Independence Day Review
3 July 1996
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Great Salt Lake in Utah
The scene in which Will Smith drags the unconscious alien across the desert was filmed on the salt flats near Great Salt Lake in Utah. Smith’s line, “And what the hell is that *smell*?” was unscripted. Great Salt Lake is home to tiny crustaceans called brine shrimp. When they die, the bodies sink to the bottom of the lake (which isn’t very deep) and decompose. When the wind kicks up just right, the bottom mud is disturbed and the smell of millions of decaying brine shrimp can be very very bad. Apparently, nobody warned Will.
Designs for the aliens
Production designer Patrick Tatopoulos presented director Roland Emmerich with two concepts for the aliens. Emmerich liked both designs so much, he came up with the idea to use one design as the actual alien and the other to be a bio-mechanical suit the aliens could wear.Both of Tatopoulos’s concepts appear in the film.
What is ‘Independence Day’ about?
While huge alien spacecraft hover over the earth’s major cities, the world population watches in fear and wonder. It turns to just fear when the alien force begins to attack and their definses prove to be impenetrable, forcing ex-fighter pilot Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman), now President of the United States, along with U. S. Marine Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), ex-scientist turned cable technician David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), and crop duster with a drinking problem Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) to engage in a daring counterattack in hopes of saving humanity
Idea for the film
Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin got the idea for the film while fielding a question about the existence of alien life during promotion for Stargate (1994). A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a film with content like that if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover 15-mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the world’s largest cities. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said, “I think I have an idea for our next film.”.
The plot device by which the aliens were defeated is lifted from the original storyline ofH.G. Wells’s novel War Of The Worlds. In WOTW they were beaten by bacteria and viruses; in this film they were beaten because of a computer virus.
White House Premiere
Roland Emmerich admitted that during the movie’s premiere at the White House, he gave his seat next to President Bill Clinton to Bill Pullman, fearing Clinton’s reaction to the on-screen destruction of the White House.
Why the reference to ‘Independence Day’?
The story takes place over the U.S.’s independence holiday, beginning on July 2nd when the aliens first arrive, moving through July 3rd when they begin destroying the world’s major cities, and ending in the counterattack on the actual Independence Day, July 4th. The implication is that the U.S.’s independence day has now become the world’s Independence Day because of all the world’s countries banding together to defend the existence of humanity against alien invaders
How could Casse fly his plane directly into the beam the aliens fire at Area 51? Wouldn’t he have been destroyed before he could collide with the alien cannon?
The beam probably hadn’t reached full strength by that point. If you watch the scene of the White House’s destruction, the beam does start causing damage before the big blast travels down and blows up the structure — you can clearly see fires erupting in the White House before the big blast. However, given that David had uploaded the virus to the Mother Ship, and it had infected the saucers enough to launch the attack, the saucer that Casse destroys could have been set enough in disarray that the beam wasn’t up to full power. That gave Casse enough time to perform his kamikaze maneuver.
What was the ‘daring’ counterattack plan?
David came to realize that, just like the the aliens’ use of our satellites to transmit signals to their attack force, he could plant a computer virus in the mothership that would disrupt their shields and filter down to the corresponding ships, making them all vulnerable to attack. It was considered daring because it required Steve, along with David, to fly and dock the Roswell craft in the mothership approaching Area 51, download the virus, plant a nuclear bomb with a 30 second time delay, and escape from the mothership before the explosion occurred.
The aliens had vastly superior technology to human technology – how could David possibly invent a computer virus that could work so effectively?
In an action film such as this, ANYTHING is possible. David is a brilliant computer and communications scientist. He was solely responsible for cracking the code used by the invaders to corrupt our satellites. If he’d figured out how that code worked, it was probably easy for him to invent a new code that would reverse or corrupt it. Athough it seems that the aliens have anticipated how we’d react and launch our counterattack, it’s reasonable to say they couldn’t think of everything. It’s also implied that all of our current day technology is based on things we’ve reverse-engineered from the crashed craft. Thus, our computer technology would be based on the alien technology, which suggests that they should be compatible and that data should be able to transfer between systems easily.
What was the motivation behind the alien’s genocidal nature?
The most straightforward answer is natural resources. While it would seem more logical to avoid causing mass destruction and fallout across the Earth, the aliens assume that it’s better to extinguish as much life on Earth as possible, decimating cities worldwide to put the Human Race in disarray and unable to launch an effective counterattack. The resources the aliens yearn to plunder would primarily be fuel sources such as nuclear material. Seeing as the aliens have no regard for human life whatsoever, it would seem unfathomable to predict why they would travel light years across the universe to destroy life rather than research it. A clue to their behavior may lie in comparing how humans themselves treat their surroundings in order to survive. The aliens may have consumed everything available on their own planet, so they now wander the universe for survival rather than curiosity. There’s actually a line in the film where President Whitmore explains what the aliens are doing after his telepathy attack. He says that the aliens are like locusts, moving their whole civilization to a planet until every resource is consumed and then they move on to another planet. The aliens could have been fleeing from their planet due to a dying star or some other sort of catastrophic threat to their world. Their mothership was certainly big enough to have carried a whole civilization and could have been seeking out another planet similar to their own or gathering the resources to start elsewhere. In a 1983 TV miniseries, V, a race of reptilian aliens invade and occupy Earth in order to steal all of Earth’s water and kidnap the human race to use as food. They arrive on Earth in ships similar to the saucers the aliens in this film use, although they aren’t as large and they don’t come from a mothership out in space. In many sci-fi stories, films, and TV shows, the existence of water on Earth suggests that it’s a precious resource among many on Earth, so the aliens in this film could have been after our water. An exception to this would be Signs where water is actually toxic to the aliens.
RT/Meta Critic Review
The alien attack, taking place in several cities at once, is breathtaking…All the same, Independence Day is consistently funny.(Click here to see)