3D Printing to Turn Aircraft Carriers Into Mobile Factories

nimitz-class-carrier-640x424It’s no secret that NASA has turned to 3D printing as a way of opening up new frontiers of space exploration and resolving potential problems – like building moon bases or feeding astronauts. And now, it seems that the only other organization that can rival the space agency in terms of funding and scale – the US Navy- has something similar in mind.

The US Navy already boasts most of the world’s largest moveable structures – the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier taking the cake. Whats more, modern aircraft carriers are basically floating cities already, complete with conventional manufacturing facilities to provide a good portion of what the crew might need while at sea. It therefore makes perfect sense to incorporate a high-quality 3D printer into the mix.

F_35_navyWhile the ultimate goal may be the ability to print actual replacement fighters and ordinance, the current plan is to incorporate printers that can print off replacement parts and possibly even small drones. With the technology already in place, it is not difficult to imagine a carrier, or perhaps even a large land vehicle, outfitted with a high-quality 3D printer, several tons of raw materials, and a few pre-fabricated cameras and circuit boards.

What’s more, this could also make transport of basic supplies more efficient, holding powder and casing materials separately and combining them to make bullets and munitions as needed, rather than storing them in a way that takes up vast amounts of space. Researchers at Virginia Tech even told the Armed Forces Journal that they believe 3D printing could produce high-quality propellants themselves – meaning an aircraft carrier could produce its own supplies of fuel and missiles.

cyber-war-1024x843This idea drives home a number of things that are likely to become the mainstay with military technology. One is the increasing gap between the military haves and have-nots, and the increasing importance of cyber warfare in the modern world. No army or insurgent militia is likely to be able to withstand a mobile drone factory, nor is a nation that does not possess the technology be able to compete with one that does.

At the same time, simple defects, caused by cybernetic intrusion, could render such a mobile factory useless and counterproductive. In any future arms race between nations where 3D manufacturing is part of the arsenal, hacking will certainly be a factor. And last, but certainly not least, the ability to independently produce components, weapons and tools also opens up the possibility to create fully-autonomous ships and bases, complete with recycling programs that can turn waste into reusable raw material.

Cuban-Missile-CrisisSuch are the concerns of today’s military and all those who need to plan for the future. And as always, the prospects are frightening for all – not only because they make the nature of future conflicts uncertain, but because any serious advancement on one side is likely to cause others to scramble to get their hands on it as well. As any student of history knows, arms races lead to escalation and increased tension, and those rarely end well!

Source: extremetech.com

Revenger Alert: Mission Compromised!


The plumes began to slowly dissipate, replaced instead by hot, angry flames. And the noise they made, how they sliced the air with ever-increasing intensity. Everyone present around the outer ring of the facility could tell that they were getting closer with incredible speed. Between the missiles, their comms, and Atrum’s telepathic link, all those who watched and waited were treated to a cacophony of terrible noise.

“What do we do…?” said Angel, her eyes on the drone that seemed to be passively making its way off into the distance.

Behind her, Atrum tightened his fists and tried his best to summon his powers. His grunts indicated that he was not proving successful.

“I can’t reach him… the Captain and Tsunami. They’re too deep inside and I’m blind to them.”

Styka turned to him next. “Can you contact them?”

Atrum sighed. “I can reach Pax, but he knows the situation. He should be here – ”

A loud pop sounded. In an instant, Pax stood before them with Erotica, Panacea and Freedom next to him. He looked especially awkward with the three ladies clung to him on all sides. But then again, they didn’t appear to pleased either. The transportation process and the fact that they all needed to hold onto to him to experience seemed to have left them all rattled.

“What’s happening?” Atrum said to anyone who would answer. Pax, the least phased by their jump, immediately answered.

“Captain and Tsunami went on ahead to find the artifact. He got your message about something being wrong, sent us back.”

“What’s happening?” asked Panacea, prompting Atrum to point to the sky. A quick look was all the four of them needed to know that their mission was officially screwed!

“We’ve got to get them out,” said Pax.

“Nuts to that! I’m going to stop those missiles!” said Freedom, brandishing her sword and taking off before anyone could interject. Angel looked about to interject, but then shook her head and prepped for take off.

“I’m going too!”

Two booms sounded as the two alternately-colored streaks filled the air. Within seconds, Styka and Panacea were looking at each other, shrugging, and taking to the skies themselves. With the four of their airborne, a plan of sorts seemed to be taking shape.

