Roger M. Wilcox's review of

Independence Day

(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2000 or so.)

Wow! Independence Day is really educational! Not since Armageddon have I learned so much from a movie! Some UseNet denizen out there (whose name sadly escapes me at the moment) once posted a long list entitled "Things I learned by watching Armageddon", extolling the virtues of that highly educational film. And since I don't want to deprive you, dear readers, of the wonderful educational experience I've had while watching THIS showcase for explosions, I now bring you:


1. Alien spacecraft propulsion is so advanced, it causes moondust to vibrate, even though there's no air in space to carry any vibrations from the spacecraft to the moon.

2. The United States military has a branch called "Space Command", set up for the purpose of fighting aliens.

3. An alien mothership shaped like a hemisphere only 500 kilometers across can have a mass of 1/4 of the Earth's moon. This makes its average density 20 times that of solid lead. Later views of the mothership's interior show vast cavernous empty spaces taking up most of the room. Therefore, aliens have learned to use White Dwarf or Neutron Star matter as a building material.

4. No one in a small town would dream of turning in a reckless pilot to the F.A.A. for violating the "8 hours minimum from bottle to throttle" regulation against drinking and flying.

5. This same propulsion system that disturbs moondust from thousands of kilometers away must work differently while it's down in the air. Because despite hovering over populated cities, the aliens' 15-kilometer-wide saucer spacecraft don't generate so much as a slight downdraft. NASA should look into developing this technology.

6. Despite having the energy to hover over cities for hours on end, aliens will gladly subject the hulls of their ships to scorching re-entry heat rather than slow down before hitting the atmosphere.

7. Furthermore, the ability to create vast star-spanning armadas of giant spacecraft does not necessarily mean that a species will have invented the concept of synchronizing their wristwatches. Or of bringing along their own small satellites to relay their own communications.

8. To destroy a city 15 kilometers across, it is necessary to hover 1 mile above it and fire a super-zorch wiz-bang firestorm ray at it. Simply landing a 15-kilometer-wide flying saucer on it and crushing everyone and everything is far less efficient.

9. A blast of fire rushing down the street at 80+ miles per hour, incinerating everything in its path and consuming all available oxygen, will have no effect on you (or your dog) whatsoever if you duck 10 feet away into a side tunnel.

10. Even though your forcefields can deflect everything — up to and including a nuclear blast — you must still send out an armada of tiny fighter craft when your enemy flies in close. Just in case your enemy might want to capture one and analyze it.

11. Fighter jocks of all species have essentially the same psychology. You can lure an alien into a dangerous high-speed chase with you by going "nyah nyah" at him.

12. The President of the United States is a really nice guy who does not engage in politicking and who used to be a military pilot. (I leanred this same lesson in Air Force One.)

13. The Federal government really does have a top-secret research base with an alien spaceship in it. To keep the public from getting suspicious, they call it "Area 51". No outsider in 1996 would possibly associate "Area 51" with crashed alien spaceships.

14. All aliens are telepathic. Especially the scary-looking ones. And the scarier looking they are, the meaner they are, too.

15. Mean aliens are willing to spend oodles of energy crossing interstellar space in a spaceship built out of neutron-star matter just to get at one planet's oil and coal reserves.

16. The use of nuclear armaments against genocidal aliens is more immoral that letting the aliens wipe you out.

17. Nuclear weapons are always deployed via cruise missile. Nuclear bombers are incapable of flying over a 15-kilometer-wide target and dropping a bomb on it.

18. The cutting edge of computer science has advanced a lot since I was in school. Ten years ago, it took months of effort poring over megabytes of machine instructions (and viewing the results on a real running machine) just to decipher a foreign computer's instruction set. By 1996, though, it is possible for one man in a few days to decipher the instruction set of a computer built by space aliens, with only the aliens' time-synchronizing communications data to work from.

19. Not only that, but in the space of an extra half day, it's also possibly to learn the nuances of an alien operating system so thoroughly that you can find security holes in it and write a harmful "computer virus"-like program to attack it.

20. Military officers in times of extreme emergency will routinely draw their pistols and shoot at Coca-Cola cans because a civilian asks them to. Even after the civilian endangers the lives of everybody in the room the first time he convinced said officer to shoot.

21. Alien fighter controls work just like video game joysticks.

22. After killing everyone on the planet and erecting nuke-proof forcefields, aliens still have to prepare an "invasion force" of ordinary infantry.

23. Bull Pullman can make just as over-the-top a speech as Charlton Heston did in Planet of the Apes and Michael York did when returning to the city in Logan's Run.

24. Those naughty Arabs still haven't learned that when you fire live ammo into the air in celebration, the bullets could kill people when they fall back to the ground. Tsk tsk.

25. The President's cabinet will only make slight objections when he wants to fly a fighter plane against a superior enemy, despite his having never touched a plane in over 4 years. They won't object at all if he wants to spearhead the entire fighter wing.

26. After having had an entire airbase toasted earlier, the decimated 1996 U.S. Air Force can bounce back by putting more F-18 fighters in the air than existed in the whole world at any time in history.

27. Once a 15-kilometer-wide alien spaceship's forcefield is brought down, you can only shoot at it with air-to-air missiles (which have tiny 20-40 pound warheads). You cannot shoot at it with the 300-pound Maverick air-to-surface missile. You certainly cannot fly above it and drop 2000-pound bombs on it.

28. Civilian refugees at an airbase will only be allowed into underground shelters when alien spacecraft are practically on top of them. It's more fun that way when they all panic.

29. Alien spacecraft in trouble will gladly expose their vulnerable Big Gun, rather than land on and crush their assailants.

30. When a 15-kilometer-wide flying saucer explodes, it always falls off harmlessly to one side. It never lands on the city or airbase it was hovering over.

31. A tactical (i.e. "low powered") nuclear weapon is sufficient to blow up an entire 500-kilometer-wide alien mothership. Made of neutron-star matter.

32. Shock waves travel out from explosions in concentric 2-dimensional rings. Even in space. Where there's no air to propagate a shock wave.

... All in all, a very educational experience! I didn't know ANY of this stuff before!

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