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Kids on Film

Something Special About the Effects in 'Independence Day'

In "Independence Day," aliens visit Earth, and they do not come in peace. Things look bad until nations from around the globe join to fight the invasion in this special-effects-heavy movie. Rated PG-13.

July 11, 1996|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Eric Reynolds, his brother Tommy and their dad had to wait more than 30 minutes in line to see "Independence Day" at the Westminster Twin theater, but that didn't dull their enthusiasm for the sci-fi hit.

"Awesome, truly awesome," Eric sputtered, a bit dazed by what he had just seen.

The 13-year-old from Huntington Beach took a breath when asked to decide what he liked best in this latest alien invasion extravaganza. Finally, he turned to the obvious--the cutting-edge special effects that even the toughest critics are praising.

"Wow, when that [space]ship filled up the whole sky over that city [New York], I just blew it," Eric said. "How did they do that?"

Tommy, 11, knew the answer: sophisticated computers and perfectly detailed models. After showing off his digital savvy, he jostled with his brother and agreed that the film is an ideal spectacle for summer.

"It was thrilling," Tommy summed up, adding that his favorite action scenes came when fighter pilots took on the huge spaceships hovering over our major cities with their squadrons of laser-equipped saucers. He loved how the horizon became a hornet's nest of a dogfight as the battle escalated.

"They were going back and forth, zipping all over," Tommy said.

Dad John Reynolds was also swayed by the technology, saying "Independence Day" was clearly the most sensational-looking of the summer flicks, even better than "Twister."

Still, he did find a few things to quibble with.

For one thing, Reynolds thought the film's story line could have been more inventive. It was a direct rip-off of the mankind vs. evil E.T. pictures he loved as a boy, he said, such as "The War of the Worlds" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still."

"They certainly didn't do anything new with the plot; it was just the special effects that jazzed it all up," he said.

Should his kids be introduced to his old favorites?

"I could rent them, but it's probably not a good idea," he decided. "After this, they'd probably just be bored."

While Reynolds and other adults found the plot simplistic and the characters a little thin, younger viewers unanimously endorsed everything about "Independence Day." Jennifer Brill, 10, of Garden Grove, said she especially liked actor Will Smith, who plays a jet pilot.

"He was cool, the way he acted and flew the plane," Brill said, noting that she's been a fan of Smith's for years, since he began starring in the TV series "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Her friend April James, 11, and also from Garden Grove, enjoyed Smith too, mainly because he brought humor to a movie that was pretty intense. So, with all the action, plus the creepy villains that could have crawled out of "Alien," did she ever think "Independence Day" went overboard?

"I got scared [when the aliens first attacked], but not so much," April said. "My heart was beating fast."

The excitement was the top attraction, but a few of the kids said they also appreciated the film's message of world cooperation. When faced with Earth's destruction, it's a good idea for folks to work together, they agreed.

"If [all the countries] didn't get along, it would have been over," offered April.

Even Reynolds was pleased with that.

"It's a little corny, but that unity point came across," he said. "Maybe after my kids get over all the mayhem and effects, we can talk about that."

He did wonder about one thing, though.

"Why do the extraterrestrials always have to be the bad guy?"

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