“Okay… now what?” asked Atrum. Those who were left behind began to look to one another, each one thinking the same thing. After so many missions with the Captain providing their action plan, things felt a little awkward now that he was the one in danger. And yet, no means seemed to be available to reach them, and time was running out.

“No choice,” said Erotica. “We got back inside and get them out before it’s too late.”

The first explosion sounded overhead. All eyes turned skyward to see the small cloud of black smoke. Two of the missiles were dispatched, and then a third. That only left nine more, and they appeared to be accelerating…

*                      *                    *

They stood together, watching it with quiet reverence. They had reached the far end of the corridor at last and gazed on the only door they had encountered within. Buried this deep within the hillside, the room that lay beyond could serve but one purpose. The earth provided natural shielding, ensuring that whatever lay was safely shielded from any heat or radiation sensors.

The door was consistent with this appraisal, being made of reinforced steel and sealed by a biometric lock.

“This has got to be it,” he said, inspecting the lock. “Lead-lined door, coded access. No one but cleared personnel registered to gain entry.”

Tsunami took a deep breath. “Open it.”

Smackdown looked at her, noted how her stance had suddenly become rigid and inflexible. At this juncture, she was no longer able to contain her true feelings. Perhaps his little talk with her had something to do with that. Or maybe she really was more eager than he to see what lay within.

He took one more look at the door and gauged that it wouldn’t survive a blow from a powered kick. Taking a step back, he got as much room as he could need to power through it.

“Here goes!” he said, lifting his foot and feeling the servo mechanisms in his suit’s leg wind up and release. A loud clang sounded, and he was through, the door ripping from its hinges with a large boot-shaped dent in the middle. Gun leveled, Smackdown rolled into the room and scanned around them. Tsunami was close behind, her body poised in a fighting stance and her fists clenched tight. It took them but a few seconds to realize the obvious.

“There’s nothing here…” Tsunami said, her words wafting up to the far corners of the room and echoing softly. The room was darkened, light coming from above a central fixture of fluorescent bulbs that trickled down through a series of metal girders. Chains hung about the floor, looking to be part of some kind of pulley system. And the middle, there was a discernible absence made evident by a change in the color. A spheroid spot on the concrete appeared to be darker than anything outside of it, proof enough that something had occupied the center of the room until recently.

But otherwise, the two of them stood alone in an empty room. The terrible truth finally hitting them with crushing force…

“There’s nothing here…” she said again, her voice sounding distant and mournful. “The damn bastards tricked us. The whole thing was a set-up.”

Smackdown knew what she would say next, and was quick to interject. “They must have known I was talking to him. He couldn’t have -“

“Dammit, Captain! Face it, you’re friend screwed us! He’s working for them!”

Smackdown shook his head. No, he thought. It couldn’t be. Years of working with the man had to be worth something. He wouldn’t have simply led them into a trap. Not unless they had something on him, forced him to comply…

But now was hardly the time to get into all that. If they made it out, he would be sure to investigate the matter fully. Until then, all that mattered was getting out. Their enemy, whoever they were, was no doubt preparing to spring their next move.

*                     *                    *

They were arrayed in the field before the warehouse, standing as close as they dared to the target while still being able to defend it. Freedom, Panacea, Styka and Angel continued to streak across the sky, intercepting missiles and taking them down as best they could. The first wave was all but gone, but the drone had filled the air with another volley before the last of them was even destroyed.

Judgement had been able to bend a missile back on its course to take out the UAV before it could fire any more, but they still had a good fifteen to contend with now. And all their efforts to remove the first had cost them precious time.

Down below, Judgement and Bonfire reached out and took hold of those they could with their telekinesis. Erotica, unable to fly to meet them or move them with their minds, had to resort to more creative measures. Taking hold of whatever debris she could find and that was large enough, she flung them into the air to intercept the missiles.

They were making progress, but some were still making it through. And they had very little time left…

Standing within their circle, Atrum continued to reach out to make contact with Pax. He continued to push inside, seeking out the last members of their group. Between his attempt to retrieve the Captain and Tsunami from within, and the rest of them trying to stop the assault, he figured they had about a fifty-fifty shot of making it out of this alive.

