Back in the day before movies played on many screens at once, I stood in my share of long lines to see the latest blockbuster.
But I honestly can’t remember the last time I stood as long in line to see a movie as I did for Independence Day. Myself and two friends got to our local theater at 9 in the morning opening day, there was already a huge line, about three people deep, and all shows were sold out until noon.
I still have a soft spot in my heart for ID4 because it was great fun for what it was, a big, dumb blockbuster.
You bought a big bag of popcorn, turned your brain off for two and a half hours in a nice air-conditioned theater, and had a great time.
It should have been a major launching point for filmmakers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, who also had a nice sized hit previously with Stargate, but ID4 was really their peak, a mega event they never recaptured again.
Their follow up, the wretched remake of Godzilla, took itself way too seriously, not to mention it was a case of all hype and portentous advance posters and no movie. Godzilla really shouldn’t be taken that seriously, at its heart it’s a guy in a rubber suit stomping on little buildings, and the Devlin/Emmerich team missed this by a wide mile.
This is precisely what I liked about ID4: It was in on the joke. It didn’t take itself too seriously, and although it had the great teaser trailer with the White House getting blown to hell, and the great tag-line that foretold something big was coming (“The Day We Fight Back”), ID4 at its heart was a mish-mosh of many of the great sci-fi classics that was very wink wink, nudge nudge for fans of the genre. (One review of the film was headlined: The Day the Script Stood Still.)
ID4 also delivered a lot of bang for the buck. It reportedly cost about $70 million, but looked much more expensive. ID4 also made Will Smith the star he is today, and following the lead of ID4, he often tries to release his movies on the Fourth of July so he can own the weekend at the box office.
Of course, ID4 had a likable ensemble cast, featuring Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Vivica Fox, Harvey Fierstein, and Randy Quaid. Who could forget Quaid as the kook who claimed kidnapped by aliens, and either it really happened, or his crazy delusions actually came true?
ID4 was of course a huge hit, with an opening weekend gross of $50 million, and a worldwide take of $817 million. Devlin and Emmerich never hit the bulls-eye like this again, but as we’ve seen throughout movie history, cinematic magic is very elusive and difficult to capture, let alone recapture.