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Independence Day: One Year On

by Alan Benson

Well, it's been almost a year since those aliens tried to take over the earth, and I think it's time for us to step back and reflect upon the past 12 months. After all, a lot has happened since then what with the rebuilding and all. Sometimes, it's hard to remember that a year ago, we faced utter destruction. At the time, the takeover made big news, but nowadays it's like it never happened. Have we already forgotten that just one year ago we lost Houston, Chicago, and the El Toro Air Force Base?

I think we have, and that's why, one year on, I think it's important to look back and consider the impact a couple thousand of those aliens and a whole bunch of laser bolts had on our lives.

Of course, some of you are probably asking why we would want to relive all of that bad stuff. Most people were content with the excellent documentary, Independence Day, that came out shortly after the aliens arrived. The movie, which made millions, summed up the invasion pretty well; more importantly, it proved that documentaries don't have to be tepid, low-budget downers like Hoop Dreams.

My only complaint is that I didn't think the movie was exceptionally even-handed. The aliens did have their bad points -- blowing up the White House, destroying New York, tying up traffic, screwing up the weather on my trip to Austin -- but I think the fact that the filmmakers made no attempt to get the other point of view made the aliens seem worse than they were. (Perhaps if they were a bit more responsible, their film might have even won an Oscar, like that documentary about Marlon Brando's days in the mafia.)

Even though the aliens were plotting the total destruction of the planet, they did have some good points, too. Like:

* They had very cool flying saucers;

* They had a gutsy, take-charge attitude that's all too rare nowadays; and

* They had a very tough anti-Brent Spiner stance.

I don't think the documentary did a very good job of presenting the aliens' side of things. Perhaps it would have been better in the hands of a more skilled documentarian — someone like Oliver North, who did wonders with the story of Ted Kennedy's brother, or that nice Robert Zemeckis, who did that movie about that young fellow who ran across the country all those times and met Nixon.

Now, back to the events a year ago. I, like most Americans, was surprised when the first pictures of the aliens arrived on the TV. I was expecting someone a bit more handsome, someone like that David Bowie chap who fell to earth in the '60s (though I could do without those two-tone eyes; they still give me the creeps to this day).

Even if the aliens weren't cute, they could at least have a good personality like that Mork fellow or Alf (though that cat-eating habit would probably get him in dutch with the liberal media nowadays). Instead, they were some of the most unpleasant, ugly creatures I ever laid eyes on. And rude, too; they blew up the Empire State Building without as much as a "by your leave." I swear, Emily Post is right; the world is going to H-E-double-L in a handbasket.

I do have to say that I admired President Bill Pullman's handling of the affair. I doubt I could have handled losing my wife in the midst of an alien invasion as well as he did. And then to go on and fly around shooting up the aliens after that, well, that reminded me exactly why I voted for him in the first place. Good show President Pullman; here's to four more years!

Of course, a lot of the credit should go to computer mastermind Jeff Goldblum and pilot Will Smith. I seem to remember that Mr. Goldblum had a problem a couple of years ago where he was turning into a fly, but he must have licked it. It just goes to show you that given the right know-how, there's nothing science can't do. Both of these guys are war heroes now, and they both seem like real stand-up fellows. Thanks for the alien-beating, sirs!

That's not to say everything's hunky-dory now that the aliens have been defeated. I think some aspects of the invasion could have been handled better. For instance, the whole cleanup was a mess. I know the infrastructure was all smashed up, but it looks like they could have found some garbage trucks to haul away those big old crashed ships by now. I mean, it's been a year and all!

And that's not mentioning the smell! I don't want to be rude, but whooo-whee! Sometimes, when the breeze is right, the whole neighborhood smells like rotting alien. It gets in your clothes, and your hair. Yuck. They can put a man on the moon, make clear deodorant, and repel an alien invasion, but they can't invent an air freshener for alien-stink? I find that hard to believe!

Of course, you can't have everything you want as soon as you want them. I suppose we should spend less time sniffing the air and more time thinking about how lucky we were that Apple made an alien-mainframe-to-Macintosh converter cable. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

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