But of course, all it would take was one missile to hit their target. As the Captain always said, no one got left behind. If only one of them didn’t make it out, they would be counting this as a defeat. But as long as there was a chance, they had to keep fighting. As with everything else, it was just a matter of getting the timing right…

Why the hell couldn’t I see this coming? he thought. He had been cognizant of something that lay in their path, but it had been nothing more than a terrible, grey mark on his mind. And yet, he hadn’t really considered that much of a threat. How was he to interpret that, especially in light of the fact that he still felt, even in the face of this onslaught, the strangest feeling of intangibility/

As he tried desperately to remain in contact with Pax and bolster the others, a terrible feeling of deja vu came over him. Had they not seen this exact same thing happen before? The presence of another mind jamming them as they stood and watched their enemies carrying on before them. He couldn’t sense anyone out there, but knew that something had to be at the other end of that vague sense he was getting.

A well placed chunk of concrete slammed into another missile, causing it to break apart several dozen meters short of its objective. Freedom’s sword slashed through another, and a fireball from Bonfire sent another crashing into the treeline.

“Another one down!” he yelled.

“Not enough! We got to move faster!” shouted Judgement, stopping a fourth and pulling it apart in midair.

“This would be so much easier if they were heat-seekers! I could blind em all in one shot!”

“Don’t brag, it’s unattractive,” replied Erotica. Were it not for the fact that everyone was very tired and strung out, they might gave laughed. They were down to less than ten now, but

[Pax! You’ve got to hurry!]

[Moving as fast as I can!] he replied. [I can’t reach them and they’re all the way inside]

Atrum huffed. How he wished at times like this that he could fly, or possessed some more offensive abilities.

[Just hurry! You’re going to have enough of a time getting out of there before the place goes up!]

A loud crash sounded from overhead. Everyone in the grassy field fell to their knees as a powerful wave knocked them down, flattening the grass around them and making the trees nearby sway. He looked up to see a fireball erupt overhead, one far larger than anything they had been generating.

“What happened?”

“Detonation!” said Bonfire. “One of the missiles went off!”

They all looked around desperately, noting that some of the silhouettes in the sky that represented their friends were now less in number.

“Oh my God… who was hit?”

They all looked on, no one able to speak and all feeling the same terrible sense that something terrible had just happened.

And then it got worse. From the dissipating fireball, two more plumes of flame emerged…

*                    *                    *

“Captain! Come on!” Tsunami yelled, motioning at him from up ahead.

“I’m coming!” he yelled, moving his legs as fast as the exoskeleton would carry him. Of all the moments for his servos to experience a malfunction. Half of him wanted to tear the armor off and run without it. But he knew he would need the armored protection once they stepped outside. A single UAV was not the last of it, he knew. If experience had taught him anything, it was that an air assault was always just the beginning. Soon enough, they were likely to be seeing gunships and drop troops, the grunts who made sure that the place was “sanitized” after it got blown to pieces.

“Hurry! She yelled! We’re almost there!”

Another voice called to them from far off. Both looked ahead and spotted the face of Pax running towards them.

“Captain! Tsunami! We got incoming!”

“What?” yelled Tsunami.

“We got incoming! Missiles are overhead and -“

He never got he last of it out. The entire building felt like it had been lifted up out of the ground and dropped hard. The walls cracked and splintered rock flew, dust and debris kicked up in all directions. But none of them really witnessed it. It all happened in the space of a heartbeat, and time seemed to stretch on interminably afterwards.

“Captain? Captain?”

Smackdown looked to the source of the voice and blinked several times. Eventually, he could make out the face of Pax staring down at him, his suit tinted to a dark grey. His hand lay over the Captain’s head, no doubt healing a gash that had been there seconds before.

“Captain? Can you move your legs?”

Smackdown frowned. The question seemed odd, until he looked down. A large chunk of debris lay across his stomach, his exoskeleton cracked and emitting sparks from several frayed connections. He looked to his left arm, the forearm section which lay open to show a small trickle of blood. When he tried to move, a terrible stab of pain shot through him. That quickly answered that question.

“I’m pinned!” he yelled. “I can’t move… I think my leg is broken… no… my hip…”

Pax began to fumble around. His hands could confer immediate healing, but only if he could achieve direct contact. He reached out to take hold of the Captain’s arm, and a thousand needles shoot through the flesh instantaneously.

“Oh! That’s not helping!”

“It will,” said Pax. “Just give it a second and I can get you free.”

Smackdown took another look at the slab that had him pinned. He quickly shook his head and looked up ahead. Tsunami was laying on the ground, but she appeared to be intact and unpinned. She was laying on her side with one knee propped up and her arm extended. Apparently, Pax had already administered her aid, but she remained unconscious.

