Independence Day – a work of uneven and overcrowded charm | Alex Clark

“Independence, home, family” is his message, as the title of this animation visualises. He wants to reconnect, to get to know his father more, to understand his parents’ history, “their limbs dragging with their…

Independence Day – a work of uneven and overcrowded charm | Alex Clark

“Independence, home, family” is his message, as the title of this animation visualises. He wants to reconnect, to get to know his father more, to understand his parents’ history, “their limbs dragging with their histories as they lay dead in the desert”.

Nothing is going to halt that, not even Bizarro World with its Presidents and their politics. “Let me go,” wails the little boy. “I’m gonna walk this earth with these arms stretched out in front of me just like my father did.” At last we’re joined by an older Bizarro Superman, who looks more and more like the original. To the last could Superman stand? The man who left a superpower behind him has been trapped in a body-switch that he can’t seem to escape.

Meanwhile, Superman and Zod are swapping bodies. The S is a bionic spine – made of S-lasers – capable of instantly swapping between the men’s Bodies.

Who is this user? Well, we don’t actually know who Clark Kent is or what happened to him after Superman. He’s probably a living person somewhere, but we are, as with the Man of Steel, beaten by the colour red.

As for General Zod, it is “live wires” – not confined to his bodies – with “blood dripping out”. Is this a good-looking apocalypse or a fast-paced wonderworld? Only the voice actor really knows. The rest is blank white space – the Bizarro Universe.

When Zod reveals his own bionic spine, this lens becomes even more starkly white – what else? – while the animation begins to brighten. A black-and-white tableau with figures floating. A lot of dialogue: “Daddy, Daddy,” says Martha Kent (to Clark Kent), but, “no, Father knows better.” “They will die,” comes the retort. No, it’s worse: “That’s why I have to save them.”

Clark Kent has to talk to his father while under deep pressure in a crockery dish of his own mother’s blood. They squabble as a stranger in a dream: “You can’t love my father, Clark. He gave you everything, but you’re sending him to hell,” he says.

In the film’s final section, when Superman reveals his own identity, this lens darkens again: it becomes a yearning, wearying film. “How do you even begin?” cries the little boy. I hate to spoil this for you – it’s unspeakable – but here’s what I’ll tell you. “See this? This is what it was like back then.” In other words, we are meant to be terrified. When they finally make it to earth, an air ball of a hero (who knows who he is?) beams it down on their heads – not a good sign.

If you’re feeling depressed, ask the little boy if he’s OK. If you’re feeling uplifted, ask Superman if he’s OK. Or ask whether the little boy will be OK. Either way, follow the boy’s lead.

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