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Captain Hiller's Wedding Ring
- Where did the wedding ring Will Smith's character is wearing after his marriage (which occurs about 2/3 of the way through the movie) come from? All male characters shown wearing wedding rings before that point still have them afterward, and the only ring the groom was carrying around was for his bride.
- It was in the container too, just under the shell.
- Or it came from the base's equivalent of a store. Or the base chaplain had some just in case. Obviously they wouldn't be performing that many weddings at Area 51, but they may have stocked it as normal for a military base anyway. Or they could have gotten it from someone in the RV caravan that's parked above. Plenty of possible sources.
Mac OS hacking AlienOS?
- Just how was the Apple Mac virus compatible with the alien computer system when Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum ended up in the main alien mothership?
- tl;dr it wasn't a Mac virus. David only wrote it on the Mac but used a cross-compiler targeted at the alien system.
- Just because it was written on a Mac doesn't mean it has to affect a Mac. The computer is just a tool to send a signal into the alien system. We can send computer signals through phonelines, radios, or even if optic nerves. The hard part is the interface. Since Jeff discovered that the aliens were interfacing with our systems, deliberately or not, all he had to do was figure out a) how to reverse that process and b) discover how the alien systems arranged their command protocol structure. From there it would have been simple to scramble that structure at least for the time needed to destroy the mothership.
- The Earth scientists had access to an alien ship for 50 years. That's plenty of time to figure out how to affect its systems.
- They've had an alien ship for 50 years, but according to Dr Okun "See, we can't duplicate their type of power so we've never been able to experiment. But since these guys started showing up, all the gizmos inside turned on. The last twenty four hours have been really exciting!" so they have no clue as to what it's operating system is.
- He could easily have meant that major systems like propulsion, weapons, and shields were inoperable, but there'd probably be a small onboard backup supply for very basic things like a simple computer interface.
- Given that Area 51 has been studying the alien scoutship for circa 50 years? Really, the only implausibility would be if they hadn't bashed together some kind of adapter in that span of time.
- WINE can't even run half of the windows apps properly yet we're supposed to buy that a virus written for a completely Alien OS is supposed to work? Have they not heard of sandboxing? Even if they had a compatibility layer to communicate using earth's satellites you'd think an alien species capable of interstellar flight would be aware of security concepts like sandboxing or perhaps not tying the fighter control system into the power core system. Also, even if the ships were able to communicate with the mothership there's no reason to assume that the OS is the same OS from 50+ years ago. I'm sure updates would have happened in that time span and still allowed for remote fighter control.
- There's some implication of a Hive Mind among the members of the alien species, so the concept of "distrust" might be inherently foreign to them. The concept of "malicious code" might be culturally nonsensical to them, so their computer security model would be vastly simpler than that of a species without telepathy (i.e. us) and would be mostly concerned with multitasking and memory protection, with no attention paid to user permissions. Quite simply, they wouldn't have been expecting an alien species to try to access their systems to begin with, because they couldn't imagine an alien invader breaching the mothership.
- You're projecting human patterns of technological advance on to an alien race. It's entirely possible that they haven't changed the OS in 50 years, since, if it works, why replace it? Particularly since there is no indication that they've ever had any trouble with the technology letting them establish military supremacy in their prior conquests.
- On top of that, there may be reasons as to why the alien race didn't have serious network security. They may be a telepathic hive race, for example (which is implied by the novelization), in which the idea that someone would access some part of the network that they aren't supposed to is unthinkable.
- True, but how similar do you think alien computers are to ours? Not a lot of similarity I would guess though - Area 51 would have to come up with the compiler as well...
- Given that in the movie continuity, our computers were made largely ''from'' alien technology reverse-engineered by the Area 51 scientists, the answer to your question is 'Pretty damn similar to ours - in that universe, at least.'
- So if some alien race shows up with a Babbage probability engine, it should be able to hack your computer?
- Don't be silly. The proper analogy is 'if an alien race shows up with computers based on a reverse-engineered Intel chipset and 50 years of having enough intact samples of our hardware and software to play with to write a cross-platform compatibility suite, they should be able to hack our computers'. As that's what advantages Area 51 literally had re: the alien technology in this movie.
- Or, to suit the 50-year time frame better, accessing the Colossus or ENIAC with an iMac. I suppose that it could work if you assume that the alien computer technology has plateaued pending the next technological revolution (akin to vacuum tubes/transistors) for the entire five decades, or at least that significant advances weren't integrated into the fleetships. That is not entirely impossible given the probable limitations on what seems to be a society of nomadic Planet Looters that would have to build such a mobile fleet well in advance to move in force, but it's not necessarily plausible either, and it leaves aside matters of software interface and compatibility. Even trying to get Win 95 to talk to Win XP can be a bit of a hassle, and that is a single decade's difference with a single evolutionary tree that was designed. Creating a working interpreter/adapter to cross-link alien and human computers with no knowledge at all of what changes and advances the ET has made on their own for five times that length begins to stretch disbelief a bit, especially given that even human computers alone are divergent enough to be unable to communicate with each other.
- Unable to communicate with each other? Um, the TCP/IP protocol runs on every OS in the world!
- Plus, you're forgetting that the iMac only has to communicate with the alien fighter that Area 51 has been studying for 50 years. The uplink to to the mother ship is by using their own fighter as a relay. The backwards compatibility problem thus lies entirely on the aliens, in that all that's needed is for their mothership to be able to sustain a network connection with an earlier model fighter.
- And any interstellar empire would have to be capable of long-term backwards compatibility simply because when you send out a subgroup of your fleet to scout space for decades, you need to be able to work with your scouting party when they get back. Unless the alien civilization has a way to update every part of its computer infrastructure at the same pace, parts of it will be screwed after a while if there isn't at least 50-year of backwards compatibility available.
- Also, most technologies plateau after a while. If you have a system that's worked perfectly well for the last 10,000 years, why bother to update it.
- Okay, the fact that this bugs so many people bugs * me* . First off, it's the world's most expensive B-movie, so really it's not worth overthinking. Second, assuming that the Area 51 brain trust has been picking apart the fighter for decades, they would probably have a pretty good idea how to interface with it from Earth computers. Second, I've always found it ludicrous that somehow the fact that he's using a Mac makes it even less likely — the PowerBook 5300 was in fact notoriously boring as far as hardware specs go (well, except for the igniting Li Ion batteries, but that seems to have been a problem for almost anyone who's ever used them). Goldblum's character most likely had access to the Area 51 technical data on the fighter's computers, and in all likelihood they also had a PCMCIA version of the interface kicking around. (I'm willing to handwave the driver issue.)
- Actually, this wiki exists for overthinking. And it's far from a B movie.
- Actually, the PowerBook 5300 was the first PPC laptop, and the fastest laptop on earth. From the introduction of the 603 to about the late G3 era when supply issues began holding up new models, Apple built the fastest portables in the industry one after another (remember this was when pipelines on the 80x86 side were careening above 20 stages, so wintel laptops sucked pretty badly.)
- In addition, those aliens had to have some way of running a signal through Earth-made satellites. Given that the signal was a count down, Jeff Goldblum just had to recognize the pattern of descending numerals and he had a starting point from there to work alien codes. The signal itself was probably a high priority executable on alien networks, so getting virus past alien security software would simply be matter of disguising it as a similar signal.
- People don't write viruses for the OS they use; they write them for all the other ones. Of course you can write an AlienOS virus on a Mac, just as you can write a Windows virus on a Mac, or a Mac virus on a PC.
