A Short History of Alien Invasion Movies—The Fourth Wave: Bad Muthas, a Reaction to the Second Wave
All this time, evil aliens never completely went away. We got good re-makes of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” in 1978, and “The Thing” in 1981. On TV, “V” introduced the concept that malevolent aliens might not be monolithic; that within an invading army there might be an underground movement, a White Rose, trying to help humans. “Alien Nation” picked up on this possible complexity as well.
So what the hell happened in 1996? Was it the first WTC attack? The popularity of “X-Files”? Because suddenly that complexity disappeared and we got three all-out alien assaults on our planet: the aforementioned dark giddiness of “Mar Attacks!”; Charlie Sheen’s paranoid thriller, “The Arrival”; and the biggest and baddest of them all...
“Independence Day” was less a return to paranoid 1950s movies than a reactionary response to the Pollyanna vision of Spielberg. Those awe-struck people at Devil’s Tower playing their five-note song of greeting in “Close Encounters”? They’re the first to get fried in “I.D.” Even the plaque the Apollo 11 astronauts left on the moon, and signed by Pres. Richard Nixon, of all presidents, is called into question. It’s shown at the beginning of the film and reads: “Here men from the Planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.” Then the dark shadow of an invading alien army falls upon it. In peace. Saps! Hippies!
Look at the way one phrase is uttered. In “Starman,” Charles Martin Smith views the clean room where our government plans to dissect Jeff Bridges and shakes his head sadly. “Welcome to Earth,” he says. Bummer, dude. In “Independence Day,” Will Smith shoots down an evil alien ship, the first indication that we can take them down, runs over to it and cold-cocks the slimy thing inside. “Welcome to Earth,” he says, then sits down and lights a triumphant cigar. Wooooo! We rock!
That’s ultimately what “Independence Day” offered us: Less Bummer, dude and more We rock!