Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peeling Back Movies: Independence Day!

I admittedly can be a movie snob.  In fact, I find 70 percent of the crap I’m subjected to completely unwatchable and, often times, flat out insulting. That said, I do love disaster movies, no matter how dumb they are (and they often are).  I don’t care if it’s an angry volcano or extra terrestrial intruders hellbent on havoc, if it involves blowing shit up to the brink of complete extermination, count me in.  So, naturally this weekend, I took in the latest invasion flick that continues the theme of having an advanced alien race, superior in virtually every way, outsmarted by the average American: Battle:LA.  Have you noticed this trend?  Sure, in Armageddon they gave some crazy Russian drunk some due (though he never bothered to watch Star Wars), but he was clearly more of a dolt than a savior and, if anything, slowed down the rescue mission (not to mention, the Russian space station from which he came featured faulty technology that almost submarined the entire thing before it started.)  Someone may want to tell Michael Bay the Cold War ended a while ago and we no longer need propaganda.  After all, even Rocky Balboa told a Russian audience “if I can change, and you can change, we call can change!”  Apparently the Armageddon braintrust never changed. That said, if any movie studio wants to pay me to write a flick about some Russian commie saving the world from complete destruction, I’ve got time.

But I digress.

While watching Battle:LA I was reminded that in all of these movies, the filmmakers don’t just ask the audience to take a basic leap in logic (the idea of an alien attack is hard enough), but they continue the theme of being illogical at every other turn as well…you know, for symmetry I suppose.

So I figured we’d take a look back at one of my favorite alien invasion films and discuss the top five (in no particular order) small leaps in logic featured in the 1996 smash hit INDEPENDENCE DAY! 

1) Thank God Jeff Goldblum is a genius!  He has the answer! Goldblum’s character, David Levinson, figures the only way to defeat the alien race is to fly an old flying saucer found in the 1960’s up to the mother ship (hovering somewhere in space), and infecting their computer system with a virus administered using his Mac laptop.  He figures that all communication runs through the mothership (logical), so if their entire system were compromised, it would limit forcefield use and communication with the ships currently attacking Earth (brilliant!).  So, essentially, it’s suggested the fate of humanity lays on the fact that alien technology can sink through a USB cord (fine, I’m with you even though my Mac can’t run Microsoft Office designed for a PC).  Then, once the virus is planted, they’d fire off a nuke and explode the entire alien base (you know, just a tiny detail.) Which begs the question: WHY NOT JUST DO THAT LAST PART!  Why do you need to temporarily disable the alien technology for five minutes with some dumb computer virus when you can just flat obliterate it forever?  If the “mothercomputer” didn’t EXIST, wouldn’t that have the same effect as simply disabling it? Movie could have saved 20 minutes right there and Goldblum could have saved himself some stress.

2) Aliens can travel light years with amazingly superior technology, yet they cant tell a black guy and a Jew has infiltrated one of their little fighter ships that, for some reason, flew directly back to the mothership instead of one of the many large satellite ships below, where one would assume it’s originally stored.  My guess is that this isn’t a common occurrence and their little air traffic control guy may want to investigate the insides of this rogue saucer upon entrance into the mothership (in fact, you can blame the entire lost war on that air traffic control worker).  Plus if the mothership were so important, you’d think they’d have some kind of gate checkpoint where they can flash a badge before permitted entrance.  Hell, I even have to do this when I go to work every morning, and my guess is the world would continue to survive if my office building exploded. 

3) President Bill Pullman tries to negotiate an impromptu peace treaty with the foot soldier Will Smith captures and brings to Area 51.  I wonder if Roosevelt ever did the same with German foot soldiers in WW2? Not to mention, despite very sophisticated armor, this alien was knocked unconscious by one Will Smith punch. Sounds like a pussy to me. 

4) At the beginning of the film, Randy Quaid’s character is teased by peers because he claims to have been once abducted by aliens.  Yet, at the end of the movie, when all his claims now seem plausible, people still think he’s full of shit.  Perhaps they should give pause and consider his story now that they spent the last two days dodging laser bullets from the weapons of aliens trying to commit human genocide.   

5) The same Randy Quaid saves the day when he bravely flies his aircraft in the middle of the alien ship’s “primary weapon,” causing the power weapon to backfire, thus sending a debilitating explosion throughout the enemy ship.  But here’s the thing:  Randy Quaid was actually the air fleet’s last hope or, in other words, the American Air Force (the most powerful in the world) was a hair away from losing the battle forever.  Now, the enemy’s primary weapon isn’t visible, it actually extends from inside the ship (like a big mechanical wiener) and powers once open.  So why not just wait while your tiny ships dogfight the fighter pilots (a fight they were clearly winning) and clear the air before you level the ground beneath with the apparent vulnerable phallic weapon (plus, if there are any physics majors out there, what are the chances a weapon that powerful would backfire due to impact with an F-14?).  For such an advanced civilization, these aliens sure are tactically stupid.

I’m sure there are many others.  Who has some!



  1. i know you were talking about the character but i must object to using the word "dolt" to describe anything having to do with peter stormare. thank you, that is all.

  2. You do understand that the captured alien faked getting knocked out so he could meet Bill Pullman, thus living Te's dream.

  3. Te's dream was to meet Bill Pullman?

  4. We've discussed this! Norton Anti-virus.