bit threatened by us. We would be to them what salamanders are to us.
So, if they ever get here, there is any number of things they could do: study us, teach us, help us fix our problems. At worst, maybe pilfer some of our resources or put a few of us into their zoo. But to come all this way for the express purpose of annihilating us? That would be like a person living in New York City building a cruise ship, filling it with soldiers and weaponry and sailing the thing all the way to a small island off the coast of Australia – for the express purpose of machine gunning each and every salamander on that island. It would be, to say the least, excessive.
5. Everything’s a stereotype
Why complicate a film with characters when you can go with caricatures? In Independence Day, everything is simple. Politicians are assholes. Soldiers are heroes. Peace-lovers are kooky hippies…
Rednecks drink and drive trailers. Scientists are antisocial and are played by Data…
On the international stage, Russians are vaguely menacing, Arabs wear turbans, and Africans wear loin cloths and carry spears at all times…
The purpose of this movie is to make Americans love America (good article here). There’s even a speech that explains why World history is really just a subsidiary of U.S. history. So I guess the filmmakers thought it best to just keep everything else as simple and shallow as a pancake. But it pisses me off, and it should piss everyone off.
4. The aliens are incredibly stupid for being so incredibly brilliant
This is a species that can construct a mother ship one quarter the size of our moon, fill it with sub ships the size of cities, travel millions of light years and, upon arrival, already knew exactly which cities and buildings to target in order to wreak maximum havoc. They communicate telepathically. They are ADVANCED.
And yet, here’s something that happens:
The climax of the film includes a “covert” operation during which Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum use an alien fighter ship to sneak onto the mother ship so they can upload a virus onto the mother ship’s mainframe. There’s a lot to mock about this sequence, but my favourite is that the aliens have no idea there are two humans on the ship that they just let into their giant traveling home. Do they not have any detection systems on board? Do they not read minds? Could they not, at the very least, look into the freakin’ windows?
It gets better. Once they’re on board, Jeff Goldblum, the techie character in the film (we know this because he’s awkward and wears glasses), taps his keyboard about three or four times and says “we’re in”. Seriously? That’s all it takes to hack into this species’ network and wreck everything? They have invisible shields around their ships that can repel nuclear attacks, but they never heard of anti-virus software?
3. Sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar
The climax of this movie is so full of absurdity, so many reasons for hatred, but for me it all just boils down to the cigars. Let me attempt to explain this.
Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum have successfully downloaded the virus to the mother ship’s computer (yeah, right), which means the shields are down and the fighter jets on Earth are able to successfully attack the city-sized sub ships. For Will and Jeff, this means mission accomplished, and so they light up cigars to celebrate. Here’s what they have to do next…
– Fly out of the mother ship while being attacked
– Become engulfed in fire and debris when the mother ship explodes while they are leaving it (please remember this ship is one quarter the size of our moon – that’s a shitload of fire and debris to fly through)
– Travel through space back to earth
– Endure the punishing experience of re-entry into earth’s atmosphere
– Travel around the planet from wherever they re-entered to the precise location in the desert where their wives and the President are conveniently waiting for them
And as they walk heroically across the desert to be embraced by the welcome committee, THEY ARE STILL SMOKING THE CIGARS! And not just that, but the cigars are pretty much the same size as when they lit them.
Now, I don’t know exactly how long that journey home should take, but it’s got to be a whole lot more than three stogie puffs, and I don’t know what condition our heroes would be in (dead, actually), but I would think after the ordeal they just endured, chomping on a tasty Cuban would be the furthest thing from their minds.
2. Female characters are less important than the cigars
If real life aliens watched Independence Day in order to learn about humankind they would conclude the men are retarded, and that the females have yet to develop brains. The women in this movie do absolutely nothing but think about their men and talk about their men while sitting around waiting for their men to come home and save them. Correction, that’s not all they do. Sometimes they dance in their underwear for money.
1. President Pullman may be the most dangerous character in movie history
There is a large (and I fear, growing) percentage of voters who want elected leaders to be just like the rest of us. They vote for the person who seems like “regular folk”. This scares the shit out of me. I want leaders who are vastly superior to me. Why don’t we all want that? If the folks who vote for regular folk were a tiny minority it wouldn’t be a problem, but we know that sometimes these people win, as when the United States elected George W. Bush and Toronto elected Mayor Rob Ford.
Now, Hollywood has no obligation to show us how leaders ought to be, but they’ve generally done a good job giving us fictional presidents with gravitas, such as Morgan Freeman, Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas.
For Independence Day, they went with Bill Pullman. Nothing against the guy, he’s fine in the right role, but Most Powerful Man in the World is not that role. He oozes “regular guy” from every pore. He looks ordinary. He talks ordinary. And, within the asinine script of Independence Day, he does things that real leaders don’t do, like fire his Secretary of Defense in front of a roomful of people just because it feels good to do so.
And then we get the stupidest moment ever put on film, the moment in Independence Day when, if you’re paying attention, you realize your soul has been destroyed and all hope is lost, and you pound your head against the wall again and again.
What do you suppose President Bill Pullman is doing during the climatic battle? Is he holed up in a Situation Room in an extremely well guarded bunker monitoring the situation and making incredibly important decisions because, after all, the fate of all humankind hangs in the balance? No. I’ll tell you what he’s doing – FLYING A FIGHTER JET SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BATTLE!!!
If the real life President pulled such a stunt he would be immediately relieved of duties in order to have his head examined, but I’m pretty sure we were all supposed to cheer about this. And I shudder to think how many impressionable young minds watched Independence Day and thought how wicked awesome it was that the President had the balls to dive into battle. Is this half-witted “regular guy” their model for how a leader should be? Is this in any way on their minds when they enter a real life ballot box? Thoughts like these keep me up at night.
To wrap up…
The last movie I watched before Independence Day was Troll 2, a film so weirdly incompetent and bad that it has become a cult favourite where people go to laugh their asses off at it. I absolutely loved it.
So how can I forgive the idiocy of Troll 2 but lose my shit in anger thinking about Independence Day? Because the people behind Troll 2 were a ragamuffin little crew who didn’t know how to make a movie, but truly thought they were creating something special. They believed in it. They did their best. They acted with sincerity and passion, and through the ridiculousness, it shows.
The makers behind Independence Day knew better. They are big-time, smart, talented filmmakers who knew how idiotic their story was. They were aware of the stereotypes and giant plot holes, but didn’t care. And they knew exactly how Bill Pullman would play as President. They could have created something thoughtful and wise about the potential implications of humankind meeting alien life for the first time, but they knew they could make ass loads of dough with a jingoistic, big budget shit-fest that appealed to America’s basest instincts.
And they were right.
And that’s the most offensive thing of all.
P.S. Independence Day II: Resurgence is due in theatres in 2016, “celebrating” the 20th anniversary of Part I. Yay!