- Also, the aliens had already adapted their computers to match Earth technology. They hacked into Earth's satellite network and were using it to relay their signals and coordinate their attacks, so the mothership and the discs were already capable of reprogramming and using human technology. They created their Achilles' Heel by linking themselves into Earth's communication grid.: all Jeff Goldblum's character had to do was design the virus to mimic a signal from one of Earth's hijacked satellites, and then let the aliens' own conversion system do the rest.
- Because Apple Mac is that good.
- Because Apple spent their money brilliantly for a product placement. What else beats "BUY THIS PRODUCT BECAUSE IT WILL SAVE THE HUMAN RACE"
- Seems to work pretty well on environmentalists, at least.
- Maybe they just uploaded Windows onto the mothership and let nature take it's course.
- Right! I always thought it would have been better for them to use Windows, the virus to fail but then Windows force an automatic update on the ship and shut it down. Possibly followed by an ear splitting windows startup sound as the ship reboots.
- Obviously, Apple was founded by the same aliens that are invading. They're not trying to destroy our civilization, they're just trying to find Steve Jobs and get him to build them a smaller iPod.
- ADMITTEDLY this troper knows next to nothing about programming, but wouldn't ANY electronic system, deep down enough, consist of just 1's and 0's or some such bits of data?
- Only from a human point of view. Who's to say they didn't start with a trinary system (1, 0, -1) and went from there. Then you'd have to understand their language and thinking patterns. Our machine logic may be completely different from theirs.
- Any numerical system can ultimately be broken down into binary. Trinary systems aren't more complex, they just have a highly level of data compression. Hexadeceminal is just a way of compression binary options. And just because our machine logic may be different doesn't mean it is. Clearly it wasn't as QED.
- Remember. On it's most basic level, binary is nothing more than a system of true (1) and false (0). Even if the aliens used a different system, it would still boil down to if a value was true or false. There is no third option there. Even this so-called -1 is still contrary to one or the other and could be interpreted as such. It would just take time to identify which one it is contrary to and, possibly which instances it becomes contrary to that particular value. With the amount of time given, just about any "alien" code can still be broken down into binary basics.
- Another possibility is that the 'hack' wasn't so much interfacing on a code-level but interfacing on a much broader/general level. A denial of service attack for instance doesn't necessarily give out certain commands to cause harm, it simply spews thousands and thousands of random garbage in order to overwhelm a system. Given 50 years of research, it would be likely that A51 at the very least knew the general principle of how the systems worked (thingie A talks to thingie B using some sort of electronic signal) if not necessarily the specific 'language' of the machine.
- Theoretically, sure, but I don't think a 117MHz Power PC 603 is fast enough to Do S anything, much less a massive alien computer network. More likely the virus-or-whatever was based on a systemwide blind spot.
Why use Earth's Networks?
- Why, oh why, did the aliens (who have apparently been invading planets for a long time) come up with a ridiculous and compromisable method of coordinating their attack like utilising Earth's satellite networks, when they could have easily simply synchronised their watches and attack at a predetermined time (like real life militaries do).
- Alternatively, why not just relay the signal through their own ships? What would they have done if they came across a world that didn't have convenient communications satellites hovering around? That said, using Earth's satellites had the advantage of depriving the humans of their own communication networks, so there's some utility to the convoluted plan.
- There's also that since the aliens are telepathic, they shouldn't need a broadcast timing signal at all. The only guess that even remotely makes sense to this troper was that it was their equivalent of the conqueror's taunt — 'Puny Earthlings, make your peace with your gods, for your doom will fall upon you in X hours Y minutes.
- They used our satellites because they couldn't transmit directly to each other around the curvature of the Earth, as stated in the movie. And their telepathy probably has limited range, and why would a taunt be hidden?
- How about the reverse engineering of alien tech means that the signal is _inadvertently_ broadcast through our satellites?
- Their telepathy seems to have a limited range. The captured alien never showed an ability to contact the rest of the fleet.
- Indeed. Remember that all three aliens in the original crash survived, 2 for only a short time, but the third for almost a week. If the aliens were really a Hive Mind with unlimited telepathic range, the entire alien Hive Mind would have already known about Area 51, and the captured fighter, and this movie would have been very, very, very short. Their individual telepathy pretty much has to be short range only.
- You sure? They had to find Area 51 somehow. Despite entirely overlooking it in their original assault, the aliens were moving in on it less than a day after the captured alien had been killed there.
- 1) They may have been homing in on the downed ship that Will Smith destroyed, it wasn't that far from the base. 2) Area 51 is visible from space. 3) It was probably the only military base that still had any significant activity going on and 4) The RV Armada went there after Will Smith hitches a ride.
- We can as well speculate (because, why not?) that alien death throes are a stronger telepathic signal than the usual communication.
- None of that changes the fact that the plan could have been completely scuttled by a CRM-114 Discriminator. Aliens apparently have never had to deal with their enemies sending fake or confusing orders...
- Sure they could've sent the signal through their own network. But they also wanted to taunt us & to cut off our own communications. (Fortunately, we still had something purely electrical that didn't need the satellites, but if the aliens knew that, they would've tried to cut it off as well.)
- Because of a very simple reason: it's cheaper. The enemy already has a satellite network on hand that you can send signals through. Why bother deploying your own network when you can just use the one that's already there?
- Taking a page from human history, it is typical for invaders to ride on local infrastructure whenever possible to reduce their own cost or effort. For example, the conquistadors make use of the excellent Incan road system to help them conquer Peru, and in WW2, some advancing Allied units used the existing telephone system in Germany to call in and convince mayors in some German towns to surrender early.
Mars Needs Water?
- The aliens tell the American president and his sidekicks that they have invaded Earth to seize its resources. Obviously the alien invaders haven't heard of peak oil, dwindling arable land or growing water shortages. They even attack the American southwest, which will be out of water in 10 years! This motive is stupid, the aliens could obtain all the resources on uninhabited planets en-route to Earth.
- You know, I certainly agree that the movie was stupid, but this section really isn't about Complaining About Shows You Don't Like.
- For what we know, maybe they used salt water for their metabolism, or had awesome desalinization plants.
- Using the Earth's oceans as a natural resource? Preposterous! No one would ever do that.
- Duh, they attack the American southwest. They were attacking everywhere on the planet. Plus, if you're going to attack population and military targets, the south west has plenty of them.
- There's also that since water is freely available in space (comets, Saturn's rings, etc.), and a society with alien-tech nuclear reactors and hyperdrive probably doesn't have a burning need for petrochemical fuel, the resources they're after are likely heavy metals. And if you want those, it's time to strip-mine some planets. Or, much better, asteroids as they don't have a gravity so strong as a planet and there're a lot of them.
- It's also implied in the novelization that they wanted us as well as the other resources.
- Tastes like chicken!
- Being that we're talking about aliens, we have no idea really what the hell they were after. They could very well have attacked the Earth so they could steal cactuses from Arizona. And remember, in Real Life countries invade places all the time for the very dumbest reasons imagineable.
- Bananas... I am not making this up.
- Have you been watching 60 Minutes?
- They attacked population/government/military centers, not resources. What the heck kind of natural resources are in the Manhattan? They'll collect the resources after killing the sapient lifeforms.
- They could have decided to take out all lifeforms in the solar system before strip-mining every planet. At least you won't have to watch your back for any possible attacks, how unlikely that would be.
- I'm not sure where you're getting your information, original poster, but it's way beyond ridiculous. I'm posting this from the year 2013, which is more than the 10 years you predicted after the movie's release date. The American southwest is fine and still has plenty of water. A little friendly advice, try not to believe every conspiracy theory you run across on the Internet.
