Thursday, 1 September 2011

Independence Day

Captain Hiller (Will Smith) and David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) mug their way through this overblown shambles as they try and protect Earth from the worst scum of the universe when aliens invade in giant spacecraft and lay waste to America's major cities. Goldblum manages to save the day using his Bluetooth to install a virus on the mother ship in a plot so hackneyed you would think it was written by a 6 year old.

Bill Pullman deserves special mention as the least convincing American President in cinematic history. He demonstrates all the leadership qualities of a boiled egg.

Director and co-writer Roland Emmerich spent a miniscule four weeks on the script and 13 months on physical production and the results are as expected. The film is the cinematic equivalent of all-you-can-eat buffet with lots on offer but little of any quality or substance.

In fact he deserves an Oscar for managing to distil everything that is bad about big-budget blockbusters into one film: Laughable dialogue, cardboard stereotypes, plot sacrificed for effects overload, cheesy endings and cloying sentimentality.

Top it off with Will Smith in full wise-cracking Fresh Prince mode and you will be praying for aliens to invade you anally if only to stop this assault on your intelligence. The things I do for this blog.

However, the film does deliver on the exploding helicopter front. No fewer then four of the bad boys are blown up in the name of "entertainment".

In a misguided attempt to welcome the alien invaders to the planet General Gray (Robert Loggia sleepwalking through his performance) sends up a "Welcome Wagon" of three Sikorsky S-64's fitted with a bizarre panel of flashing lights to try an communicate to the huge spaceship suspended over Washington, through the medium of disco. As the helicopters approach the saucer it opens up a crack and shoots out a powerful laser blast that destroys each helicopter in quick succession with a minimum of fuss.

Later in the film the First Lady (Mary McDonnell) flees the Whitehouse in a presidential chopper just as the aliens attack. In the iconic shot of the Whitehouse being blown to smithereens her helicopter is utterly engulfed in the all-encompassing explosion that quickly consumes it in an enormous wall of flame.

Artistic merit

This is a big budget movie so the CGI explosions look pretty realistic but lack the gritty satisfaction that only a real life fireball can deliver. Shots of the burning debris as the helicopter wreckage plummets to the ground are a nice touch though.

Number of exploding helicopters


Exploding helicopter innovation

A hatrick of helicopters being destroyed by alien laser fire is not something you see everyday. Sadly it's not as impressive as you might think.

Do passengers survive?

The three pilots in the welcome wagon meet-and-greet team are instantly turned to toast. Amazingly the First Lady survives the mother of all explosions only to die later in the film from internal bleeding.


Emmerich might not know how to make a decent movie but he knows how to blow things up with the aid of CGI. The Whitehouse scene which went some way to win the Best Visual Effects Oscar still looks pretty good 15 years later and the wall of flame that destroys the Presidential chopper is about as eyebrow singeing as it gets.


How on earth does the First Lady survive the impact of an explosion equivalent to that of a nuclear bomb and the subsequent crash to emerge with a few scratches and some internal bleeding. In the real world the fireball would have bypassed the need for the President to cremate her.

Favourite quote

News announcer warns viewers against interacting with the aliens

"Do not fire your guns at the spacecraft. You might inadvertently start an interstellar war"

Interesting fact

Interesting is not a adjective I would use about this film.


  1. The first lady is not in the helicopter exploding outside the white house. She is in L.A. and thats why Will Smith's girlfriend picks her up at the side of the road. Just saying. However, I would like to know what type of helicopter that is, thats exploding outside the white house

  2. Hi Ludvig, obviously the Exploding Helicopter team try to be correct in these matters, but it seems in this instance our reviewer has fallen short of the standards our readers deserve. I saw the film for the first time recently and I think you are right. We'll put this film to the top of our list for a re-watch and we'll look to correct those errors - Jafo.