“You can’t free me…” he said finally. “That cement is too heavy. And I think it might be the only thing holding my guts in.”

“Don’t talk like that! I’m getting you both out, Captain! You just have to wait…”

“No time,” the Captain replied. “You got to get her out while you still can. I’ll just slow you down.”

Pax shook his head and kept working on the Captain’s arm. It was starting to feel better, the bones, sinew and flesh coming together and the pain beginning to diminish.

“Pax, that’s an order! You’re not strong enough to free me. And even if you did, it would take more time than we have to heal me to the point that I could travel. You can’t carry us both, so carry her!”

“No, Captain! You can’t order me to leave you behind!”

“I just did!” Smackdown yelled, and then coughed. A small trickle of blood escaped his mouth and he pulled his hand away to cover it up. The site of it would only encourage Pax to stay longer than he could. “Don’t worry. Those bastards need me alive, they won’t let me die. And besides, there’ll be another time…”

“What do you mean?”

The Captain reached to his left hip to retrieve a small tube. The effort caused him terrible pain, but he managed to get it free and passed it to Pax. “Give this to Atrum. He’ll know what to do…”

Pax took the small tube and looked at it curiously. He wasn’t sure what he was being given, but the urgency with which the Captain was plying him was taking effect. His feet began to tremble against the floor and he looked back at Tsunami, still lying there quietly.

“Go on…” he said one last time. “I’m ordering you to get your kinsman to safety. Oblige this order, cuz it might be my last…”

Pax tightened his grip around the tube. Placing it in his belt, he reached down and put his hands on Smackdown’s head.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Not your fault,” Smackdown said, patting Pax on the shoulder. “Just make you sure you all get out alive.”

Pax took one last look at his commander, and spun around. Scooping Tsunami up from the floor, he moved as fast as he could down the corridor, leaving the Captain in a crumpled mess behind.

*                    *                     *

The stood before the treeline, all eyes focused on the single patch of burned greenery where their friend had landed moments before. Angel emerged from the patch, smoke rising from around her and the body she carried. The flames were beginning to catch at her feet and it looked like a forest fire might ignite at any moment. But right now, the thing everyone seemed focused on was the body that lay limply in her arms.

“Is she okay?” asked Erotica. Angel’s head hung low. The body she carried seemed intact, but the blood and burns were apparent for all to see.

“She took the hit,” said Angel. “I was closest, but she pushed me out of the way.”

“It was her choice,” said Panacea, stepping forward and placed both hands on Freedom’s body. “She’s unconscious. But she’ll live. And she’ll live knowing she saved a friend’s life.”

“I didn’t ask her too!” cried Angel. “She could have died, and then neither you or Pax would have been able to save her.”

Panacea seemed to ignore her as she moved her hands over Freedom’s wounded flesh. In time, the burns began to heal and her breathing became more quickened and audible. But she remained unconscious still, the shock of absorbing such a blast having put her into a deep coma for the time being.

The low noise didn’t last long. Behind them, they heard the sound of rustling as several pairs of feet came running forward. They spun around to see the faces of Judgement, Bonfire, and Atrum coming, and Pax carrying yet another body in his arms.

“Oh my God!” cried Styka. “Tsunami?”

“She’s okay,” said Pax. “Took a serious hit inside. But I’ve stabilized her. We need to get her out though.”

Angel nodded from her spot. “Sounds like a plan. Where’s the Captain?”

A dark ripple seemed to run through their new arrivals. All at once, they hung their heads and looked overcome. Judgement’s teeth were born and the gold streaks on his flesh seemed to grow, the terrible knowledge feeding his frenzied powers.

“Oh no…”

“He ordered me to…”

“Wait a minute, he’s still alive?” Angel demanded. Pax nodded somberly, which made her angrier. “We have to go back in!”

“We can’t!” cried Pax, finding his voice again. “He’s trapped deep inside, and we need to get our own back to base before the others arrive.”

“Screw that!” Judgement said. “We can take them! Let’s face what comes and get him out ourselves!”

“No,” said Atrum, causing all eyes to turn on him.

“You better explain yourself, Auditor,” said Angel, finding herself of one mind with Judgement. Even with Freedom in her arms, she would be damned if they chose to cut and run now, while the Captain still languished within.

