Will Smith's character accidentally drives the UFO in reverse, then apologises and turns the instructions upside down. Great for Rule of Funny, but after thought you realize that now he's sacrificed left and right being on the correct sides for having front and back being correct.
At that point he'd know about it beforehand and can compensate on the fly. The text being upside-down would be a reminder "Hey, left and right are flipped now."
Typically reviews of the film will point out the 'gaping hole' in the film regarding Smith's character stealing a chopper and heading out to find his girlfriend and son because 'he can't have any idea where they are', except the film quite blatantly shows him telling her to come and stay with him at his base before the attacks occur. That's where she heads after the attack, only to find it in ruins. She then stays there until he comes to find her.
When David is explaining the countdown signal to Marty, there's a news graphic of alien ships appearing over London, Rome, Moscow, and "Germany" rather than Berlin. Considering these networks are trying to cover the arrival of an alien fleet, which includes rapidly changing information, someone probably mistakenly typed that in.
The aliens taking over our satellite network is often derided by critics, but it actually makes total sense. 1) they're trying to wipe out humanity, and one of the essential ways to do that is to cripple/hijack our primary communications. 2) while David discovers their countdown signal, they still would have needed a means of sending status reports, updated orders, etc. 3) why deploy your own communications infrastructure when the enemy already has their own that you can take over, especially if they lack the technology for a sufficient counterattack?
Actually this is sort of handwaved: when it's mentioned that the alien ship has changed course toward them, one of the military personnel tells Jeff Goldblum's ex not to worry since they're well underground. Then she reminds him about the hundreds of refugees on the surface outside the base. Cue Oh Crap! moment.
The novel explains this: the alien attackers fired on NORAD continuously until the mountain was blown away, then they took out the base inside.
David tells Marty to get his mother out of town. Marty tells her to go to her sister in Atlanta...which is later mentioned as one of the cities taken out in the second wave of attacks, by the destroyer that annihilated Washington, DC.
There's a silver lining in that Atlanta probably would have been evacuated when it became clear that the saucer was heading for the city.
Of course, that's assuming Marty's mother was able to get out of New York at all.
Patricia Whitmore doesn't actually know her mother is dead. Someone, likely her father, would have to have dropped that on her later.
Just because he didn't say the words, doesn't mean she didn't know. Both Patricia and her father seemed to know exactly what the other meant by "Mommy is sleeping now." But they do still have to deal with her funeral, which is probably just as bad.
When you get down to it, the implications of what Whitmore's simple summary of what the alien showed him. He calmly explains that they move from planet to planet, then consume every natural resource and move on. Obviously, he doesn't go deeper on what he must have seen: entire civilizations scorched, one-sided battles, billions of sentient aliens slaughtered, followed by complete exploitation of their new "home" until there's nothing left, and then they pack up and head for the next target.
Russel was right that the Aliens have been studying us for years. How else would they have known that DC is the capital of the United States? Or that the Empire State Building is the iconic image of New York City? Or that Los Angeles is considered a landmark in California. They've been there for years possibly decades before deciding it was our turn to be exterminated. Russel probably wasn't the only human that was abducted by the Aliens either
The Roswell crash was a ship belonging to the movie's aliens. It was held in Area 51 since the 50s. Part of the conspiracy theory mythology involving the supposed aliens and alien technology at Area 51 (and possibly mentioned in the movie, it's been a while) is that a lot of modern technology was reverse-engineered from the alien technology in the ship. Put all this together, and it no longer seems quite so unreasonable that David could hack into the alien mothership with his laptop; it was probably reverse-engineered from the alien ship in the first place.
I believe that this was explicitly given as a reason in the novelization.
Lack of security in their computer network is also somewhat understandable — they communicate telepathically, and are "like locusts". Very probably they have some version of a Hive Mind, which would preclude the need for that much security, as no-one would sabotage themselves. They just didn't consider that one of their victims would find a way in and use it against them.
Similarly, this shows that they have been doing Recon on the Human Race and America in particular for some time... this is presumably why they attacked when they did. Remember the comment that 40% of American soldiers are either on shore leave for the holidays or massed in Washington for the 4th of July parade? The Aliens knew that they were both unprepared and there would be a significant portion in DC so they could take a large part of their military leadership in one fell swoop. This is also why they targeted the White House.