- Posting from the American southwest in 2016, and we're still doing good on water. Electric bills, on the other hand...
Biological Weapons Solve Everything?
- They seem to know us well and have great biological skills. Why not just create a supervirus and THEN wipe out (if necessity arises) all of the surviving homo sapiens? If I Am A Humanitarian is one of the goals, a super-flu that makes us comatose in a matter of days is probably better than wipe out the cities on Earth that host half of our population.
- Viruses spread and mutate like crazy. If useful planets are so rare that they spent 50 years traveling to Earth, they really wouldn't want to unleash a bioweapon that could get out of hand and render the planet impossible to harvest. Besides, as far as conventional warfare went, they were wiping the floor with us Puny Earthlings anyway, so there's no reason to take that extra risk.
- Also, of course, their civilization, race, and culture exists in it's entirety in one massive mothership within the vacuum of space where millions of individuals are in close contact all the time. Any sort of raging super-virus they create for us would need to be based off something they already have and given the extreme sensitivity of their living conditions, one could forgive them for not waiting to mess with a virus that could - with a single mishap - escape and create a civilization wide pandemic.
- It's mentioned in the movie that, biologically, they aren't that different from us. They may not have wanted to risk the possibility of cross-over.
Nukes for Shields?
- Wasn't the nuke they gave them supposed to set off a reaction that would disable the shields for a few minutes? The nuke had nothing to use with the disabling of the shields, and the shields seemed down for a pretty long time.
- The sequence went thusly: dock with mothership, upload virus, let virus spread to city-ships, nuke mothership and destroy city-ships, escape.
- After the Virus was uploaded, the nuke was supposed to cause enough confusion that the shields would stay down. First release a virus, then destroy the IT department.
- The virus was for the shields. The nuke was for after that.
- The virus allowed the military to kill every alien on earth, the nuke destroyed every alien in space. Virus + nuke = Xenocide. Just as planned.
- David's original plan was to upload the virus and THEN launch the nuke. He didn't know how long the shields would be down or if they had a backup system that was independent of the mothership. However, once he uploaded the virus, it interfered with the dock mechanism, which meant they couldn't launch the nuke and escape. But, by then, the humans on the ground found that the primary weapon was the destroyers' weakness, and so began focusing on that, which is why they were all brought down so quickly.
Nukes vs Motherships?
- Never mind cross-platform compatibility issues. Nukes, even really big nukes that don't have to be airdropped, aren't remotely powerful enough to blow up a moon-sized mothership. You could maybe handwave something about setting off a chain reaction, but there was a hell of a lot of empty space in that ship, and there's no overpressure wave in vacuum...
- Keep in mind that they were in what looks like the "center" of the ship - perhaps it was near the main reactors, or the ordnance, or whatever.
- The ship wasn't the size of the moon. If it was even close, that was before the dozens and dozens of city-ships split off from it. I think you're just overestimating the size of the thing, especially if we're to believe that Will Smith got out of the thing in 30 seconds.
- Not only over-estimating, but flat-out ignoring what was said in the film: The whole kit-&-kaboodle was only one quarter the size of the moon to begin with, and as you said, that was before the city-ships detached.
- They said its mass is the quarter that of the moon. The actual size can vary greatly according to the density of the (bio?) materials involved. A ton of wool would be much larger in size than a ton of bricks.
- Opening troper has a point. The ship was too big, even for a Tsar Bomba to blow it up THAT completely, from one side (they got out in 30 sec because they were relatively close to the exit). I have heard multiple theories: 1) The ship ran on Antimatter, and the nuke ruptured the holding units; this makes the most sense, because AM makes an all-spectrum, white explosion (like the one that blew up the ship), while nukes are mostly infrared. 2) The ship's atmosphere was HIGHLY flammable (but didn't get ignited by the rocket booster on the nuke). 3) The ship was filled with Psychlo air, which reacts badly to radio-active weapons.
- Don't forget that the nuke detonated on the hangar deck of what was effectively an alien aircraft carrier. That had a full complement of strike 'aircraft' on the deck, re-loading for a second strike. Even if the ship's powerplant didn't use something volatile enough to cause the explosion we saw, if the fighters had anything volatile — anti-matter fuel cells, photon torpedo equivalents in the racks, anything — you'd have had hundreds of secondary detonations.
- If that was the case, we ought to have seen multiple explosion chains gradually breaching the outer hull and the mothership progressively breaking up, not one big flash and boom and instant dust and debris as was actually shown.
- In which case the nuke probably created the massive explosion by way of the alien equivalent of a warp core breach.
- The "firecracker in your hand" explanation given in Armageddon applies here. That not-exactly-small nuclear explosion inside the mothership heavily overpressurizes the interior of the hull (a sealed container) in less than a second. Nothing is going to hold that in. It may not instantly disintegrate into tiny pieces as shown, but it's still getting torn asunder.
Why Write a Virus?
- On that note, we learn that the city destroyers and attackers (and their shields) are powered remotely from the mothership, sort of like a Wi-Fi signal. Without that remote power, they only have a limited amount of onboard energy. So with that in mind, why even bother with the computer virus if nuking the mothership alone was enough to render the smaller ships and their shields useless?
- As mentioned before, the computer virus was for disabling the shields of the mothership. As far as they knew, getting the shields down was a necessary step. If they just dropped a nuke into the ship, who's to say that the internals aren't shielded in some way as well to prevent the ship from going critical? The computer virus also gave them one important advantage; the shields were down not only up on the mothership, but on the city destroyers as well. Bringing them down with the virus allowed the fighter planes on the ground a chance at destroying the ships whether or not the mothership team ultimately succeeded.
No armed guards in the dissection lab?
- See above.
- IIRC the guards got mind-controlled too.
- The guards probably thought that the surgical staff would be smart enough to slit the alien's throat or stab it in the eye if it woke up. The surgical staff wasn't so genre savvy.
- I figured everybody thought it was dead. They were about to cut it up anyway.
- The first thing that Dr. Okun says to Steve is "How long has [the alien] been unconscious?" They all knew it was still alive.
- Which makes it even more of a wallbanger that they didn't try to restrain any parts of it that could move and that they were even trying to perform a vivisection on a still living POW. Even if we accept the dubious argument that they were in a desperate situation and were ignoring the laws and rules of warfare that still doesn't explain why they would try to kill what could be their only hope for diplomacy in one of the most impractical and torturous methods possible.
- I don't think they were trying to do a vivisection: they said in an earlier scene that they were hopeful the prisoner would survive, and that the president wanted to see him. The doctors were trying to remove the alien's Powered Armor before it woke up: they just didn't get it off in time.
- Also, they do restrain it. The biomechanical armour just seems to be stronger than the restraints. You see the restraints snap when the thing wakes up.
- Seems likely. At that point, they thought they were potentially still a chance at diplomacy so they were probably hoping to get the alien out of it's suit in the assumption that it's armor was inhibiting it's ability to recover (think of something like wearing platemail and having an injury). Once they cut off the suit and got the alien into a safe environment, diplomacy could begin with something along the lines of a POW and captor.
Star Wars Attack Plan?
- Someone should fire the tactician who thought sending a wing of fighters armed with air-to-air missiles against a hovering, city-sized, advanced-alien-technology ship was a great idea.
- They didn't have a better idea at the time, and half-baked counterattacks are the natural consequence when your two largest cities and your capital are wiped out simultaneously.
- That doesn't justify why they decided to blow almost all their missiles attacking the outermost perimiter of the ship, instead of clearer targets like the suspected bridge section or their fighter launching bays, which would seem like standard procedure for any kind of military strike. I'll forgive them for not waiting for the Achilles' Heel / Wave Motion Gun to open up though, since I'm pretty sure nobody had survived seeing one in action.