“Look, people, we’ve been had. We all know that. But there’s something else going on here. There’s a darker force lingering out there, and it’s been jamming me the whole time. Whatever else they got planned for us, I can promise you it’s going to be worse than tanks and missile drones. We might not be able to stop it.”

Several voices rose at once, all of which objected to his assessment of the situation. He raised his voice quickly to cut them down. Debate was not something they had time for.

“We all knew there was something wrong here, people! The fact that I couldn’t sense there was a trap before it closed shut, that’s indication enough that whatever these people got on their side, its more powerful than us. We got three people down already. The longer we stay, the more we’re likely to lose.”

Angel scoffed, but looked back to Freedom. Sticking around was not something she could advise while her friend lay strewn across her arms. Judgement, Erotica and Bonfire were far from convinced, but none wanted to argue the point further. Atrum felt the time was right to show them the special object he now carried.

“They won’t have him long. He passed this onto us, and we’ll be able to find him with it.”

“What is it?” asked Angel.

“It’s a tracking device wired to a GPS chip in his suit. Wherever they take him, we’ll be able to monitor him to within a distance of a few meters. We might not be able to get him out now, but there will be another chance…”

“And there’s another thing,” Tsunami said, looking up from Pax’s hold. “The Captain ordered us to get out. I’d go back in myself if I could, but the only reason he’s staying is to give us a fighting chance of making it out in one piece.”

Just about everyone gasped as the words escaped her lips. Pax was sure to follow them up with some of his own.

“Besides, it might be the last order he ever gave. We have an obligation to carry it out.”

A dark consensus fell over them. Facing each other, the ten remaining Revengers nodded and set their sites for the treeline. They had some distance to travel before they would be out of the area, but knew that they could make it if they left now. All at once, they broke into a sprint or took to the air, flying and fleeing into the distance, the sound of rotors and vehicles sounding in the distance…

Iran Launches Monkey Into Space (Apparently)

iran_rocketIn spite of years being under a trade embargo, Iran claims to be making some rather interesting breakthroughs. In addition to drones, long range missiles and stealth aircraft, they now claim to have sent a primate into space. According to the state news network, the successful flight involved a relatively small rocket that went straight up and down, and is a “prelude to sending humans.” Oh, and the monkey arrived safe and sound.

Whereas some defense analysts in the US and other nations worry that this was a demonstration of potential military might, others see it in different terms. For example, Jonathan McDowell – a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launches and space activity – claims that the exercise was merely a step towards Iran’s stated goal of developing rockets that could send human astronauts into space, a goal Tehran has repeated publicly for more than a year.

Alive, but not comfortable!
Alive, but not comfortable!

“It doesn’t demonstrate any militarily significant technology,” he said. “This is a tiny old rocket, and what’s on top is useful only for doing astronaut stuff.” Charles P. Vick, an expert on Iranian rockets at GlobalSecurity.org, went farther, stating that the report may have been a fabrication, seeing as how Iran tried and failed to perform the same launch operation back in 2011.
Naturally, there was also the propaganda value of the feet. James E. Oberg, a former NASA engineer and author of a dozen books on human spaceflight, claim that “to a large degree, it’s a fig leaf.” Apparently, such peaceful flights could take global attention off the nation’s military feats and ambitions, comparable to what North Korea does with much of its research and development programs.

In any case, the reportedly successful launch of the Kavoshgar-class rocket – which went by the name of Pishgam (trans: Pioneer) –  came amidst announcements by Iranian sources that stated they were developing a space capsule meant to hold human astronauts. “It’s based on Chinese technology,” Mr. Vick said, adding that Iran had nearly completed a large new launching pad big enough for powerful rockets that could loft warheads, satellites or people into space.

In short, we can expect little in the way of clarity and plenty in the way of worrying from western analysts over this latest development. And of course, as usual, the monkey always get forgotten in the mix! One thing that was not reported on was the brave little astronauts name. After all we’ve put them through for the sake of advances space travel, don’t the space monkeys deserve the same kind credit as human astronauts? Hell, even Russia put Laika on a commemorative stamp!

laika-stampSee? Guess you got to die if you’re an animal and want some recognition around here! Rest in peace Laika! Click on the links below to read more:

Source: The New York Times.com, Universtoday.com

Independence Day!

