Independence Day 4Ever

White House destroyed in ID4

When I went to see Independence Day: Resurgence recently I couldn’t help but be disappointed with the film. It lacks so much of what made the original Independence Day so great. That film still resonates today for many good reasons.

Independence Day had something for everyone. It was a true epic that was funny, suspenseful, exciting and full of drama. But most importantly the original film had a simple core message about how we all had to come together and put aside our petty differences. All these elements were packed together in one movie and it meshed well. This all went to how Roland Emmerich and his partner Dean Devlin came up with the inspired idea for Independence Day.

Shortly after the success of their film Stargate, Emmerich was asked about alien life and he stated that if alien spaceships would suddenly show up he would be paralyzed with fear. This got the two filmmakers thinking about an idea that would become Independence Day.

ID4 aliens arrive

Alien invasion movies have been around since the 1950s and they wanted to try something different. They melded that genre with the tired one of the disaster film, which had their heyday back in the 1970s. What they did was very smart, they took two distinct genres to make one great film that had the best elements of both genres. For instance, let’s look at the cast. The two main stars of Independence Day were Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Emmerich and Devlin filled the cast with lots of terrific character actors like Robert Loggia, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Mary McDonnell and Vivica A. Fox. That was something directly inspired by the all-star casts of those old epic disaster films like The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno.

Another element they took from the disaster film genre which is related to the diverse cast is having several different characters with their own distinct stories and backgrounds that were scattered across the country. Their stories were actually interesting, especially Smith’s character who had to battle the aliens and was concerned about his girlfriend.

Smith and Goldblum triumphant

Meanwhile, she and the First Lady, who were completely different were reduced to equal terms as they struggled to survive the alien attack. The arc of Goldblum’s character was great also since he played the likeable nerd who saved the day in the end. Another story that worked was the one with Randy Quaid’s character who was seen as a kook by his family and society, but is redeemed by his heroic sacrifice.

The film made a point that these characters with their own strengths and flaws couldn’t defeat the aliens on their own. But when they finally converged, they pooled their efforts and beat the aliens.

id4 alienAs for the aliens themselves, they were among the most stunning movie aliens ever created. Originally, Emmerich wanted to use the standard grey aliens with the big heads but add something different to the look. Creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos came up with two different concepts, one of them was putting a new spin on the traditional grey aliens and one that was gigantic. Emmerich liked both concepts and so he decided to use both of them. This is how we got the small alien in the living exo-suit with the tentacles.

What is really amazing is that the aliens, like the rest of the film’s effects, were done largely with practical effects. In fact, Independence Day is the last, big-budget epic to use practical effects with models and puppets. Very little CG was used for the film unlike Independence Day: Resurgence and every other blockbuster these days. What the special effects and production team accomplished is incredible being that what they did largely holds up today, twenty years after the movie was released.

Thinking about Independence Day’s ID4 speechsuccess is that it wasn’t done by Lucas, Spielberg or Disney. Yet this film holds its own even now twenty years later, which is something that cannot be said for Independence Day: Resurgence. Some snobby critics have argued that the movie appealed to the lowest common denominator but seriously who cares? The bottom line for me is that I leave the theater happy and satisfied. Independence Day did that for me and that is all that matters. What added to that feeling of joy was the triumphant score by David Arnold that was the best John Williams soundtrack he never made.

Independence Day had so many great ingredients that were salutes to other films like War of the Worlds, with the virus that defeats the aliens being a computer virus, the final battle echoing a Star Wars space battle and the final triumphant scene in the desert that was taken from the Chuck Yeager moments in The Right Stuff. But most of all Independence Day resonated because of its simple message of mutual cooperation to defeat a powerful threat. That message is still valid today and will carry on for a very long time .

Steven L. Walterson

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Edge Of Tomorrow Leaves You On The Edge Of Your Seat

edge posterThe new Tom Cruise sci-fi action epic Edge Of Tomorrow turned out to be genuinely great surprise. Think Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers meets HALO and that is what you get with Edge Of Tomorrow.

Tom Cruise plays William Cage, a hapless, deskbound soldier who is part of a military campaign to rid Europe from aliens called Mimics that have established a foothold on the continent and are spreading out to the world. Being that he is inexperienced, Cage is killed nearly instantly in a failed invasion of Mimic-held territory. Yet, because he was doused in the aliens’ blood, Cage wakes up the previous morning and relives the day. As the movie progresses Cage goes through the landing on an infinite loop, but each time he dies and is resurrected, Cage gains more combat awareness. This not only makes him a better soldier, but able to decipher how to defeat the Mimics.

