before getting hit.Now, this is a film that hasn't gone down in cinematic history as any sort of critical hit. But at the same time, the audiences who do appreciate it, like it for the simple "popcorn" factor of it all. It's a movie about an alien invasion, reminiscent of 'War of the Worlds', most likely not to be taken as seriously as people tend to To each their own, but I do feel like this one gets a bad rap for no super good reason.
In Washington, President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), working with his most trusted adviser, Connie (Margaret Colin), receive a message about a mysterious signal, coming from around the distance of the moon. This is soon revealed to be several city-sized spacecraft, headed towards Earth.
New Yorker, TV Cable repairman, and computer nerd, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) eventually decodes this signal to mean a countdown to Earth's destruction. He then gets his Dad, Julius (Judd Hirsch to drive to Washington to try to warn the President before everything goes down. He has a former relationship with Connie, thus making it a little easier (and admittedly convenient) to get past White House security. Of course, if you know anything about this movie at all, you know that this deosn't help. But it does allow our main characters to survive on Air Force One, getting the hell out of there, before getting hit.
Meanwhile, in LA Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) of the U.S. Marine Corps finds himself getting called back into action while on leave. This disrupts his time with a potential new family in a stripper named Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) and her son, Dylan (Ross Bagley), and eventually he's seen is the most relatable badass of the movie. When everything goes down, he's called into action. This eventually brings our central characters together, and they become the central focus in organizing a counter-attack against the hostile alien species.
In the midst of all of this, we have a good range of characters, ranging from redneck crop duster Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) to Steve's wingman, Jimmy Wilder (Harry Connick Jr.), and from the eccentirc Dr. Oken (Brent Spiner) to the President's daughter (a very young Mae Whitman). But the real star of this movie is the wide range of visual effects, blending the practical with a bit of early CG really quite smoothly. Historically speaking, the famous scene from the trailer of citywide destruction involving a massive wall of fire is easily one of the most memorable big screen moments from the 90's. I can still remember being in the theater being pretty blown away by what they managed to do. Now, upon rewatching it damn near 25 years later, most of it still holds up, and it has become a great, fun trip down memory lane.
It's obviously not all great, though. There are some scenes in this that are kinda hard to watch, such as the physics of fire vs a dog's run to shelter. The elephant in the room for this has got to be the now infamous "virus", and it makes no damn sense. But I always got what they were attempting, so it never bothered me all that much, even if it's pretty off the wall nuts. As I said before, this is pretty much a modern 'War of the Worlds', and if you know how that ends, the concept is kinda just updated here... although, the original way makes a hell of a lot more sense.
You have to take this movie for what it is, and it seems to be a challenge for many. Granted, my taste in movies is pretty widespread and forgiving. But I just never, ever saw this as taking itself very seriously. I recall studying 'War of the Worlds' in school, around the same time, or even a year before. But in knowing that, I went into this, accepting it for what it was right away. Nowadays, if I had to nitpick, I'd just say it's a little overrun with American pride, and some of the effects don't hold up. But even still, I see it as a fun, sci-fi, action, adventure movie, and not something that was aiming for any Academy Awards (although it did win for Visual Effects, and had a nomination for Best Sound). I encourage people to give this another shot with a new set of eyes. Grab your popcorn, sit back, and just have some fun with it.
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