- No, the initial assault was an effort to test the defenses of the alien ship to see if they really could damage it. They didn't know if they could actually damage the alien vessel, but they probably weren't expecting that kind of a massive failure. Afterward, at Area 51, they were deploying the aircraft they had, with the munitions they had that survived the massive assault on all of their bases.
- Also, they didn't yet know that there were fighter launching bays.
- Along with that, how stupid it was of them to waste missiles on the alien attackers during the final battle rather than using their guns for that and saving their missiles for the destroyer. The missiles were causing hardly any damage anyway, why waste them on one of hundreds, if not thousands, of alien fighter ships?
- It's my understanding that most modern aircraft-to-aircraft combat consists of firing missiles almost exclusively. (Someone who's actually a military pilot can feel free to contradict me, anyone else hush.) That's how they're trained. And it wasn't "stupid" at all for them to be cautious with taking them out... they saw missiles worked on taking out the fighters, so that's what they were using, they had no way of knowing if gunfire would work on them as well, and they probably didn't want to risk anyone's life just to see if it would. They probably simply expected to be able to have a firing solution on the main ship before that point in the battle and didn't expect all the missiles to have been used up by that point.
- Dropping 2000 lb bombs on the city-ships would probably be more effective. Not to mention the complete lack of artillery. Even a tank's main cannon could be effective with the right angle. (And then there are low-yield nuclear weapons that could have been employed...)
- And how many tanks would have survived the initial assault on the various military bases across the globe? How much artillery is likely kept at Area 51, and how quickly would said artillery have been brutally slagged by the strafing runs from the alien fighters? The answer for all of these questions is likely a very small number.
- There's a good reason why ground vehicles likely weren't employed: logistics. Mobilizing an armored column on the spur of the moment takes time. You have to recall the troops, unpack the vehicles, fuel them, mobilize them, aqcuire transportation for the vehicles (most tanks are transported on trucks to a combat zone, for example) and get them to the operational zone. Then you have to unpack them, organize them into deployment zones, and move them in. The initial counterstrike came, at most, some six hours after the initial attack. You simply cannot get an armored response that quickly, especially when a significant chunk of your military is out for the 4th, and especially when you're not on wartime footing, and especially when the roads will doubtless be clogged by millions upon millions of refugees. There was no armored response before the initial aerial counterassault because armor is simply not mobile enough. Aircraft are. That's the whole point behind aircraft.
- Speaking of aircraft, why didn't they reuse the B-2s in the final battle? One nuke is sure to do a heck of a lot more damage than the entire airforce's supply of air-to-air missiles. And a slightly less major gripe - Couldn't the air armada forming up scene have included a plane that wasn't an f-18?
- There were F-14 Tomcats and F-16s in the air armada at the end.
- Quite possibly if the filmmakers had not lost U.S. Military support after refusing the request to cut all mention of Area 51 out of the script they would have been able to have lots more variety in the military hardware shown.
- Who's to say they didn't? They were attacking every one of the ships all at once, we only get to see the Area 51 battle because that's where the main characters were. The B2s (assuming they weren't destroyed) probably attacked the other ones. Also, the Area 51 battle took place right over the base itself, so it wouldn't have been a great idea to fire of a nuke there.
- One would have expected that at least some of the other nuclear world powers would have tried to use their nukes against the aliens, both before and after the final coordinated strike. There are probably several Russian cities that became irradiated wastelands just like Houston, for instance, and perhaps a few Chinese ones as well. Given the technological gap in air power between China and the U.S. at the time this movie was made and supposedly set, and the difficulty U.S. fighter jets had in dealing with the alien fighters even when not taking the shields into account, it seems probable that the Chinese airforce would have had a very hard time taking down the alien city-destroyers without employing nukes in the final battle.
- Novelization: the surviving U.S. government works hard at convincing its allies not to use nukes. Paraphrasing: "We're about to use a nuke above our own soil. If we fail and everyone had the bright idea of imitating us, we're all dead."
- Watching the movie again, especially the scene where President Whitmore lines up his shot at the destroyer's main cannon, you can see missiles launching vertically, likely from Area 51. So it's likely the base fired its missile defenses at the destroyer's underside but did no damage in the process.
Unchanging Fighter Design?
- Why haven't the extraterrestrials changed the design of their fighters in 50 years? There is no indication that they are at all suspicious of the 50 year old fighter turning up at their door.
- Look closely. The design is different. The old fighter is rounder, less elongated, as fewer sharp angles, and is a different color. It's also possible of course that the 50 year old "fighter" was not actually a fighter, but a different kind of military craft, like an un-armed scout. (We never see it use any weapons, for example. You'd think fighter jock Hiller would have wanted any alien weapons systems on the fighter craft, if such were available, activated for potential use.)
- The fighter's weapons were likely destroyed when it crash-landed in Roswell in 1947; its entire underside was damaged and its weapons are located in underside pods, so they would have been torn off or heavily damaged when it crashed.
- That alien fighter tech was so far advanced beyond what they encountered here, there was no real reason to keep improving it. Secondly, they did become suspicious. They locked it into the docking bay and opened the cockpit shield so they could see what was going on.
- More likely, that's because it was an "uninvited guest". It hadn't been there along the journey, hence raised suspicions.
- Plus, how can we say at what rate their technology advances? It could be like Animorphs, where human technological progress is unusually fast in comparison to most races.
- These aliens probably only develop their technology in big leaps when they conquer new planets. While travelling interstellar distances all their effort is probably concentrated on staying alive with limited resources, instead of wasting them on tinkering. When they have an entire planet to suck dry it's probably time to do some R&D.
- I think that the mothership was a generation vessel. When you are on a generation vessel, you do not waste time and resources on developing your technology. You use those to keep your population alive, while you crawl at sublight speeds to the next star. You clean it up, make planetfall, and improve your stuff in the following centuries. Oh,and before you ask, I think they didn't spot the ship as it entered the solar system because it was so damned black.
- Its albedo doesn't matter. They should've been able to see it, unless the aliens can violate thermodynamics. The ship would have been giving off copious amounts of infrared radiation. (Another thing—why don't we see more spacecraft radiators in the movies?)
- Depending on how they approached, we could have missed them entirely. If they kept the Sun between themselves and Earth, we wouldn't know they were there for a long time.
- Even with the blackbody radiation, it's very hard to see unless you're specifically looking for it. It peaks in the infrared spectrum, so it's invisible to the naked eye and radio-telescopes can't detect it. It emits about 10^15 W, which isn't much when you're trying to detect something millions of miles away, so the intensity doesn't seem unusual, and unless its engine is operating exposed to space, it's not emitting a gamma-ray signature, either.
- There's no way they could keep the Sun between the mothership and Earth, at least assuming they did come at sublight speeds and at large distances from the Sun -they'd have to move very fast- and as for the albedo thing, we've detected asteroids as dark as the mothership, if not more, and considerably smaller at several hundred million kilometers. While it can be handwaved with the aliens' approach vector having a high inclination respect to the ecliptic the thing would have been spotted sooner or later, first as an unexpected star, even by amateur astronomers (and, as per the Sun, the mothership would have to move quite fast in order to be always behind the Moon when approaching). Of course if they've FTL of any kind, especially one a la StarControl where you cannot jump hyperspace until you are far away enough of a planetary system, the latter is somewhat moot.
- Consider this, the A-10 was introduced to USAF in 1977, it is planned to keep it in service until 2028, maybe later. That's 51 years right there.
