Independents’ Day (2016)


Independents DayStarring Fay Gauthier, Sal Landi, Jude Lanston, Jes Selane, William Castrogiovanni

Directed by Laura Beth Love

Independents’ Day marks a return to the glory days of Asylum mockbusters, and by “glory days” what I really mean it has been awhile since The Asylum has churned out a film with a title that shamelessly rips-off the title to a big screen blockbuster with a plot that feels like it was constructed in large part based on watching that film’s trailer and mimicking various concepts and imagery in a manner that’s just different enough to avoid legal action.

If the Independents’ Day title was ever justified in the movie itself, I must have missed it or mentally tuned out for a moment or something. Honestly, that title just sounds the same as a certain other famous film soon to spawn a sequel, and that’s the entire (selling) point. Like when the Sci-Fi Channel changed its name to Syfy. Sure, they spelled it differently, but it was still the same old shit.

Now, in all fairness, there is nothing particularly right or wrong with this mockbuster. It manages to be its own entity, just neither a terrible engaging nor particularly fun one. Visual F/X are admittedly above average for such fare, though I’d love to know why making fiery explosions look credible seems to be a sticking point. The cast of unrecognizable actors neither shine nor embarrass themselves. The script moves efficiently enough from one convoluted plot point to the next in order to assemble a movie approximately 90 minutes in length.

What’s missing, besides the fun factor, is any compelling reason to care. The plot keeps finding ways to advance itself without ever giving us any real reason to invest in the characters or care about the outcome, which is pretty damning considering the stakes are the end of life on this planet. No emotional core to the story, just plenty of talking heads yammering matter-of-fact dialogue between the limited action beats.

For example, the President has a handicapped son who gets cured by the aliens as a gesture of good faith only so he can spend the remainder of the movie moping just as he had prior to his affliction being healed.

UFOs appears over the earthly skies. Fighter jets approach to get a better look at one on them. The UFO shoots lasers at them. An aerial dogfight ensues. Faster than you can say, “Isn’t this exactly how The Asylum’s Battle of Los Angeles mockbuster opened?,” the President is already declaring Def Con One. Right as he’s in the midst of administering the nuclear launch codes, the White House gets blown up in a manner quite similar to a similar scene from a similar movie with a very similar title. The aliens proceed to dismantle the entire planet’s nuclear arsenal in less time than it takes for you to get through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

The aliens, calling themselves Orions, then decide to make contact with the Vice President-cum-President of the United States, who looks and sounds more like your third grade math teacher than a high-ranking political animal. She also has the irritating habit of always talking to the aliens the way an aloof person would loudly over-pronunciate each word when speaking with someone hard of hearing.

The Orions proclaim humanity to be an extremely violent species, a bold statement from a civilization that instigated the first strike and then followed that up by blowing up all of the world’s political capitals. The Orions begin sending down giant pod ships for the entire populace of Earth to gather in to be relocated to another planet where, I, uh, guess, we’ll be less violent to one another. The Orions also offer to show they’re not all bad by offering to use their technology to heal all sickness and feed all the starving people on the world.

Not sure the reasoning behind the second half seeing as how their goal is to completely evacuate the planet’s populace ASAP. The logic behind much of the Orions’ plan struck me as a bit sketchy. Even a lot of the human response left a lot to be desired in terms of forthright thinking.

Though a large number of humans immediately declare, “Earth sucks! Beam us up, Scotty,” not everyone is down with the alien relocation program. A ragtag rural militia group immediately renames itself Earth First and declares war on these highly-advanced extraterrestrials, despite looking even less military-ready than Dale Gribble’s gun club from “King of the Hill.”

One particularly baffling scene sees the main members of this Casual Friday attired anti-government-turned-anti-alien survivalist group just stroll past crowds of onlookers, heavy security, and police barricades right into one of the alien pods to begin shooting up the place without any opposition or any sense that they had any idea what they were going to do aside from wreck the inside of a spaceship piloted by an alien race that has already demonstrated its ability to level entire buildings and arsenals with the greatest of ease. War of the Worlds, Trump-style.

An alternate title for this film could have been The Earth Dies Apologizing because it sure felt like the newly sworn in Madam President was constantly apologizing to our new alien overlords for the actions of military and domestic terrorist alike. There’s something peculiarly unlikable about the humans and their tactics in this one, to the point I found myself strangely unsure whom to root for.

Much of Independents’ Day is less a physical battle for the survival of mankind as it is a series of negotiations between dueling con artists perpetrating deceptions on the other to gain the upper hand. If they had just worked some magic tricks into their schemes, the title could have been Now You ID4 Me. No magic tricks, but the sleight of hand ruse by which the human race wins out is so preposterously juvenile I cannot decide if it was ingenious or insulting.

On the one side, an all-powerful, seemingly inhuman, megalomaniacal lifeform bragging about how great it is and deceiving the populace into coming along for the ride with empty promises of a better life. On the other side, a cold fish career politician also willing to say anything in order to gain the advantage, including sacrificing innocent lives if need be. I suppose in a strange sort of way Independents’ Day is the perfect alien invasion movie for the 2016 Presidential Election cycle.

No wonder so many people were more than ready to get blasted into space with no regard for the possibility that they might literally get blasted into space. That doesn’t seem like the worst option these days.

  • Film
User Rating 2.61 (18 votes)


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