Welcome back! For my second review, as promised, I will be covering the enduring (ahem) “classic” of Independence Day. Though it has been repeatedly panned by critics, is an undoubted cheese-fest and full of plot holes and Deus Ex Machina plot twists, I have to admit that I actually liked this movie when it first came out. Years later, it remains a sort of guilty pleasure for me, something I routinely poke fun at, but will still sit and watch. If nothing else, its rah rah tempo, stupid one-liners and over the top action are good for a laugh, and maybe a little excitement. Just be advised, taking this movie seriously is not advisable… But, since I gotta review it, I’m going to have to do just that. Wish me luck!

Not that long ago, while discussing this movie over dinner, some friends mentioned that they thought this was a Michael Bay movie. They were wrong, of course. In truth, Roland Emmerich directed it, but the mistake was understandable. Much like Bay, Emmerich has a reputation for making movies that are all form and special effects, always lacking in depth, plot and character development. To illustrate, here are some of the movies he made after Independence Day: Godzilla (1998), The Patriot (2000), The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and 2012 (2009). In addition, he’s also been known to rip off other movies from time to time. Consider the Patriot, which was basically Braveheart meets the American Revolution, or Independence Day’s constant borrowing from other sci-fi movies: Star Wars, Close Encounters, War of the Worlds… the list goes on. And in many respects, his later directorial ventures were obvious attempts to recreate the cash cow that Independence Day turned out to be. Still, one can’t deny that things kind of came together for him with this movie. But putting its commercial success aside, let’s get down to dissecting this bad boy!

The movie opens with a shot of the Apollo landing site, where a shadow slowly covers Old Glory. The shot then pans to Earth where alien ships begin to slowly move into the frame. With this one shot, the audience is exposed to two of Emmerich’s characteristic moves: using landmarks every chance he gets, and ripping off other franchises. Star Wars fans will immediately know what I’m talking about, remember how all the originals began with ships moving into frame from behind the camera? Yeah, well the same thing is happening here. Cut to Earth where dozens of characters, most of whom we’ll never see again, are busy talking about the objects moving into Earth orbit. Will Smith (a marine fighter pilot) the president (a former fighter pilot, played by Bill Pullman), and the crazy alcoholic played by Randy Quaid (another former fighter pilot!), and all his other characters are hurriedly introduced, showing how this event is being perceived by the different people all over the country. Here is yet another characteristic Emmerich move, putting way too many people into a movie, most of whom do nothing except say a line to move the plot along, then either die or are never heard from again.

Moving on, the tension begins to build as everyone begins to ask the obvious: what are they doing here? Naturally, we are shown multiple shots of people all over the world reacting, all of them stupid and cheesy. Some people are thrilled, some think they’ve brought Elvis back, and of course Quaid launches into a drunken rant about how they abducted him way back when (which is apparently why he’s a drunk in the first place). Then, in the movie’s first totally implausible twist, a cable repair man played by Jeff Goldblum discovers that the aliens are using Earth’s satellites to broadcast a countdown signal to all their ships, which are at that moment poised over Earth’s major cities (fans of the V series will recognize this is another case of Emmerich ripping off a respected sci-fi franchise!) Anyhoo, Goldblum discovers this, and brings it to the president, who he just happens to have an in with because he ex-wife works for him. He has to, you see, because somehow the government has missed all this. Yes, that’s right, the US government, in possession of the best scientific minds and cryptologists thanks to NASA, the NSA, the CIA, etc, failed to notice something a cable repair man picked up on. Emmerich himself seemed to recognize the implausibility of this and wrote in an explanation of sorts. Apparently the signal was “subtle”. Yeah, good to know the guy who installs HBO on your home entertainment system is smarter than the guys who send rockets into space and hunt terrorists for a living!

Incidentally, I should take this opportunity to mention all the expository dialogue which takes place within the first thirty minutes. As if it wasn’t clear already, we are made blatantly aware of the fact that Goldblum and his ex-wife still love each other, Will Smith is planning on marrying Vivica A Fox, that he wants to go into space (hint hint!) and that the president is a former soldier who can’t tell a lie! You know, when you have to actually tell the audience what they are supposed to be feeling, it kind of comes off as lazy. But that’s in keeping with Emmerich’s style I guess, pictures instead of words and a few quick and cheesy lines instead of slow, gradual character development. Always taking the short route, eh Emmerich?

