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Is it full of contrived coincidences? Yes. Does it stretch the hell out of credulity in places? Also yes. That does not stop it from being So Cool It's Awesome. This is a movie that knows exactly what it is: a big-budget blockbuster, jammed with all the tropes the genre tends to use, and it uses them damn well. While it has its moving moments, it doesn't try to be deep or philosophical or any kind of social commentary — this is a movie about aliens and the stuff they blow up.
Surprisingly for this kind of film, the characters are actually pretty well-developed. Some of the things they do might not be tremendously realistic (again, stretching credulity like a rubber band at times), but they're realistic people, and they're a huge part of why the movie is effective. While it might be unabashadely patriotic, even the military characters get properly, pants-crappingly terrified when they realize what they're actually up against: there aren't any would-be superheroes here. They're just people, who are as scared and uncertain as anyone would be in a situation like that.
What really makes it, though, is that it's a disaster flick with a sense of humor. Yes, terrible things happen, and plenty of drama, but there are a lot of little funny moments in between — many of which have reached Memetic Mutation status.
And a nod has to be given to the special effects, which hold up amazingly well even today. It remains one of the better-examples of an effects-driven movie, even though it was made almost twenty years ago: when stuff blows up, it's damn convincing, and it's really too bad Roland Emmerich didn't stick with the practical special effects in his later movies. Nothing emulates a fireball as much as an actual fireball, and there are lots of them to go with the Monumental Damage.
All in all, it's a fun popcorn movie with a soundtrack that will make you want to cheer every time, and characters whose names you actually remember.
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