While the men have lots of fun, this Independence Day harks back to 1776 in its treatment of women; all of the female roles boil down to the usual thankless stand-by-your-man crap. Not one woman plays a key part in the alien thrashing: not Mary McDonnell (First Lady Marilyn Whitmore), Margaret Colin (a presidential aide who happens to be Levinson's ex-wife), or Vivica Fox (the exotic dancer whose relationship with Hiller may be a factor in NASA's rejection of the pilot's application to enter the space program). The filmmakers' Neanderthal attitudes are shocking; their female characters exist only to provide soft sides for the triumvirate of leading men.

Can a film be sexist and annoyingly PC at the same time? Independence Day tries. The film's sappy "We Are the World" subtext -- black action hero teams with Jewish intellectual and WASP politician; Iraqis, Saudis, Brits, Ruskies, and Israelis all set aside national and religious differences to fight a common enemy -- is as cloying and transparent as those old "I'd like to teach the world to sing" Coca-Cola commercials.

But Independence Day steamrolls right over such niggling shortcomings. Make no mistake, this is a motion picture juggernaut that blows away Twister as easily as Hurricane Andrew flipped mobile homes. Visually, the film fulfills all the promise of its awe-inspiring promotional trailer, and delivers more thrills than a dozen generic sci-fi flicks combined. The epic mass destruction scenes that open the film are, in and of themselves, worth the price of admission. Maybe someday movie audiences will declare independence from the tyranny of special effects and rally around fresh, character-driven stories. But not yet. Technical wizardry still carries this Day. Just hope the aliens aren't watching.

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