Independence Day – Soundtrack Review

David Arnold’s score to Independence Day is simply amazing, and I had been planning on reviewing it for quite some time. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the fourth of July, and I will once again be reviewing one of the greatest scores ever made.

Independence Day is a dramatic but slightly silly science fiction movie where humanity is brought to the brink of extinction by the sudden arrival of an alien invasion force that is technologically far superior. Made in the 90s, it uses pretty impressive special effects that still hold up to this day, and because of that and its very entertaining cast and story (not to mention the film’s incredibly patriotic nature) it has become something of a legend in pop culture. The soundtrack did a great job of reflecting all of these different characteristics that the film had, and as a result it has gone down in a similar legendary status as one of the better scores of all time.

The score opens with 1969-We Came In Peace, starting out with a slow and hopeful rendition of the theme to represent the fighting spirit of humanity. It is a very American and patriotic sounding piece, utilising drums and brass to deliver a theme that you feel you should salute to. However, this quickly fades into much darker territory with the first appearance of the aliens’ theme as their city-sized spaceship appears overhead in the film. Their theme is very bombastic and threatening, with Arnold using explosive brass and drums to get this feeling of utter dread across. As a whole, the score to Indepedence Day is very fast-paced and grandiose, following suit to the film’s overall style, and the first track does a fantastic job of getting that across.

The Darkest Day is where the aliens arrive on Earth, and Arnold uses the full might of his menacing theme for them to demonstrate just how much trouble humanity is in. Strings and brass are used in combination to get this feeling across, and once again Arnold does a wonderful job. Canceled Leave appears next on the album, and does its best to claw back some hope with a soft and upbeat version of humanity’s theme as Will Smith’s heroic character is introduced in the film.

The hope is short lived however as the dread returns in Evacuation. The piece builds up steadily from a slow and strings-based start to a frantic and brass-heavy end as humanity realises what the aliens are planning to do and tries to save as many people as possible before the attack begins. Aftermath then does a very heartfelt job of realising humanity’s worst fears as cities across the world are destroyed. Arnold utilises vocals and strings expertly here to deliver that feeling of utter hopelessness, until it somewhat returns with a defiant rendition of humanity’s theme at the end of the track.

The composer then delivers the score’s first major action cue in Base Attack. Here he goes all out with bombastic drums and heavy brass to make a fast-paced and simply fantastic-sounding action piece. There are also hints throughout it to some of the later action pieces on the album, giving off a slight “don’t worry they’ll win in the end” feeling to the track overall. There is a noticeable lack of heroic or victorious music in Base Attack, so perhaps Arnold’s hints are a way of keeping the hope going.

The President’s Speech is one of the best tracks on the score, and represents the beginning of the end of the album as humanity prepares for its final fight against the alien invasion force. The track starts out softly, primarily using strings with some small use of militaristic drums in the background to play out a hopeful and inspiring version of humanity’s theme. Over the course of the track it builds up and eventually soars as the President delivers his famous speech to motivate his soldiers in their final push.

Now the next track is a bit of a strange one. The Day We Fight Back is easily the best action cue on the album and one of the best tracks overall, but only the version on LaLaLand Records expanded album released in 2010. For some reason, the track of the same name on the original score released in 1996 doesn’t sound anything like it and seems to be completely different music, not to mention being far inferior to the 2010 edition. Here I shall review the LaLaLand Records version as it is far better.

The track starts out with a fast pace, sounding rather dramatic and menacing before playing out a short and scary rendition of the aliens’ theme. This feeling of fear doesn’t last long however as humanity’s theme makes a heroic and upbeat appearance before exploding into what I think is the first appearance of the main Independence Day theme on the score (odd, I know). It is big, bold and simply fantastic, and does a fantastic job of rekindling the hope that almost seemed lost earlier in the album. The track then ends on a dramatic note as humanity narrowly win the fight.

Victory then plays out an upbeat and very triumphant version of humanity’s theme as they win the war against the aliens, with Arnold making excellent use of brass and strings to bring the hope back. The piece then leads almost seamlessly into the End Credits suite, where the composer simply goes all out. The main Independence Day theme and humanity’s theme make lengthy and bold appearances in the standout cue of the album, not to mention the aliens’ theme as well as some of the action music. All the best compositions from the film essentially take a bow in the nine minute grand finale to one of the best scores of all time.

David Arnold created a masterpiece with Independence Day, and it was a shame that he did not return for the sequel. Nevertheless, what we have here for the first film is a score for the ages, and one that definitely will not go quietly into the night.

Score:  9/10

Standout Cue:  14. End Credits

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