- And the B-52 has been going since 1955. "Even while the Air Force works on new bombers scheduled for 2037 it intends to keep the B-52H in service until at least 2040, nearly 80 years after production ended. "
- in the Novelization, it is mentioned that the Ships and/or their parts are actually grown rather than forged, meaning that the Ships are all made of organic, possibly living, material. if this is the case, then it would make sense that the ships probably would not have changed over time if they are grown rather than built. kind of like Cattle, they are usually bred for specific purposes, but don't really change to much over time unless modified. i believe this is the most likely explanation.
Mars Needs ID?
- That does bring up another JBM, though: don't the aliens have, like, serial numbers? The Area 51 vessel had been gone or missing (from the aliens' perspective) for fifty years or so. All of a sudden it shows up again in the middle of the assault on Earth, and attracts no real interest until it tries to move on its own? I mean, it does look like the alien equivalent of Homer Simpson is running the parking garage, but even so, that's like Amelia Earheart's plane suddenly showing up on an air traffic controller's boards tomorrow. It didn't cause a little interest at all?
- What if the missing fighter had been an advanced reconnaissance scout sent out ahead of the mothership, while the mothership had been decelerating from relativistic speed on entry into the solar system? In that case the time lapse between release of the scout and arrival of the mothership at earth could be much less than 50 years from the aliens' point of reference.
- They may have welcomed it with open arms because "Johnny's back!! He made it!!", then got suspicious once in telepathy range.
- Consider that as it approached, they overrode the aircraft controls and deliberately guided it into place - a heavy-handed version of the "unidentified aircraft, you will land here" speech. Then, after a few minutes of no contact with anyone on the aircraft, the aliens get suspicious - you can see that when they bring up a couple of other aircraft to cover the new arrival. Factoring in the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) command loop and the level of alien red-tape the alien air-traffic controller would probably have to dance through, not to mention the fact that they're probably dealing with an ongoing war that has the higher-ups' attention, response time is going to be slow. Also, don't forget that once the planet-ship arrived in orbit, the downed scout craft reactivated; the aliens may have assumed that a crashed spaceship had repaired itself and finally lifted off after being downed for years.
- It would make sense that the scout ship, if it had FTL communications, to have some sort of "Cryostasis," technology as well. Not because they're related, but because that means that they could send the scout ship on ahead, so they can report on it. The scout arrives and sends back an FTL communication, telling them about the world. But because they want to live to see their ship/return valuable technology, they cryo-freeze themselves or something like that. This would also conserve resources, such as food and/or water, and with little to no activity, stands a greater chance of avoiding detection by locals. It would make sense for them to use freezing or stasis technology on their motherships if they are, in fact, generational ships. It helps preserve the population of the species, keeps supply consumption to a minimum, and reduces the psychological issues of being crammed in a giant ship for fifty years at a time. This last "psychology" bit could just be me projecting on an alien race, though. So if they used some sort of stasis and joined back with the fleet, that could be perfectly natural for them.
One Planet At A Time?
- And are we really supposed to believe that the alien invasion force consisted of their entire species? Where's the logic in occupying one planet at a time instead of expanding outward like a regular empire?
- They don't care about owning land. It's all about using up the resources for them. What do they use it all for? ...more ships, maybe?
- Locusts aren't imperial. They don't expand; they just consume and move on.
- Who says they can reproduce fast enough to have a self-sustaining population before they consume all the resources? Or even reproduce at all.
- I believe that this mothership was basically an arkship, or a generation vessel. No hyperdrive, so they move their whole population (or large, very large, enormously large numbers of them) in these things, moving around the cosmos, finding planets to renew their air and water, and build more ships.
- Where, exactly, was that the one mothership contained their entire species? The alien pilot's mind simply showed the President that their entire species moved from planet to planet, consuming resources. No one ever said that the entire species was contained on one vessel.
- Sequel hook! But of course it is also possible that at each stop, the aliens build several motherships, but each mothership is sent alone to different star systems.
- Alternately, it is possible that something went decidedly wrong at their last stop, resulting in them only being able to make one mothership for the next journey. Possibilities would include the last few systems the aliens stopped at being relatively resource poor (with earth being in a relatively sparse area of the galaxy), or there was some sort of internal division/civil war between alien factions at the last stop, or there was substantial resistance from natives at the last stop (though in that case it makes some of the aliens' arrogant/overconfident/militarily dumb actions less justifiable.)
- Evidently, it wasn't their entire species.
Finding Shelter, Part I
- So Will Smith's wife is running down the tunnel away from the explosion. She reaches the safety of a side-room, hunkers down and calls... her dog? Seriously? Not the people fleeing past the door?
- If people are running past and can actually hear her yelling, they'd respond anyway. Not to mention people are not terribly rational in these kinds of situations.
- It's not unusual for a female pet owner to consider her pet as comparable to her child, so she was probably heavily focused on her maternal drive to protect her family members.
- Wow, that's the grossest generalization I've heard in a long time.
- Said "overgeneralization" came from a female pet owner, speaking from her experience as same.
- It's probably more fair to simply say that pet owners in general think of their pets as part of the family. This (male) troper certainly did of his dogs, and sure as shit would've tried to save his dogs in the same situation.
- Because if she didn't, we wouldn't have the best Crowning Moment of Awesome in the movie. Simply as that - the theater I watched it exploded with applause at that scene!
- Crowning cliche of suck, more like. Oh look, who cares about the people, the dog always has to survive! And even for a really expensive C-movie, the flames not being able to move into the tiny nook is so ludicrous. And the CGI flames behind the dog haven't aged very well compared to most of the rest of the film's effects.
Finding Shelter, Part II
- This brings up yet another one. Why does the fireball not expand into the room where she's hiding?
- She closed the door.
- Except the flames rushed past with the door wide open, right on screen.
- The novelization's explanation: huge rush of air from a ventilation grid kept the fireball away. Yes, I know, a rush of air should have had the completely opposite effect.
- She closed the door.
- Why was everyone in the government so surprised to see that the aliens were hostile? Did they all forget the AWAC plane that was destroyed by the invaders during the first day?
- IIRC, The AWACS accidentally flew into the path of the alien ship, it wasn't shot down intentionally (yet.)
- Right. It was a clear accident, not hostile intent.
- Right. Because clouds made entirely of fire are a totally natural and normal consequence of items re-entering the atmosphere.
- Actually, an object as big as those city destroyers entering the atmosphere would generate a giant fireball in the sky.
- We see the aliens' air-to-air weapons and that's clearly not what kills the AWACS.
- It more or less was a complete accident. The city-destroyers are pretty damn big, and they don't exactly turn on a dime. The mid-air collision was a tragic accident.
Alien Death Lasers Do Not Work That Way
- How exactly does the super awesome alien laser weapon used by the surface ships cause buildings to self-detonate, such as the White House? A laser is a focused beam of light (which is itself basically energy), but an explosion comes about as a result of a chemical reaction giving off massive amounts of heat and light. Simply shooting a laser into a building shouldn't cause that, unless you also coincidentally have detonation devices inside the building. Now, the laser could certainly have burned straight through the buildings, heated them to the point of fracture, whereupon they would collapse (this is what happened with the WTC attacks), or melt them given enough time, but an explosion, especially of the size seen, is probably not possible to achieve with a laser alone, no matter how super cool it is.
- Your problem is you're assuming that it's a "focused beam of light" at all. It doesn't act like one, therefore it isn't one. It's some sort of directed energy weapon, the targets of which explode.