It could also serve to explain why Captain Hiller can fly the alien ship. Every sub-sequent fighter-jet which came after the ship crashed was probably based on its technology in some way, shape or form.
Also, the aliens hacked our technology earlier in the movie. David was able to find the hack, so it stands to reason that he could then reverse-engineer the methods in order to hack them back.
Why are the destroyers the size of a city when the actual weapon takes up a few blocks at most? If they made the destroyers smaller they could build more and attack more cities at once. However, having a large surface just above the city being destroyed channels the energy from the central weapon, making the weapon many times more efficient. — Anemone
It's not only a large surface, it is a large surface protected by a Force Field.
Also, their entire civilization is contained solely in the mothership and those destroyers. A destroyer isn't a military vehicle; it's an entire military base and the surrounding town to boot. They don't just fly the things; that's their home. It makes sense that it would be built for all the size they can afford to give it, as this is where they spend their entire lives.
Not to mention, we hardly see all of the weapon, just the "muzzle" so to speak. There could be dozens of power plants and subsystems for the thing, heat sinks, plus all the space needed to house the crew that works on it, repair facilities, aircraft bays, maintenance for the aircraft, the freaking ENGINES that allow a thing the size of a city to hover indefinitely without running out of fuel or flattening everything below it...
Russell hits the wrong button while preparing to fly, almost firing one of his missiles while still on the ground. Later, his final missile, also the last one the Americans have, fails to fire, possibly because he messed up the firing sequence before. Had he not messed up the setting earlier, the missile might have hit like the President's and then boom, goodbye Area 51.
Not really, since he'd merely armed the missile while on the ground. The error with the weapon during the final firefight is specifically shown on-screen as a 'clamp malfunction', which couldn't be induced by simply arming the explosive.
As a historical aside, some older air-to-air missiles could become disabled if armed too early, such as the AIM-4 Falcon, which required the seeker head to be super-cooled with a short-lived supply of liquid nitrogen. When you wanted to use the missile, you had to activate the coolant, wait for the seeker to cool down, and then launch the missile before the seeker warmed up again (at a target you had in your crosshairs at just the right time). In combat, the missiles were notoriously unreliable, scoring 5 hits out of 54 launches, and were replaced with the AIM-9 Sidewinder.
On the Headscratchers page, it's pondered what the Invaders would do if we didn't have satellites for them to hack...but then again, there is the possibility humanity reverse engineered a lot of our tech from the Roswell crash. What if that's their MO? They knew we would have satellites they could hack because our satellites are based on their technology and run on their OS...which comes back to bite them in the whatever-they-have-for-an-ass when man, in turn, uses the same OS to hack their shields. In fact even if we discount the possibility a lot or even most of our modern society is built on pirated Invader technology, what if they just attack societies which have reached a certain level of technology, so they can use their satellites and whatever else they can scavenge. Consider for a moment the plot of the game MDK, which puts forth the idea that the aliens (quite similar in many ways to the Invaders) "harvest" the technological riches of a planet as much as its natural resources. The quote, paraphrased, from the creators is that they see our cities as a resource, so they built these massive mining ships to harvest them. The ID 4 aliens could be the exact same way. In fact these two theories are not mutually exclusive.
It is also possible that the aliens just co-opted the communications systems to save themselves some time in setting up. For all we know, a lack of said satellites might've just delayed the final attack by hours. Hard to say, really.
Another possibility: if a planet's population has reached a technological level to be a sufficient threat to the invasion, then that population has most likely also taken its first steps into space exploration, including satellite technology (indeed, satellite technology may be a basic requirement for a civilization to even be capable of defending itself). Therefore, if Planet A is capable of defending itself, then it has satellites to exploit. If it has no satellites, then the planet's civilization is weaker, and thus less coordination is required.
Similar to the above, some detractors of the film call out the ridiculousness of David's Mac laptop being able to hack into the alien mothership. This seems to disregard the fact that Area 51 has had example of one of the alien craft for decades to study, and no doubt did the same thing David ended up doing during his demonstration of the deflector shields: Hook it up to one of their own computers and try to analyze or control its systems. The entire reason David is able to hack the mothership in the climax is because the Area 51 scientists already had, and he was just using their research to devise and upload the virus.
