26 Jun

Independence Day

“Now that’s what I call a close encounter.”

– Captain Steven Hiller

The Setup

Independence Day: Resurgence is on the list as a summer blockbuster contender, so we decided to go back and watch the prequel which came out, if you can believe it, 20 years ago. We really didn’t know what to expect, but we knew the military was heavily involved as were Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. With two such iconic men at the helm, what could go wrong? Well it turns out when you create a movie that’s almost two-and-a-half hours long, that leaves a lot of room for extraneous characters, scenes, and plot points…

The Food

Being that there is a large military component to the film and the Army is creating advertising around Independence Day: Resurgence, Ben ventured over to the Army Surplus Store and bought some MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat), a brownie that could last a lifetime, and some 5-year water. We decided to cook a fresh version of the MRE etc. and pit the two against each other to see how the Army’s food engineering stood up to the taste of fresh ingredients.

The MRE we picked was “beef tacos.” It came with a surprising amount of additional snacks and add-ins like barbecue sauce, jalapeño cheese crackers, and (oddly) peanut butter. None of this besides the main part of the dish was apparent from the label, so we just made some of our own beef tacos from scratch, tortillas and all.

We started by making the dough which was surprisingly simple: just masa, water, and a little salt. We formed the dough into small rounds and cooked them on a skillet. We filled our freshly made tortillas with some seasoned beef, avocado, red onion, cilantro, and a little sour cream. As far as the MREs go, we just had to add some water to a packet that had a hard insert inside that creates a chemical reaction that emits heat when the water hits it. It was a surprisingly quick and easy way to heat up our MRE beef tacos. The MRE Beef tacos didn’t hold a candle to the magnificence of our homemade tacos, but that was pretty much what we expected. We were at least surprised at how edible they were, perfect in a military-zone pinch.

The brownies we made followed this recipe, but we modified it just a little bit using a chopped up 100% chocolate bar instead of something around 70% as they suggest. This kind of chocolate is way too bitter to eat on its own, but oh so satisfying within a sweet and sugary brownie. The subtle bitterness added a nice complexity that we all appreciated. With the MRE brownie, however, the process involved was as simple as just opening up the packet and placing it on whatever eating surface you are using. We were a little bummed by the MRE brownie’s taste being that it was akin to eating a mouthful of saw dust with some sugar and cocoa powder mixed in. We decided to be as scrappy as possible to make this brownie work, so we allowed the peanut butter in the beef taco MRE to save the day by smearing a hearty amount on top before finishing the rest of the brownie.

The Drinks

Since the MRE was served with water, we made a relatively basic cocktail to compliment our meal. We wanted to evoke the type and maybe even the flavor of a post-civilization cocktail, after a long day of fighting for yourself, you may need a drink to take a little of the pain away and why not do that with a tequila and tonic. It looks like water so all of the other members of your commune think you are just hydrating, but you get all of the additional benefits: two clear liquids that can get you through anything. As far as the water packets go, we all agreed they would be great in a pinch, but on their own they didn’t have the best flavor. Although, it was fun to drink water out of a packet.

The Rules

What could be more American, than an American flag, Will Smith, and heroic dogs? Well, I guess the last is kind of an international thing, which is for the best.

  1. Drink whenever you see an American flag.
  2. Drink whenever Will Smith drops a one-liner.
  3. Take a shot when a dog does something heroic.

We might as well throw a provisional rule in here as well: drink whenever someone pulls out a cigar.

The Movie

Independence Day is such a weird movie, we don’t really know how to talk about it. Maybe it would be best for us to just talk about some of the issues we had with the movie, such as…

Bill Pullman as the president. We see you scratching your head over there thinking, “Who the heck is Bill Pullman?” If you look at his IMDB page you will see he is known for Independence Day and that’s about it. He gave one of the blandest performances of all time, and perhaps ruined his acting career with this movie. We have never seen a man more calm after just losing their wife. The character of the president also made some weird decisions such as…

The president bringing crazy cable guy Jeff Goldblum and his father Judd Hirsch on Air Force One in a time of crisis. This is something we could never ever see happening. No president would ever invite a highly eccentric dude who just burst into the Oval Office into Air Force One, especially considering the fact that Jeff Goldblum had apparently punched the president in the past. Also we have a hard time believing acquaintances of White House office personnel can gain entry to the White House as easily as Jeff did. Especially in a time of crisis. So anyway, the whole Jeff Goldblum tagalong thing gets even worse as…

The president continues to bring eccentric genius cable guy Jeff Goldblum and his father Judd Hirsch everywhere. Okay so Jeff Goldblum established that he knew a thing or two about science. I guess I could see bringing him along, especially considering pretty much every one of the president’s advisor’s died, and that guy was pretty ineffective without them. But we simply cannot believe that the president would continue to put up with Judd Hirsch and his random awkward dad comments all the time. Maybe that’s why…

The president joins the Air Force for the last battle. We’re no history buffs but we are pretty sure no president in the history of the United States has ever actually served in a war while acting as president. This probably has something to do with the fact that the commander-in-chief is too valuable of an asset to risk in a war, but to be fair, this president was completely worthless so maybe it checks out. Also, the Air Force was looking pretty desperate. Hell, they even let alcoholic crop-duster Randy Quaid fly an F-18, and eccentric genius cable guy Jeff Goldblum co-pilot a spacecraft.

So yeah. We didn’t really buy the whole president thing, and the flight sequences were another conundrum altogether. Leanna’s brother Shelby, an actual fighter pilot, had this to say about it:

Starting off walking out to the jets… Of course Will Smith and Harry Connick Jr. are parked next to each other with their respective names on the jets… That’s a rarity, but I’ll let it go.  We definitely tell each other “You’re the man!” just before cranking engines.