- Call it directed energy if you will, it still impossible to make an object like those buildings explode from the inside outward simply by sending massive amounts of energy towards it. As I said, you could send enough energy to make it collapse, burn (from the top down), or melt, but you could not make the buildings explode in the manner they do. It would be theoretically possible to heat the inside of the building to a critical pressure, similar to a microwave oven, but even that wouldn't cause an explosion like the one we see here. Rule of Cool likely comes into play here, but for it still bugs us anal-retentive types.
- None of it adds up! Don't believe everything that you see! THE ALIEN INVASION WAS AN INSIDE JOB! 4/7 TRUTH!
- Alien lasers can't melt steel beams!
- To me, it looked like some type of outward-expanding explosive, presumably using some kind of funky alien technology that operates differently. Its consistent with some of their other technology, i.e. the alien fighters can shoot beams that cause enormous detonations when they hit fighter craft that are definitely note DET lasers or whatever. Whatever the beam was, it was definitely not a direct energy transfer laser or other DET weapon; if anything, I'd say it was some kind of bomb that was surrounded by a sheath of energy that was fired straight down, and subsequently generated the ring of fire that consumed the city. If we accept that the explosion was caused by an alien-tech bomb that needed to be "charged up" before being fired, then it makes more sense.
- It could just be antimatter, the beam acts as a containment field, the ship sends a pulse of antimatter down, deactivates the containment field, shit explodes. Would also explain why flying a plane into the weapon destroys the ship, the plane came into contact with the antimatter, causing a chain reaction inside the ship.
- Antimatter doesn't work like that. Just chalk it up to Rule of Cool and accept that if it had been done realistically it would have been greatly different.
- Despite common acceptance, a laser does not just damage what it hits, it is basically a very precise bomb. all of the energy in the laser is released in the moment of impact. creating an explosion.
- I think the idea is that it's similar in effect to the Dr Device from Ender's Game.
- The laser could be just sort of a targeting device (why they'd need it for so short distances is another topic) for the main weapon, that is what destroys everything.
- Even if the target is straight down and a short distance away, it's still a good idea to have a targeting laser just to make sure you're completely accurate. Also, the beam itself seems to fuel part of the destruction. Remember that there's two parts to the firing sequence: the beam shoots down, then they fire the pulse that obliterates the target. We see the beam from the LA ship is still firing for a minute or two even as the blast wave has already consumed half the city. Plus, we see the White House starting to explode before the pulse, and Area 51 suffers a brief power failure as well. Why Russell's fighter seems unaffected is another matter, possibly from the beam being in low-power mode due to the virus.
- How do you know Alien Death lasers don't act that way? Have you ever built an Alien Death Laser?
Aliens and Tides
- What about tidal forces? A spaceship 1/4 the size of the moon in a close orbit around Earth (as in: close enough to fly there in a few minutes) should cause a few earthquakes and be under some significant structural stress itself.
- It may have something to do with the antigravity tech being used by the aliens. Demonstrated capabilities of the aliens' ships indicate that they can avoid inflicting gravity/energy bleeding damage to the surface. If they can render their ships immune to gravitational effects on Earth, its no stretch to assume they can prevent gravitational effects of their own ships from unnecessarily damaging the planet they want largely intact. Keep in mind also that just because its one quarter the size of the moon, that doesn't mean its one quarter of the moon's mass - especially as the interior of the mothership was largely hollow.
- Even with the density of helium, that thing would have been heavy. And it was in a rather low orbit around earth. Speaking of which, why did it never show up in the sky?
- We only had about a day to even look for it, first of all, and a good portion of the main characters were directly under those superhuge starships and physically could not see the sky. After that, there might have been too much debris from smoke, fire, or fine particulates in the air to see much of anything. Come to think of it, people with asthma must have really hated living in the aftermath of the human/alien war.
- Doesn't change the fact that the aliens have A) access to technology that renders gravity moot and B) a vested interest in not fucking over the planet they're assaulting. As for never showing up in the sky, there's almost never a shot of the sky unimpeded in the movie. Assume the mothership was out of sight on the other side of the planet if need be.
- Unfortunately, the movie itself shoots that hypothesis down. It's explicitly said that the mothership has a mass one fourth the size of the moon. So if we knew it, we measured it somehow, and since we didn't know about it until it had past the moon (the only other major source of tidal forces near the Earth), it should have been doing something, even if they engaged the anti-gravity only when they got a bit closer.
- The movie's novel states that the mothership was much closer to the Moon than to the Earth. While it removes the above issues on our planet, now is poor Luna the one that will face them and to a much larger degree because of the considerably smaller difference of mass -not to mention the HUGE mess caused on it when the mothership blows up and its debris hits the Moon-
Who Weeps for Houston?
- What's with the angsting about nuking Houston? It's not like the city would look any better if they didn't nuke it, what with the spaceship hovering over it.
- Less about nuking the city itself and more about dropping a nuclear device on American soil and the precedent it would set up. If nuclear response is the only viable solution, then we're looking at nuclear winter.
- And how is that not preferable to total extinction?
- For one thing, it would lead to total extinction. And even if it didn't, the world afterward would be in utter ruin, condemning billions to death. Defeating the enemy conventionally is preferable for that reason alone.
- Had it worked, they would only need a few dozen nukes to get rid of the city destroyers and a few more detonated in space for the mother ship. Doesn't sound like something to bring about the death of billions of humans. And while nukes are icky, it's not like they make large swathes of land uninhabitable. Just ask the denizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki living there today.
- "A few dozen nukes" of large enough yield to kill the city destroyers? Yes, that would do massive damage to the ecosystem and cause nuclear winter; it really doesn't take that many.
- For reference, here's a handy-dandy graph of how many nuclear detonations have occurred, broken down by year and country. Notice that in 1962 alone, almost 140 nukes were detonated worldwide. While the consequences of using nukes in habitable areas as opposed to dedicated nuclear testing grounds would be worse, we're not looking at an extinction level event by any stretch of the imagination.
- Nuclear winter is also more likely to be caused by detonating nuclear weaponry over cities. The city destroyers appear to linger over cities when not immediately in motion. Destroying Houston alone should have some severe ecological consequences (on top of the damage the city destroyers' weapons have already done; leveling dozens of cities is also going to be releasing a lot of soot into the air too) Conclusions have already been reached that a small-scale, regional nuclear exchange (of only 750 kilotons - 50 individual initiations of 15 kiloton weapons) could cause devastating global consequences, let alone detonating dozens of megaton-level nuclear weapons over cities and potentially destroying the city destroyers, which would cause further damage. The weapon deployed by the B-2 bomber outside Houston looks like a B61 (don't quote me on that - it might be an AGM-86) which is a multi-megaton-yield weapon. That one initiation over Houston has probably done more ecological damage to Earth than a regional nuclear war. Conclusion: nukes are serious business, don't disregard how powerful they are.
- The weapon they deployed on Houston was 50-70 kilotons at most, more that enough to slag the down town area. Now with modern technology you could easy build and deploy a 100 megaton warhead that is small enough(<5 tons) to be carried on one ICBM. Each one of these devices would be more than three orders of magnitude more powerful than the weapon displayed in the film. It's the difference between shooting a man with a bb gun and a 20mm anti material rifle. Since there is no way that even 20% of that 1.5 gigatons of total yield was used to propel clay sized dust into the upper atmosphere it would not cause cooling more significant than that caused by a eruption of a large felsic/intermediate volcano.
- It's not nuclear bombs themselves that cause nuclear winter, it's the cities they destroy. Setting an entire city on fire produces a lot of fine particulates that eventually migrate to the upper atmosphere and stay there for years. Setting 50-100 cities on fire is enough to significantly cool the Earth for periods of up to 15 years.
