I suppose it is too much to hope that a movie featuring aliens attempting to conquer Earth actually achieve their goal. Independence Day, like most other man-meets-alien stories, follows the tradition of letting the weaker side win. Given that, how humans win against the latest threat from outer space is chronicled elaborately in Independence Day with some great special effects and sound.
Almost 50 years ago, an alien space ship crashed on earth. Presumably the aliens aboard were investigating the potential of the planet for their eventual consumption. The U.S. government decided not to release any of this information to the public and even people in high positions of political power had no idea this incident occured. The truth is brought to light on July 2 and 3rd, 1996 when a massive contingent of alien spaceships begin to destroy major cities around the globe.
On July 4th, America's Independence Day, the planet unites to wage war against the seemingly impenetrable alien forces. When the U.S. government's typical strategies ("nuke the hell out of them") fail, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) discovers how to penetrate the mother ship circling in orbit using the alien ship that had crashed in the forties. With the aid of Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), they go into space with the intention of launching a computer virus to incapacitate the invaders' shields.
The acting is pretty decent. Will Smith is his same old charming yet cocky self. Jeff Goldblum continues to portray the off-beat genius-type who saves the day. Brent Spiner appears in an amazing cameo as an eccentric scientist who is in charge of the Area 51 base that houses the aliens (in formaldehde?) and their ship. Bill Pullman plays a refreshing kind of President not typically seen in movies (or real life for that matter), who actually joins in the fight against the invaders.
The basic plot leaves much to be desired, however. While Independence Day is filled with special effects that make the alien invasion look highly realistic, the whole plot was handled better in the Star Trek episodes that involved the invasion of the Borg. I've pondered the issue of what would happen if aliens really invaded the earth. If a race of beings were technologically superior they would completely and totally annihilate us before we blinked. What the aliens are attempting to do in the movie is really no different from what humans have been doing to each other for centuries, and what humans will do to other worlds as soon as we milk this world for all its worth.