Jay Allen Sanford 1 p.m., May 4
- Rated PG-13
A conscious and conscientious throwback to the invaders-from-space fables of the Eisenhower era: simply and straightforwardly War of the Worlds with updated hardware. But it won't do to be too blasé over the derivativeness. Film, as we've all been instructed but haven't all yet learned, is a visual medium, and the scale of these alien spacecraft (dwarfing the twinkling Christmas decoration at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind) in relation to the stubby Manhattan skyscrapers and the gnatlike Marine Corps fighter jets is something quite new. (The only thing close to it in terms of jaw-dropping awe is perhaps the nebulous menace advancing toward Earth in the original Star Trek, a much better movie, incidentally, as measured in its ability to complement the awe with elements like suspense, mystification, curiosity, surprise. ) Like a lot of science-fiction films, though, this one is better in its early stages when the earthlings are first waking up to the crisis. Its lack of creative imagination, very separate from its abundance of technical prowess, becomes more of a drawback as the plot plows onward. Its forebears in the Fifties had a better excuse. In the period when science fiction was relegated to the budgetary bottom drawer, the actual appearance of the creatures and the displays of their powers almost inevitably failed to convince. The filmmakers' straight-facedness was then their greatest illusion, an illusion the present filmmakers can't (or won't) match. Bill Pullman, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid; directed by Roland Emmerich. 1996.
- "Independence Day — a resurgence?" • June 22, 2016