- Why not set the bomb off under the alien ship? Let that mushroom cloud smack straight into the underside of the ship? The thing is 15km wide, it will either have to redirect the entire blast along the entire underside of its hull or absorb it all. Make it a full yield Tzar Bomba and we're talking Limit Break. The fireball for the HALF YIELD Tzar Bomba was an 8 km sphere. The mushroom cloud was 64km high.
- You do realize that there was only one Tsar Bomba, right? And it was such an oversized weapon that it was entirely impractical to field? The military can't exactly use weapons made by a different nation, thirty years ago, that don't exist anymore.
- Um. You realize the mushroom cloud is, like, a cloud, right? It's just an aftereffect of the blast. It's not actually the damaging part.
- Exploding it on top of the spacecraft would have been much better. You get to see if it penetrates the shield. If it does, the spacecraft crushes Houston, but at least we have the option of annihilation vs. nuclear winter. If it doesn't, then the nuclear explosion doesn't suck up material into the fireball (consequently producing very little fallout) and Houston gets destroyed by the aliens with their clean burning laserblasts. Win-win!
- Also have to consider that the Alien's plasma-based weapons did not irradiate the area, so Houston could have been inhabited again after. As it is now, Houston might as well be Chernobyl.
- Sorry buddy looks like you got a case of Artistic License - Nuclear Physics. A modern 70 kiloton warhead has a lead casing rather then a U328 casing, although this decreases the yield, which is fine since it's a "tactical" nuke" it also means almost realatively little radiation. For comparision people live healthily in Hiroshima and Nagasaki despite each of those warheads giving off more than 1000 times the amount of alpha and beta emitters that a modern tactical weapon would since the original A-bombs got all there energy from fission and were very inefficient. For weapons(US at least) designed after 1977 radiation is not really an issue. NUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEMNUKEM!
- Do you have a source to back any of that up? The nuclear warhead in the movie was likely a W80-series warhead, which does use uranium for its radiation case and is not considered a tactical weapon. Not that the case would matter, it's fissioned off in a two-stage device; and those do create a lot of radiation.
- Sorry, plugging in the novelization again. Looks like they were angsty because they were about to nuke a city that was still in the process of being evacuated (apparently there were still tens of thousands of people in Houston who could have had time to leave before the aliens struck, but were caught in the nuclear blast instead). Plus, they were worrying that, if the world saw the USA use a nuke, they'd all think that the Americans have discovered that to be the solution and launch their own strikes before the result of the American one was even known.
- Outside of nuclear winter which might take some time, a more immediate result of poor nuke usage is the EMP and the effects of it being an airburst. Airburst explosives are much more destructive than ground since the ground basically amplifies the explosion. And the EMP of multiple nukes over major military bases and civilian cities would cause havoc while in space, an EMP would be even more dangerous due to the high risk of disabling satellites (and also the EMP getting spread over a greater area on Earth). Outside of satilletes, EMPs would also disrupt the power grid which alone would take years to recover from even without an alien attack occurring - no power means things like no gas for vehicles, no refrigeration for food... Even with limited use of nukes, it doesn't take much to do far more harm than good.
- Why exactly was the president not told about the existence of Area 51? They had the ship for nearly fifty years and nobody thought that the president of the country it crashed in should know about it? For that matter, why didn't his stereotypically useless Secretary of Defense think that maybe it was a good idea to let his president know once the other ships arrived? For all he knew the aliens might be conducting a long term rescue operation.
- Two words: Plausible deniability.
- Yeah, the President specifically says "Why didn't you tell me about this?" and the SefDef responds with "Plausible deniability." Also, keep in mind that the President is aware of Area 51's existence just not the secret alien-containing underground bunker. The President may be CINC, but he isn't aware of everything; most likely what happened is whoever was President when the original aircraft landed ordered it hidden, and then classified the documents, and the military just quietly pushed it under the rug when the next administration came into power.
- Still means the man has a legitimate beef over not being told about this as soon as the alien ships showed up. At that point, the Area 51 information has become, shall we say, immediately relevant.
- True, but how long were the aliens in the sky before attacking anyway? A day at most, IIRC, arriving in the morning and blowing up the white house in the afternoon. That's 12 hours in which to contact the president. Sure, that seems like a lot, but the guy probably was making speeches all day and there were probably hundreds of people requesting meetings, as well as massive press presence near the white house waiting for an official statement following every new development. And it would probably be a bit suspicious to tell the secretary 'Hey, we are from the MIB. We have important information to share with the president regarding the alien invasion.', especially with a white house that is constantly filled with people who might just hear that. Not to mention that the person who knew the information likely had to fly to washington first. He could have arrived only an hour in advance of the attack, and be waiting for his appointment. If you really need a Hand Wave
- The "person who knew the information" is the Secretary of Defense; not only is he already in Washington, but how long does it take him to get an emergency conference with the President? Drive time to the White House + 2 minutes?
- Forgive my nitpicking, but the Defense Department is not headquartered in Washington, D.C., but rather in Arlington, Virginia.
- He is also seen with the president several times prior to the initial attack. At any of these points he could have brought up what is now extremely relevant information.
Aliens vs Wind
- Anti-gravity might explain HOW the alien ships hovered,but it does nothing to explain why they weren't affected by atmospheric conditions,especially the wind. Ships of that size would have been buffeted by even the lightest breeze and them hovering directly over a spot in a major city (especially two close the ocean like LA & NYC)is ridiculous.
- They can move laterally. Ergo, they have some way of controlling their lateral position. That's like saying, "Okay, I know humans have legs so they can stand upright, but how can they keep standing when the wind hits them?"
- of that size would have been buffeted by even the lightest breeze Someone hasn't heard of concepts like "mass" or "inertia."
- OP here: Apparently you haven't heard of thermals rising from the buildings in a city nor have you heard of wind being a constant due to temperature changes and the rotation of the planet. The sheer size of the ships would have magnified the effects of air flow on them (think: A sail). I've worked on airplanes and I know more than a little about flight. How about you?
- Except the alien ships are not airplanes. They're massive, city-sized flying islands of heavy metal that can ignore gravity. Hurricane force winds probably wouldn't buffet something that heavy.
- No, the OP is right on this one. It doesn't matter how massive the alien ships were, they also had huge surface area and had a shape that should have had aerofoil-like properties. The fact that they could have been employing anti-gravity technology actually makes the wind problem worse for them because anti-gravity tech would have made their effective weight less. They would have to be employing some very effective and powerful method of lateral movement to keep themselves hovering motionless.
- Weight =/= Mass. Even if something's weightless, if it has a lot of mass, it also has a lot of inertia, and that is what has to be overcome by the winds. You're treating what has to be several hundred (or thousand) tons of metal like it's made of paper.
- Weight = Force = mass x acceleration constant of gravity. So long as you are in an environment where the gravitational constant (e.g. earth), weight and mass are linearly related. You are also heavily underestimating the force of the winds. Skyscrapers sway constantly several meters or more due to regular wind activity, and significant engineering is required to prevent them from tearing themselves apart in normal everyday weather conditions. And the alien ships are flat discs with a vertically protuding spine. In short they are presenting sail and aerofile-like profile in three of four possible directions of airflow. Something the size and shape of those alien ships, no matter what it was made of, no matter how much it weighed, no matter what its mass, would move significantly in the regular winds, unless it was actively counteracting those forces constantly. Possibly they were using their antigravity tech to actively change the local value of the acceleration of gravity, on the fly.