EDGE OF TOMORROW

Edge Of Tomorrow is based on the novel All You Need Is Kill (the film’s original title) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and is directed by Doug Liman. The director’s expert hand is clearly evident in the film as he keeps each repeated day from becoming tedious to watch. It’s actually kind of fun to see Cage dying from different ways and coming back. At the same time, the action scenes with the aliens are very intense and calls to mind the chaos of other war movies like Starship Troopers, Battle: Los Angeles and even Saving Private Ryan. The mech suits that Cruise and his co-star Emily Blunt wear are kind of goofy looking, but in reality are deadly and formidable weapons and it makes viewers wonder how Starship Troopers might’ve been like if the soldiers in that movie were adorned with mech suits like in Robert Heinlein’s novel. Well, now we have a good idea. An added bonus is that for the most part Tom Cruise does his own stunts and it pays off since it adds intensity and realism to his role. With this and other sci-fi films like Oblivion and Minority Report, Cruise’s presence in them and any future genre film has to be considered as a sign that the film is usually exceptional. As for Emily Blunt, she is definitely a supreme badass warrior woman in this movie and helps carry it.

????????????????????The trailers for Edge Of Tomorrow don’t do the film justice, and makes it seem like another typical, mindless summer action film. But it isn’t. It’s very clever and a real joy ride with fantastic special effects. Sadly, based on expectations and the timing of its release, Edge Of Tomorrow might get lost in the crowded summer movie schedule that already is favoring chick flicks and youth-oriented fare. Regardless of its scheduling and marketing hurdles, sci-fans are in for a mind-blowing treat and should go out of their way to see this extraordinary film.

Waldermann Rivera

2012 Doomsday Scenarios: Month One

Okay it’s 2012 now, supposedly our final year according to the Mayan calendar. Earth was put on notice last week with that big solar flare that could’ve disrupted our satellites (but thankfully didn’t). With all the hoopla about the end of the world, one has to wonder if this is our swan song, how will it end? Here at Starloggers, we’re going to examine the possible doomsday scenarios each month as a sort of countdown.

Doomsday Scenario No. 12: The Aliens Are Coming, The Aliens Are Coming

Whether the E.T.s are friendly, cuddly visitors or blood thirsty, destructive invaders, it can’t be denied that once they do arrive life as we know it is over. So even if the first contact is benevolent our isolation in the universe is gone and with it the way we see ourselves. This scenario would bring about an end of our world. These are the possible scenarios:

  • Friendly, curious neighbors come by to say hello: Think of E.T. or Starman or the alien greys from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. They mean well, they’re just explorers but their arrival is nonetheless disruptive. A variation of this scenario is explored in Carl Sagan’s book Contact (and film based on his work), where just the radio signals from another star changes our society.
  • We’re invited: Continuing to look at Contact, the aliens willingly or unwittingly give humanity the technology to travel to their world. This theme is also seen with the film Stargate and its TV shows, the John Carter books and Adam Strange in comic books.
  • The Enforcers: The gist of this scenario goes like this, aliens make first contact with humans. But we’re given a stern warning to clean up our act and play nice otherwise either  A) we can’t join their club or B) they’ll wipe us off the map. Option A was presented in Allen Steele’s Coyote universe books and option B was best shown with the classic The Day The Earth Stood Still.
  • Caught up in an interplanetary conflict: This is the plot for those Transformers films. We’re standing by innocently in our little blue world obsessed with nonsense like taxes, the presidential election and Snookie until BAM! A bunch of aliens from two different sides arrive and duke it out, using our planet as a battlefield. This also happened in the book The Last World War and the Aliens Vs. Predators films.
  • Aliens with a mysterious agenda: Most recently seen with the V series but a terrific example is Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End. What happens is that aliens arrive in mammoth motherships over major cities. They claim to be peaceful and want to help humanity but have another agenda they’re keeping from us. With V (the original show, the remake was pretty vague–could be why the show failed) the aliens wanted our water and us for food. In Childhood’s End the mysterious Overlords arrived to shepherd in our next evolutionary stage and move our descendants into the cosmos. Another example is that show from the late ’90s Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict, where the mysterious Taelons arrive on Earth bringing an era of peace but have secret motives for coming to our world.
  • This Petri dish Earth or we taste like chicken: The first V show and mini-series fit this bill. And if the UFO fanatics are to be believed, alien greys come to our planet to create human/alien hybrids and to conduct painful, invasive experiments on humans. On the big screen, this was best shown with the underrated film A Fire In The Sky.
  • INVASION: The tried and true plotline of alien contact. Aliens arrive in huge ships and proceed to stomp us into smithereens until the heroes in the third act find a way to beat them. Examples in film, shows and books are numerous and include War Of The Worlds, Independence Day, Battle: Los Angeles, Footfall, the Worldwar books, etc. A variation of the invasion scenario is the clandestine invasion where the aliens slowly infiltrate us until it’s too late. Check out the shows Threshold,  The X-Files, The Invaders, and First Wave (this invasion scenario is probably prevalent on TV for budgetary reasons) as examples. On film the most famous example is Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

That’s one look at how 2012 could the end of the world as we know it (apologies to R.E.M.). One month down, eleven more to go; be prepared.

Special thanks to GEO for his contribution