In any case, Goldblum warns them, they take him seriously, and the countdown is on! The aliens are clearly going to attack… and then they do! Boom, blam, kapow! The aliens blow up all the landmarks they’ve chosen to hover over and that we are so familiar with. The Chrysler building, the White House, and… I dunno, downtown LA? Yeah, that shot was kind of devoid of landmarks, but I’m guessing blowing up the Hollywood sign just seemed too over the top for this movie. But showing the Statue of Liberty wrecked and toppled over into New York Harbor in the very next shot did not, apparently. What follows is a desperate fight scene where Will Smith’s fighter squadron attacks the LA ship, and in a scene totally ripped off from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the entire squadron has to do the whole “pull up, all craft pull up!” thing. Why? The ship has shields, wouldn’t you know? And they are about to fly right into them! Naturally, Smith survives, even if his whole squadron, including his wisecracking friend (played by Henry Connick Jr) gets killed. He even manages to take an alien prisoner, knocking him out between one-liners. “I wrecked your plane!” Whack! “Welcome to Earth!” “Now that’s what I call a close encounter!” One would think he would be a bit sad that all his friends and comrades just got their asses shot to hell, but whatever man, its Will Smith! People expect a certain amount of cool catch-phrases from the man and he has to deliver. It’s in his contract…

Back to Airforce One, where the president, Goldblum, his ex-wife, stereotype dad, and about a half dozen other cardboard stand-ins are talking, we learn that some people knew about these aliens already and kept quiet about it. Even as a teenager when I first saw this, I began thinking to myself “Oh God no, they wouldn’t!” But then, they did! Turns out, and in keeping with Emmerich’s tendency to take the quick and easy road, Area 51 really does exist, and that it really does house the bodies of those aliens who crash-landed at Roswell in 1947, along with their spacecraft. So naturally, that is where they go. Which also happens to be (holy coincidence!) where Will Smith is heading to at that very moment. Why he would be doing that is something not worth considering, that’d just complicate things at this point. I mean, its not like LA and Area 51 are that far apart, right? Actually, there’s about 400 km (or 250 miles) between them. And, as all Marines know, if you get into a dogfight with an alien and happen to take it prisoner, no matter where you are, you should start dragging its carcass to the secret airbase in the middle of the Nevada Desert. Just makes sense! Okay, and in another act of total contrivance, it just so happens that Randy Quaid and a caravan of Winnebagos are heading that way too. So basically, all of the main characters are converging on this one place! How convenient! As if that wasn’t enough, as soon as they all get there, Will Smith steals a helicopter, flies back to LA (what happened to all those alien space craft that were shooting their planes down?) and just happens to find Vivica A Fox and the First Lady, who just happened to find each other after the city got flattened. Just how small is LA anyway?

Then, more expository stuff happens. The prez talks to the weird scientist in charge (played by Brent Spiner, aka. Data from Star Trek TNG) about the aliens and their gear. They then do an alien autopsy on the one Smith captured, which goes horribly wrong when it wakes up and has no restraints to contend with (c’mon people!). And the prez talks to it and finds out they want Earth’s resources because “they’re like locusts”. This is just one of many shallow environmental statements made by this movie, but I digress. This prompts them to try and nuke one of the ships, but wouldn’t you know it, those darn shields are impervious to thermonuclear weapons too! So Goldblum, after yet another expository speech where Judd talks to him about keeping the faith, comes up with an idea. He decides he’s going to infect the alien ship with a computer virus! Not only that, he’s going to fly into the alien mothership, Trojan Horse style, along with Will Smith who just happens to know how to fly the recovered alien spacecraft now (for no other reason than because he saw one in action) and upload the virus there and then set off a nuke to disorient them. Where do I start to explain all the things that are totally weak and crappy about this climax?

Well, for starters, it’s yet another rip-off, this time of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, where the alien invaders were brought down by actual viruses. But more importantly, there’s the sheer implausibility of the whole idea! For example, are we really to believe that a cable repair man, regardless of how much time he spent at MIT, could design a computer virus that would be capable of disabling alien technology? And are we really to believe that Will Smith can fly an alien spacecraft simply because he saw “how it maneuvers”? And let’s not forget, the ship is 50 years old at this point, you gotta figure the aliens have transponders or some such thing on their ships. How else would they keep track of them? You’d have to think that they’d see it coming and notice it was reported missing 50 years ago and get a little suspicious. But to ask these questions at this point in the movie would be pointless. Hopefully everyone has realized its just easier not to take it seriously. In any case, everything hinges on their ability to get onto the mothership and upload this virus (wait, how did they even know they could get onto it? Never mind!) and on the ability of the US to coordinate a worldwide counter-attack while the shields are down. Again, Emmerich manages to acknowledge the absurdity of all this by having one of his characters (in this case, the jagoff Secretary of Defense) expresses all kinds of doubts. Emmerich promptly shuts those down by having the prez fire the man, mainly because he’s a jagoff! But then again, even Goldblum has his doubts, but Emmerich dismisses them too: “You really think you can fly that thing?” he asks. “You really think you can do all that bullshit you just said?” Nuff said!

