The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind's best weapon is the will to survive.The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind's best weapon is the will to survive.The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind's best weapon is the will to survive.
For a movie that's so thoroughly reliant on spectacle, that last point is pretty important. The power of watching the White House or Empire State Building burst into a billion bitty pieces is still there, irresistible, while the magnitude of the invading fleet remains immense, and I think both can be attributed to the production's choice to eschew then-new CG techniques in favor of a large, intricately detailed stable of miniatures. We get a few hiccups, like the obviously green-screened fighter jets or the absurd visual of a golden retriever leaping to slow-motion safety through a fiery inferno, but for the most part it all looks great and it's still easy to get sucked into the experience.
Of course, the whole thing is over-acted to death. Roland Emmerich has never been one to bring out nuance from his cast, and this is an awfully shallow effort, even by his standards. Bill Pullman nails the big motivational speech, set to a telegraphed swell of patriotic symphony, but otherwise lacks conviction as a limp, reactive PotUS. Randy Quaid is a cheap xerox of every alien abduction stereotype to ever enter pop culture. Jeff Goldblum is naturally quirky enough to make his role worthwhile, but it takes every bit of his innate charismatic magnetism to overcome the dumb plot developments. Will Smith is the only unequivocal success, barking and fist-pumping his way to bonafide action hero status in a simple but essential role as a beefy marine / pure force of will.
From a critical perspective, this is cinematic junk food. Big bangs and shiny lights to dazzle the box office crowd, with a few easy jokes to lighten the mood. But yet, there's something else to it, something essential and inexplicable. It's just raw, simple fun, I suppose, that makes no apologies for how it acts or what it aims to be. It won't make you think or weep, but you'll feel, and that's worth something.
- Sep 21, 2020