In addition, the fact that it's a Mac is, from a real-world standpoint, entirely irrelevant. As any embedded-systems developer could tell you, the build machine and target often have incompatible machine languages, and the Area 51 team would likely have had constructed several generations of network adapters and the software stack needed to access the alien computers.
There's actually some plausibility to the viral attack, assuming David had the time to analyze the aliens' software and communications protocols, especially if he worked with the Area 51 scientists who had been studying the alien computers. If he studied their systems and discovered a zero-day exploit based on their communications protocols, he could have launched an attack that the aliens wouldn't have been able to counter because they wouldn't have known about the vulnerability to begin with. Antiviral software only works when the people writing it know about the vulnerability in the first place.
David had identified the alien signal in multiple sources that was apparently being used to transfer instructions between alien systems. Obviously he couldn't read it, but he was able to identify that it was a binary code (he had a line about that). Binary is the simplest programming language, it essentially just determines whether a circuit is open or closed. Almost any conceivable computer would operate on this parameter, though, again, David would not know what the code would do when operating on the alien's system. Now, the hardest part was done for him (by the aliens, actually). In order to hijack our satellites, they had made communication between systems possible (the modem we see later). David also has an opportunity (in the special edition) to work on the crashed fighter with his laptop for about a day to interface (fast, yes, but he's smart, and the scientists had done some work with the thing). So, finally, to the virus itself. A lot of people say he wouldn't be able to write a complicated virus to disable the shields, because he'd have no idea what his code is doing. And they'd be right. But he doesn't have to write a complex virus. He just has to scramble their signal. And that means that his virus essentially just drops randomized junk code into theirs. (Or possibly deleting it entirely) (Which also explains the way the alien systems start crashing... randomly, with flickers and pulses). I've actually used a similar method to kill some viruses on computers in the past. Unable to delete the file itself, I've taken the executable files, which were filled with incomprehensible compiled jibberish... and just erased all the code. I don't care what it did before, because now it does nothing. The same thing happens here: the alien source code is junked up or deleted, and they have to rebuild it from scratch or try to run their ships entirely manually with no good communication.
Of all the cities in America, Las Vegas could very well have been spared. According to the maps at the end, Area 51 is not too far from Vegas. The aliens were able to quickly redeploy a ship, as the main page points out, after picking up a sudden spike in communications from a previously-silent patch of desert. This means the destroyer was likely on its way to drop the Hammer on Vegas, or on its way from.
And to add onto this, it could very well have been the same ship that nuked LA. Payback is a bitch, ain't it?
It isn't. The destroyer that destroyed LA headed to Denver, then to Phoenix. The one that attacked Area 51 was heading to destroy it having just wiped out Vancouver.
According to the War of 1996 website, it looks like the LA ship did head for Area 51.
Alas, Las Vegas did not survive - the city was smashed when a City Destroyer crashed into it. It is actually left untouched in its destroyed state (as opposed to other cities like Washington or London) as a monument of the war.
A Hilarious in Hindsight version: some of Earth technology is implied to be reverse-engineered from the alien ship, and we see the main controller in the mothership using a touchscreen-based interface to control the human-flown ship. Eleven years after this movie, the iPhone is released and touchscreens start to become one of the primary methods of computer interface.
Although touchscreens had been around for some time before the movie was made. The oldest examples dating back to the 1960s. Which would actually line up fairly well with the movie's timeline.
The aliens in general are stupid. This is why they've had to go to the locust model - they can't find technological solutions to their research needs. This is also why the one in Area 51 attacked Whitmore instead of trying to deceive them. Finally, this is why they were prepared for atomic bombs - when they scouted us in the 1950s, we had those - but not a computer system attack: they couldn't believe our technology would advance that quickly. The only reason their technology is more advanced is that they've had a long head start.
In the "release me" scene, Whitmore is effectively trying to negotiate an end to the war...by talking to a low-ranking pilot. However, he learned earlier that the aliens are likely telepathic and was banking on the idea that he was actually talking to the entire race as a whole.
In the lead up to the final battle, Constance has to remind Mitchell of the hundreds of civilians on the surface of Area 51. Of course she does: this is the first time ANY civilians have been let onto the base and Mitchell, in charge of the most secret underground facility in the country, of course wouldn't immediately remember that he's got a whole town's worth of non-combatants to deal with.