'Independence Day': battle begins here

The year's worst schlockbuster. Spend your cash on popcorn instead, says Ruth Picardie
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The Independent Online
Sure, it deals in the grossest stereotypes: Harvey Fierstein, the mother-obsessed, neurotic gay; Judd Hirsch, the kvetching, yarmulka- twirling Jew. Sure, the film is an orgasm of American patriotism. Sure, nobody seems bothered by the slaughter of millions. But so what? Hollywood schlockbusters deal in types, not characters, and the land of the free is always the goodie in this popcorn world.

That's the way I like it, and this summer has been great. The Rock? Loved every bombastic, violent, cliched, testosterone-crazed minute. Mission Impossible? Couldn't get enough pseudo-scientific hokum and machismo-fuelled chase scenes on the tops of trains. Twister? Deliriously mindless action. At the end of a desk-rage-filled day at work, or a snotty weekend with the kids, I want to be pulverised by explosions; I don't want to be made to think.

Naturally, I couldn't wait for Independence Day, the biggest grossing blob-out of all time, featuring mass destruction! Exploding American icons! Jeff Goldblum in military uniform! But half way through I started to wish I'd spent the evening slobbing in front of Three Colours: Red, for Independence Day is the mother of all bores, failing every criteria of escapist action.

First, the plot has more holes in it than the moon, and plot is the engine that drives the schlock machine.

Why, exactly, are the aliens attacking Earth? Their only aim seems to practise their smart bombing technique, which is highly refined already. What happens to Harvey Fierstein, introduced early on as one of the types (black, Jewish, gay) who then bury their differences to save the world?

What kind of President allows an inarticulate computer boffin, plus intensely irritating dad, on board Air Force One? And why bother introducing the First Lady, when the President grieves for all of five seconds when she sighs and dies?

Second - and this is a much greater sin - the baddies aren't proper bad guys; they're not interesting enough to make you scared (this is known as the Hannibal Lecter effect).

In The Rock, the anti-hero was a twitching Nam vet teetering between madness and valour. Mission: Impossible was a dazzling double-bluff of spot-the-enemy. Twister had problems because the bad guy was a tornado, and tornadoes aren't wicked or devious; they just blow a lot.

So it was with the Independence Day aliens, who are a tiny bit scary because they are ripped off from the original, nightmare, Alien. Otherwise, all they seem to want to do is play Cowboys and Indians with planet Earth, which is probably why the film is a certificate 12.

So don't believe the hype, grown-up Earthlings. Independence Day is a colossal bore. Spend your ticket money on popcorn instead.

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