Friday Face/off

JIM: Well I’ll get the ball rolling. Independence Day, the highest grossest film of 1996, it smashed all previous box office records. That my friend is the sound of a case being closed.

DAN: Please, your precious capitalism has no business here! It really doesn’t matter how much money Independence Day made. Worthless films devoid of wit or charm top the box office all year round. It’s a sad indictment of our times. Just look at Avatar. The most successful movie of all time? Fern Gully in 3D? It’s like a case of mass hypnosis. And Independence Day is the Avatar of it’s day. We’ll look back on Avatar and laugh, and that’s what I’m doing with Independence Day. Which is helpful, seeing as the actual jokes in it are crap.

JIM: OK, firstly let’s not forget Independence Day was a landmark for special effects in its time (an academy award winner no less) and looking back it still doesn’t look dated. It’s offensive that you’d even think of comparing it to the derivative modern day CGI light show that was Avatar! Secondly, Independence Day not funny? I’m sorry but Will Smith punching an alien in the face and saying ‘Welcome to earth’ will never not be funny. I think we can all agree that if Avatar would have been a better movie if it featured Will Smith punching aliens in the face. Now that’s what I call a close encounter!

DAN: I didn’t want it to come to this, but Will Smith is probably a Scientologist. He bears all the hallmarks – a smug undercurrent of pseudo-knowledge and disturbing sexual tension with extraterrestrials. ‘Welcome to Earth?’ If Will Smith can punch out one of these aliens then the rest of us should have no problem, rendering any dramatic tension null and void. Shame, because the opening section with the flying saucers is great, although that might be because it’s from a totally different film.

JIM: Yeah, yeah flying saucers are pretty old hat. But we’re talking about spaceships blocking out the sun here! This is epic cinema at its very best! And Will Smith isn’t cast in the Tom Cruise action hero mould – he doesn’t singlehandedly save the day – no one does! It’s a collaborative victory. A victory of human ingenuity. If there was a hero at all it would be that avatar of human invention, Jeff Goldblum!

DAN: Jeff Goldblum- Hollywood’s idea of a clever man. Glasses, weird intonation, and a frankly unlikely ability to crack an alien code baffling to everyone else. Perhaps all the other top scientists were busy that day. The day the earth stood still.
Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day

JIM: Have I mentioned that bit with the dog jumping in slow motion out of an explosion?

DAN: Oh the dog, the bloody dog, when in doubt throw in a dog. No need to establish character because he’s a dog and we love dogs. They’re loyal and we love them. Nuke the whole of Paris for all we care. They’re French, and anyway we’re busy rooting for the dog.

JIM: Not just a dog! A dog and a handful of plucky Americans led by… Bill Pullman! A welcome step into the limelight for a much underappreciated actor I’m sure you’ll agree!

DAN:Yeah, yeah; like the bit where instead of being bundled into a nuclear bunker by the secret service Mr President gets into a fighter jet (he used to be a pilot, as luck would have it) and spearheads the counter attack. Maybe realistic potrayals of American presidents are too much to ask for in the movies (see Air Force One, that’s hilarious too), but when the aliens land the only flight politicians will be taking is one going in the opposite direction.

Bill Pullman in Independence Day

JIM: Realistic portrayals? This is fantasy! I suppose you are the kind of person who gets upset when a film shows explosions in space. Or sound in space. Or anything in space apart from the essentially infinite empty abyss that it is. And anyway, 11 out of the last 13 American presidents have military history. This is a simple case of art (yes art) imitating life.

DAN: They say the Americans don’t get irony. But in Independence Day they vanquish an entire race of alien beings, which, when you think about it, is a bit like what they celebrate on the real Independence Day. Except I suppose these pesky space critters were asking for it. Unlike the Native Americans.

JIM: Yeah America hasn’t got the best history RE: genocide but neither has, err, Britain or pretty much anyone other country in the world. Independence Day’s message is one that transcends history. Let’s draw a line under the human conflicts of the past and look at the bigger picture: we’re all human beings. Well, except the aliens, they can fuck off. WELCOME TO EARTH – it should be our international anthem.

By Jim Buckfield and Dan Eagleton

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