Independence Day-saster could well be the most stupidly titled film SyFy have ever made, and that is an award with very heavy competition. It’s long been my contention that the dumber the title, the worse the film, but will this buck the trend?
I started off worried – the cast list is star-free, with the biggest name being Tom Everett Scott, who I remember fondly from “Dead Man On Campus”, here playing the President of the USA. But as the film went on, I became less worried. In fact, I have a dark confession to make…
I actually rather liked this! Just random chance indicates that every now and again, they’ll pull it off, and here we are with a fairly decent (if extremely low budget) version of “Independence Day” (unlike their occasional workmates at The Asylum, SyFy are less worried about ripping off the title and the plot at the same time). It rips along, there are no particularly terrible performances or gaping plot holes, and aside from an unsatisfying ending, it’s about as good as SyFy movies have ever been.
The President is in his special helicopter, going back to his small home town for a July 4th celebration. His son is already there, along with his brother (who’s a firefighter), a few of the son’s friends and a sexy scientist who’s been experimenting with a special “phonon” ray. Unfortunately, a bunch of aliens decide to invade, so we get these weird spinning balls spoiling the party that have what looks like a sawblade in the middle – tell you what, here’s a picture of them:
The President’s helicopter gets shot down and we’re told more than shown about the widespread destruction the aliens have caused to the rest of the world – capital cities getting wiped out, that sort of thing. The brother, the scientist and the teenagers sort-of bumble along in the countryside, trying to get to a military base but mostly just watching the aliens and realising the phonon ray can be used as a weapon against them.
The President survives his wreck and at the first barn he comes to, finds the world’s two greatest hackers. The hackers help him stop the Vice President, who’s seized his opportunity to take the reins of power without bothering to check if the President is still alive or not, and stop his crazy plan to blow up the aliens (which wouldn’t have worked) just in time. There’s a very weak version of the famous speech from “Independence Day”, some brave sacrifices, and, like I said, a really dumb “horror film that’s expecting a sequel” ending, devaluing everything that’s gone before.
I’ve been trying to think of why this film works where so many other SyFy / Asylum films don’t. Firstly, it’s got a nice sense of humour – the funny situations and lines aren’t overplayed; and they trust most of them to the best actors. There’s no attempt to crowbar in a romance anywhere, which is just an excuse to manufacture drama. They don’t try and put their cheap CGI front and centre of any scenes, really, and use it fairly sparingly (although this does result in some odd shots like people watching a space battle rather than just the space battle itself). There’s relatively little padding too.
If you’re the sort of person who’s watched a few of these sort of films, I’d definitely recommend this one. Fun, fairly exciting and I was so engrossed I barely wrote any “what is this garbage?” notes.