Being just four years old when Roland Emmerich‘s “Independence Day” crash-landed in our atmosphere on July 3, 1996, it may come as no surprise that I didn’t get around to seeing it in theaters. But finally, after two and a half decades, I decided to sit down and watch Will Smith save the planet from certain destruction.
Since this is the 25th anniversary of the film’s release, I thought I’d share 25 thoughts I had while watching ”Independence Day.”
1. Solid patriotic start — Flag, trumpets, footprints on the moon. I’m ready. Playing R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” seems a little on the nose, but overall a solid start.
2. According to the news, the president of the United States (Bill Pullman) is a war hero, but he’s terrible at politics because the Gulf War is different than the Oval Office. They say they elected a warrior and got a wimp. Ouch. But hey, this veteran president was just named one of the 10 sexiest men in America by the Orange County Dispatch. Anyway, now we’ve got the SECDEF on the phone! There’s a satellite floating loose out in space. Something is aflame in the starry sky? I have no idea where this is going.
3. Changing scenes, we have a deadbeat desert dad, probably a veteran pilot, who is out crop dusting while drunk? This is a solid fart joke.
4. We’re back in Washington. Satellites are unreliable? Inconceivable! But this time it’s because there’s a giant UFO that’s broken off into three dozen pieces transmitting a strange signal. No one has mentioned aliens … yet. SECDEF suggests ICBMs to blow it out of the sky, because of course. We’re going to DEFCON 3! I never actually knew what that meant before now, but it turns out it’s not that serious. DEFCON 1 is when the sh*t really hits the fan. Level three is just an “increase in force readiness above that required for normal readiness” — whatever that means.
5. UFOs hitting all the major U.S. geopolitical hotspots for the 90s. Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Russia. Definitely shouldn’t read into that too much. And the first casualties appear to be Air Force pilots.
6. Our crop duster turns out to be a man named Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), a former combat pilot who was abducted by aliens and drinks too much. Everyone mocks him for it, but then he is immediately vindicated by UFOs entering the atmosphere. Talk about timing!
7. Here we have our hero, Will Smith, a Marine Corps pilot named Capt. Steven Hiller, and he is still asleep.
8. Alas, the Manhattan skyline has been swallowed by a flying saucer. Where have I seen this before? Only every sci-fi movie ever? David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), our sad sack SATCOM guy, has figured out that the aliens are using Earth’s satellites to count down to an attack. Six hours left! Levinson’s soon-to-be ex-wife (Margaret Colin) works in the White House for President Sexy, because of course. She doesn’t believe there’s any danger. No one is warned.
9. Our Marine pilot hero doesn’t think there’s going to be a fight … good one.
10. Casse is accused both of having PTSD and being sexually tortured by aliens in the same news segment. Poor guy. This Vietnam veteran has seen better days.
11. The news advises people not to fire guns at the UFO because it could trigger an interstellar war. Who would do that? It sounds a lot like that time some Floridians tried to shoot down a hurricane.
12. Oh my God. Hiller’s girlfriend Jasmine (Vivica Fox) is an exotic dancer who he’s planning to marry. This is my favorite cliche. I wonder if he met her two weeks ago at the club. Such a Marine move. She’s a low-key badass, though.
13. Six hours is up. The aliens incinerated everything and everyone, aside from the people we’ve met so far. The Navy is going in hot with Black Knights. I’ve never seen so many F/A-18s in once place.
14. This dog fight reminds me of the pod race in “Star Wars: Phantom Menace.” Should have used the ICBMs while the UFOs were still in space. It would have been a lot cleaner than that crash landing. Did Hiller just kill that alien by punching him in the face? Forget Army Strong. Marines all the way, I guess.
15. Area 51 is real! The Kyles were right when they said we should we should “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” That’s where President Sexy is going with SATCOM David. How fortuitous that a shot-down Hiller runs into Casse nearby! What are the odds of such a perfect convergence? And the base already has one of the alien vessels under experimentation. Who knew? The SECDEF, of course! (But it was classified!) What a sly minx.
16. These aliens kind of remind me of the ones I saw in “War of the Worlds” (2005) featuring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning’s piercingly annoying scream, but with more legs. And just like those extraterrestrials, they’re here to consume the planet and bail. Yikes.
17. ICBM time! The bird is away. Conflict over. Can we go home now?
18. Oops. No. The space ship is fine. Mission aborted. Their defensive shields are too strong! Who could have seen that coming?
19. Sad Sack David figured it out moments later. They have to use the captured vessel to infect the mothership with a virus to take the shields down. Sounds like a job for Hiller! Except the SECDEF is throwing a tantrum.
20. Steve and Jasmine are having a quickie chapel wedding! It’s not Vegas, but Area 51 is still Nevada. SATCOM David and his wife make eyes in a way that screams “we’re getting back together.”
21. There’s nothing like an alien counter-offensive to end all international conflict. Our war hero, President Sexy, has just given the greatest Independence Day speech since Thomas Jefferson declared it in 1776. He is a wimp no more.
22. This aerial sequence reminds me of every Star Wars movie I’ve ever seen. No way would anyone ever let POTUS lead a squadron, even if he were the world‘s greatest pilot. Could you imagine leaving the country without a head of state or commander-in-chief during an alien invasion?
23. The shields are down but U.S. forces have run out of missiles. Who knew that was possible? It’s Casse to the rescue, the culmination of his post-Vietnam and alien abduction redemption tour. He sacrifices himself for the greater good, taking out the ship hovering over Area 51. Everyone celebrates, except his children, who are now orphans. It’s … not great.
24. I think my cat likes this movie. Murphy has been watching from my lap the whole time. She has terrible taste in films.
25. The explosion of the mothership lights up the sky more than the last 245 years of fireworks combined. Happy Fourth of July everyone!
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.