In any case, in spite of some predictable road bumps designed to keep the tension up, the plan works. The prez decides to lead the attack… Why? Because he’s a pilot, remember? Not to mention a cardboard cut-out hero. Naturally, he gives a speech that is blatantly American, though it attempts to be international in tone. Yeah, America’s saving the world, so from now on July 4th will be a global holiday. Yay, American culture conquers the world by saving it! Woo… Oh, and Quaid will be flying too, mainly because all the characters have to be swept up in the same plot tsunami again. Everything seems like it might fail when, whattayaknow, Quaid flies his plane into the alien ship’s gun. He gets some personal and comical revenge by killing the bastards that abducted him, and the ship blows up. Now forgetting how stupidly implausible this is (the way to bring down the alien ship is basically the equivalent of plugging the barrel of the gun with your finger???), its also horribly over the top. Of course its the guy who has a family and has been a deadbeat dad up until this point that’s going to redeem himself in a final act of self-sacrifice! But the funniest thing is, how quickly everyone forgets about him. “You should be proud of your father,” says one of the military men. “I am,” says the eldest son, and that’s it. No grief, no anger, no denial. He’s gone, I’m cool!

To make matters even more implausible, Smith and Goldblum somehow manage to survive, despite the fact that they blew up the alien mother ship with a nuke that sent them hurling towards Earth from the resulting shock wave. And then, in the desert, the balance of the main characters watch flaming debris fall through the atmosphere and Will Smith says to his new son: “I promised you some fireworks, boy!” Yeah, nothing like genocide and falling debris, some so big it could take out an entire city, to put you in the festive spirit! I mean c’mon, I know they were trying to exterminate you, but you don’t wipe out an entire race and not feel just the slightest degree of regret or remorse in the process! But again, I’m making the mistake of taking this movie seriously. The big, over the top ending is entertaining, if nothing else, and the big fireworks display only drives the blatant Americanism home. So what the hell! Cue over the top music, and roll credits…

As I’ve said already in this review, this movie is a guilty pleasure for me. It’s fun, rewatchable, and always good for a laugh. In fact, you might say it was a success for exactly those reasons, and maybe that’s what Emmerich himself was going for. Even if the plot is thin as paper, the characters cardboard cut-outs and the dialogue so cheesy it makes you want to laugh out loud, no one can deny that it was some pretty harmless fun. But if his subsequent movies are taken into account, you begin to see a certain pattern in Emmerich’s movies that are genuinely bothersome. For instance, his constant use and destruction of famous landmarks and his far too many characters – most of whom are, at best, one-dimensional, at worst, total stereotypes.

There’s also the massive plot holes, contrivances, and over the top action sequences. But worst of all, it just seems like all of these are shallow attempts at evoking emotion and the goal is just to get to the next action sequence. Every movie he’s made since has these exact same elements, and it just seems lazy. Everything always feels rushed, minimal time being dedicated to establishing tension, developing characters, or creating back story before something blows up and people start to die. The destroying of landmarks, killing off hundreds of minor characters at once, relying on one-liners and cheesy dialogue to make people care, it just seems like he’s just taking the easy route.

In addition, all his movies have the same central theme to them: the lone hero, the outcast or underestimated soul, who somehow knows more than all the experts and manages to see the threat coming, but is ignored. Ultimately, he saves the day, and course, there’s always the bit about the girl he loved, lost, and will win back once he saves the day. While this is a rather weak basis for a main character, they are typically the only one in his scripts that ever rise above the status of total caricature.

So, go ahead Emmerich. Count your millions and keep making crap fests. You’re hurting no one, so I can bear you no ill will. And besides, you made me laugh and kept me entertained with this first crap fest, so I guess I owe you something. Independence Day: harmless fun, but check your brain at the door.

Entertainment Value: 8/10!
Plot: 2/10
Direction: 3/10
Total: 6/10