It’s a nice emotionally charged conversation enroute to the fight, which is definitely where your head is when getting ready to shoot down some aliens… But you can’t just talk to your wingman like that over the radio, especially with all those other jets out there… Plus their masks are down… The microphone is in the mask… You’d barely be able to understand what they are saying.

They took off and were fighting over LA… Then they ended up at the Grand Canyon… That’s like 600 miles away!  So let’s assume they used a lot of their gas fighting over LA, but then they separated from the fight and got “low and fast.”  In order to go supersonic at sea level, an F-18 would need to be in full afterburner that entire time.  From the looks of it, he had no external fuel tanks… He’d be out of gas well before he even got outside LA, let alone 600 miles away.

The F-18 radar would not lock on to a spaceship that big (I can go into a lot of how the radar works here, but I’ll spare the details)… The “AMRAAM” is a radar guided missile (which is what they say they are firing), so the notion of them saying “they have AMRAAM missile lock on” seems like a stretch.  Later they’ll attempt to shoot a “Sidewinder” which is a heat seeking missile… Again, not sure if there’s a heat source (like engines on a jet, which is what it would be locking on to), so both of these missiles would be difficult to employ.  Plus, both those missiles are meant to shoot down other airplanes, not city-sized spaceships!  It’d be like shooting a handgun at a tank.

I don’t really understand how Harry Connick Jr. dies… One minute they’re flying along at Mach 2.5 (2.5 times the speed of sound, which is really an unrealistic speed for an F-18 to be flying at ground level) and then he “tries something” and next thing you know he can’t breathe?  These things don’t really add up.

The canyon scene… Well, if he was still flying at Mach 2.5, then he’d definitely crash into a wall, but let’s assume he slowed down to a more maneuverable airspeed while flying through the canyon… He definitely pulls some Star Wars X-Wing type of maneuvers and would probably have clipped a wing, hit a wall, or just over-g’d the wings off the airplane… Then he drops his drag chute out of the back of the plane to blind the alien ship… F-18s don’t have those, and that would be one hell of a shot if he was able to drop it out the back and have it hit the alien ship.  Finally, he ejects… From what appears to be below the canyon wall… He would have splatted right into the canyon… No way would it have shot him up over the edge… And then the way he landed from that parachute fall would have broken every bone in his legs!

Welcome to Earth.

The Reviews

André: Red, white, and blegh. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed the movie more than anyone else in Munch, mainly because Jeff Goldblum’s mannerisms tickle me. He’s the kind of guy I look at and start laughing before he even starts talking because everything he does is funny. Heck, even his eye movement cracks me up. His eyes are constantly flying around while he acts, which is supposedly linked to a high IQ, but that is neither here nor there. The point is, he’s a funny man and he makes me laugh. The rest of the movie was pretty bad though.

Leanna: Jeff Goldblum and the heroic dog are shining lights in this abysmal film. It’s too long, all the characters are utterly ridiculous, and there’s so many plot holes I just can’t even. That being said, it was pretty fun to watch with the right people because there is no shortage of antics, dialogue, or effects to make fun of. Also, I felt like it was a little weird and unnecessary to make part of the storyline be about Will Smith’s girlfriend proving that she’s worthy of marrying him despite the fact that she’s a stripper. Like it’s mentioned that he will never get into NASA if he marries a stripper and then the rest of the movie shows her (and her family dog) committing heroic act after heroic act. Just a strange addition to the plot that wasn’t very well done and really fell flat.

Ben: 70%. There are a couple of things I want to talk about here, the first of which is that this is just such a long movie for what actually happens in it. Between the sheer quantity of characters, weird one off storylines that have no emotional weight and clear need to show as much destruction as possible this film takes forever to get anywhere. There are entire characters that could be cut out (I am looking at you, drunk pilot and also his family: we don’t need him, and there is no emotional weight to the roles). A 90-minute Independence Day cut is what I am looking for. I have no doubt that Independence Day is incredibly influential and at the time was a powerful piece of summer cinema, but all of these years later it is unable to hold itself up.

The second thing I want to talk about is Roland Emmerich, director of this film and a person with such a penchant for carnage that he decided to go ahead and enact a little bit of it in his own life, and I don’t feel sorry for it. With Independence Day: Resurgence doing its media track and Roland being put in front of reporters it was inevitable that there would be comments on his train-wreck of a movie based on the Stonewall Riots, titled Stonewall. The movie centers itself on a white, young, straight-acting gay man who, in the film, plays a key role in how the riots play out. This is all to the effect of pushing and erasing the actual Trans, Queens, and People of Color that were actually there that night in 1969 and the profound impact they had. Marsh P. Johnson, who is considered to be the first to throw a brick that night and whose impact for the gay community is profound, is a key character in the riots and yet is a bit character. In addition, Roland’s comments that Stonewall was a “a white event” is just flat-out wrong. Stonewall Inn’s inhabitants and the surrounding area was roughly largely comprised of people of color (Sources 1, 2). The Gay Liberation movement would not have made the strides it did with out queer and trans people of color. Roland’s whitewashing and erasure is unacceptable and saddening. It also just adds to a history within the Gays Rights movement that relegated those who were not a white male to the wings, despite the movement being built through the blood and sweat of those it relegated.

This is all to say that Independence Day is just okay, and I find it difficult to want to support someone who so actively takes a part in whitewashing the LGBT movement.