Will Smith has rolled out hit after hit on the big screen. One of his more massive hits, a sci-fi action thriller, finds itself sitting at #1 on the popular Hulu streaming service, and given the movie’s title and the month we’re in, this should come as no surprise.
Independence Day is the blockbuster hit that took over our nation over the summer of 1996. The movie boasts a fantastic cast led by Will Smith but also includes Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Robert Loggia, Randy Quaid, and Vivica A. Fox.
The story is a familiar one – invading aliens want what they can’t have but try to take it anyway.
The story picks up two days before America’s Independence Day. An enormous alien spacecraft enters Earth’s orbit and deploys numerous smaller crafts to take positions over the largest cities across the globe.
David Levinson (Goldblum) is an eccentric MIT-trained satellite tech who happens to pick up on a signal within the global satellite transmissions. He goes to work on decoding the signal and when he finally breaks the code, he realizes that the alien ships are on a countdown to a coordinated attack around the globe.
Levinson is able to convince President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) of the impending threat. Whitmore orders the evacuation of all the large cities across the U.S. but it’s too late. The ships over all the cities fire a single beam, destroying the cities and killing millions in the process. The invasion has begun.
The day before our nation’s Independence Day, coordinated counterattacks begin. Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is one pilot who is part of the counterattack but soon realizes the alien’s firepower and technology is far greater than anything the world has ever seen.
Most of the Earth’s firepower is rendered useless as Hiller finds himself in a life-or-death chase with an alien craft. Luring the alien craft with him to the confines of the Grand Canyon, Hiller is able to eject from his plane right before it, and the chasing alien craft crash into the side of the canyon. Hiller survives, bringing the dead alien body with him.
As scientists work on trying to figure out what makes these aliens tick and how to fight them, Levinson is working on a solution of his own. He eventually comes up with a computer virus that can disrupt the alien’s defense shields, but he would have to somehow get into the mother ship to make that happen.
Hiller volunteers to pilot a captured and refurbished alien ship in order to get Levinson close, a job they know they have little chance of returning from. As they embark on their mission, the President asks for volunteers with any flying experience to step up and defend Earth.
When Hiller and Levinson make their move on the Mother Ship, it’s Independence Day.
Roland Emmerich is no stranger to big films so taking on the directing duties for Independence Day was in his wheelhouse. In fact, you can pretty much say that Independence Day was Emmerich’s first big-budget feature, though his two previous films, Universal Soldier and Stargate, were leading him down the big-budget path.
It could be the success of those two previous films that got Emmerich the Independence Day gig as Universal Soldier was made for $23 million, bringing in $95 million at the box office. Stargate got an even larger budget at $55 million and saw an even bigger return at nearly $197 million.
So, it was no surprise that 20th Century Fox gave Emmerich $75 million for the alien-invading Independence Day as they pay-off was an astounding $817 million box office blockbuster. Emmerich would go on to film more big-budget films such as Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Midway, and the sequel to his Independence Day hit – Independence Day: Resurgence.
Will Smith would not appear in the sequel, which was probably a good move since it way underperformed. Since filming Independence Day, Will Smith has gone to bigger and better things, not to downplay Independence Day’s success.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is what first put Will Smith on the map. He ended his six-season run on the popular show in 1996, turning his attention full-time to feature films. Independence Day was the first film after Fresh Prince concluded.
Smith would follow up his sci-fi hit with another, the franchise-starting Men in Black opposite Tommy Lee Jones. With Smith’s charisma and star power on the rise, he went on to the thriller Enemy of the State. Then Smith made one of his rare, misjudged, mistakes of a film when he took on the role of James West in the poor attempt of a reboot in Wild Wild West. While the movie was a poor attempt at rebooting a classic TV series, the bigger mistake Smith made was turning down the role of Neo in The Matrix to make Wild Wild West.
Before the Fresh Prince ended, Will Smith began a franchise that would have lasting power, and perhaps this is the reason why Smith ended his Fresh Prince career. In 1995, Smith was Mike Lowrey opposite Martin Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett and the two became Bad Boys. It was the start of a beautiful friendship that has been ongoing for 26 years, with three massive films, and a fourth on the way.
Will Smith’s films aren’t only big blockbusters, some are much smaller in stature but carry just as much weight. Twice Smith has been nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award, the first time for his portrayal of boxing legend Muhammad Ali and the second for The Pursuit of Happyness.
With all of his movie accolades, you wouldn’t think Smith had time for anything else, but you would be wrong. Will Smith began his career as a rapper and his music has brought him four Grammy Awards.
Throughout Will Smith’s career, he has been one of the most bankable movie stars in the world. He was ranked number one by Forbes on the money list and Newsweek gave him the title of “the most powerful actor in Hollywood.”
If you haven’t seen it lately, go check out Will Smith and company in Independence Day on Hulu.