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Independence Day

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Boxtree, London, 1996
(price: 4.99; 282 pages)

dedication: Special thanks to Elizabeth 'Little Bit' Ostrom and Dionne McNeff for their invaluable assistance

The blurb on the back:

July 2nd. Atmospheric phenomena begin to appear all around the world; the skies are ablaze. Satellite communications are interrupted without explanation, and fear grips the cities of the world. As the phenomena cool down, it is clear that a force of incredible magnitude has arrived. Their mission - to eliminate all human life. Over the course of the next three days in July, the world will be changed, forever.
The countdown to the end of the world has begun. Independence Day, once a joyous day of freedom and celebration, now takes on an entirely new and absolutely unpredictable meaning.

opening lines:
The Sea of Tranquility was an eerily still wasteland, a silent crater-shaped outdoor tomb of ashes and stone. Two sets of footprints were etched into the powdery gray soil surrounding the landing site, each one as freshly cut as the day it was made.

In case you're new to this site, I'd better warn you that I'm not too sophisticated when it comes to movies: I'm very happy that Spielberg rather than Kubrick got to make A.I., I'm very fond of the remake of The Lady Vanishes (Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael? Yes please!), and I'm of the opinion that the Planet of the Apes cycle was a serious contribution to world cinema. So you'll not be surprised when I say that I reckoned Independence Day was a cracking movie.

I know it took a lot of flak for its portrayal of America as the saviour of humanity and all the gung-ho jingoism that accompanies that sort of attitude, but I tended to think that (a) it was an American movie - what did you expect? And (b) if the Earth really were under attack from technologically advanced genocidal aliens, I'd rather have the USA leading the fight-back than, say, the Latvians; nothing against the Baltic states, of course, but I don't think they've got the firepower to whup ET's ass.

Anyway the film's big and noisy, with fantastic special effects and a great cast: Will Smith, Harvey Fierstein and Judd Hirsch in the same movie is worth the price of admission, even without the addition of Jeff Goldblum as - gasp! - a slightly kooky scientist type. It also had a nice line in dry humour.

None of this survives the transition to the page. The screenplay was by director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, but for the book they brought in Stephen Molstad, who's presumably the man who actually did the typing. According to the biogs at the back, Molstad was 'a collaborator on the Hugo-nominated novelization, Stargate', which makes it sound like he's taken reasonably seriously somewhere - but for those of us who know nothing about the world(s) of science fiction, he don't cut the mustard. This is very dull indeed, and doesn't even begin to capture either the scale of the film or the quality of acting that makes sense of the CGI stuff.