- Anyway, we're talking about city-sized spaceships that can defy gravity and obliterate hundreds of square miles with a single shot, and you're worried about WIND? Just accept that there's technology at work that we can't understand and move on.
- Square/Cube Law: Unless the city ships are full of air, their mass (and inertia) increase much faster than their surface area (and influence of wind). Inertia wins.
- Except that the alien ships are shown to be able to move, so they could have just been firing their engines into the wind.
Alien Doomsday Priorities
- Why would the aliens start an attack on Earth by striking the cities FIRST? Attacking the major (and minor) military installations would have been much more effective and required the expenditure of much less energy...which would definitely be something that aliens from another solar system would have been concerned about.
- They probably haven't come across a civilization with technology compared to ours before, so they were doing what they always do: Wipe out population centers. They wanted to wipe out everyone, so best to hit the biggest clusters first before they scatter and hide. Also, until the climax their ships were invincible anyway, so they weren't concerned with attacking military installations because they weren't a threat.
- Why attack the military centers first? They are, almost literally, completely helpless against the aliens' tech, and they know this. More importantly, the aliens' objectives were extermination; destroying population centers is their first priority. Once the military launched a large-scale attack with the majority of its air forces and were subsequently massacred, they attacked the military bases and wiped them out.
- Original poster here:I think that you may have misunderstood me. The military was the ONLY threat that these aliens knew that the Earth possessed and as such would have likely been the source of any resistance that they would have experienced. Why not simply neutralize that threat and then move onto what would have been completely defenseless cities?
- Because the goal is to wipe out humanity. The first thing that will happen when they attack the miliitary centers is that the humans will begin to disperse from the cities, making the process of hunting down the humans a massive headache. Don't look at the aliens' attack like a military operation; look at it like an insect extermination, because that's what it was to the aliens. The military centers are low-population, zero threat, and low priority, whereas the population centers have a large population that can be quickly purged, and are higher priority.
- The aliens probably based their strategy on signals intelligence. Even if they cannot interpret human communications, they can plausibly assume that the places with the largest concentrations of electronic signals are those likely to pose a military threat, and those will be the biggest cities. Having taken down the biggest ones, they can go down to the next tier, learning from experience which communications are likely to represent military sites - hence the attack on NORAD. They can then continue the strategy - humanity might respond by shutting down communications, but that would severely inhibit our capability to resist.
- It's simple supreme over-confidence. The aliens did not bother to attack military targets first because they thought that the military was NOT a threat, at all. If you want to exterminate an anthill, you usually don't bother with surgical strikes to remove the soldiers first.
- It wasn't over-confidence, it was exactly the right amount of confidence. The military was absolutely no threat whatsoever. Every single time they tried to fight the aliens, they failed horribly, usually sustaining massive casualties. In the end, humanity was only saved by the fact that the producers didn't want a downer ending.
- But attacking the civilian targets isn't a bad idea. Think of the disruption caused; how many congressmen, senators, civil servants were killed in DC? How many MPs in London? I don't even want to think about what happened to the world's economy. The damage to the communication networks would be far more severe than the film showed. And not to mention that they would have wiped out a considerable number of potential enemies; from their supremely hi-tech perspective, a militia rabble drawn up from the ruins of NYC is probably no different from the SAS in any meaningful way. Strikes on hugely populated civilian targets would be an excellent way of dealing with their enemies with this viewpoint.
- The aliens obviously considered the militaries some kind of threat, or at least a nuisance to be swatted away. Otherwise, why attack on July 4th weekend? Why not August 18th? The film even stated the aliens knew when to strike and how and where. The above posts go into enough detail why they hit the cities. To expand on it, the end of the film showed shock troops in formation aboard the mothership. For whatever purpose they were to be used for, destroying cities greatly simplified the battlefield they would've fought in. Roland Emmerich doesn't leave a lot to the imagination with his movies.
- The general said "WHERE and how to hit us".
- This troper always interpreted the July 4th date as pure coincidence. The aliens planned to attack the moment they arrived. They happened to arrive on July 4th. That was all.
- Except that David likened the aliens' attack to a chess strategy. They were likely collecting information about Earth for the previous ~50 years. As much a wallbanger as it was, they did take over communications satellites; so if they kept up-to-date on hijacking the latest technology the humans had, collating important dates and holidays isn't much a stretch. Not that it probably would've matted at all, the aliens had the technology and luxury to attack whenever they wanted.
- He compared them parking over the major cities and coordinating a simultaneous attack to a chess game. He said nothing about the date. The date was a coincidence. The president even said in his speech that "perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July".
- Furthermore, the date "Fourth of July," as was stated in the movie, is an American holiday. That meant that, yeah, there were military forces off for the fourth in America, but last time I checked the Chinese still had a few million soldiers and nukes. Same with most of the other nuclear-capable powers of the world at the time. Granted, the United States has one of the most powerful military forces in the world, but at the same time, a) you people say that they were spying on us for years beforehand. Thus, the aliens would have known that they could not be hurt by our weapons as long as their shields held out. b) assuming point "a," then the aliens would have tried going for a more globally-accessible holiday, or period where the militaries are weakest. Off the top of my head, that would be towards the end of the year, when the holidays of multiple religious organizations take place: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, the Winter Solstice, and more are all crammed into the end of the year, and are not America-exclusive.
- The United States alone accounts for over 40% of worldwide military expenditures (and thanks to the fun of under-reporting, possibly over 50%, thanks Wikipedia). A simplistic view of an alien species (us in this case) might suggest you go for the national holiday for the force that has the highest national spending by a huge margin. Maybe the aliens have access to the New York Times or congressional minutes?
- The answer might be in the novelization: while the big ships take care of the cities, the fighter escorts destroy all military installations within range.
- Actually, this troper remembers a scene, don't remember which, but a military aide tells General Grey "NATO and Western Allied installations were hit first."
- They did attack military bases, as the previous statement said (also, of course, they took out NORAD). However, given that they probably have a good deal of patience and expected at least some form of resistance, it's also possible they attacked cities as a preemptive strike against the military being able to recruit more soldiers and built more stuff. They might have also thought that attacking civilian centers might trigger some form of rescue-recovery response and massive influxes of refugees, causing increased difficulties as resources are spread thin while also naturally corralling said refugees in said military bases (for protection)... which they then attack next.
No ID 4 Holocaust?
- Why didn't any of the scientists at Area 51 have a problem w/ the military trying to destroy a ship 1/4 the size of the Moon in ear Earth orbit? A 6-mile wide asteroid helped to cause the dinosaur's extinction. Wouldn't an even larger object crashing to Earth cause even MORE destruction? And yes...I know that the aliens were destroying the planet, anyway, but wasn't this like setting backfires in your living room to fight a kitchen fire on your stove?
- 1/4 the size, but probably nowhere remotely close to the mass. Also, it was 1/4 the size of the moon before the dozens of city ships detached from it. Aside from that, this is straight-up No Endor Holocaust. It's a popcorn flick, not a scientific study.
- The only other explanation is that the alien mothership was mostly made of fake matter (as in Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars, basically a massless construct made of combining multiple microscopic forcefields to simulate substance and resistance, with only a thin "paint" of real matter on top for appearances), so that when the central control mechanisms were destroyed, most of the apparent mass/substance of the mothership simply disappears, as it was never "real" mass/substance anyways. It would also explain why the ship blew up so easily after being nuked - most of the alien ship is in fact one big, complexly shaped force field, and the moment the virus took down the field, the shell of real matter that remained would basically be a big soap bubble.
- Nope. The exact words are "a mass roughly 1/4 the size of our moon." So it is indeed mass they're talking about, so unless a very, very large amount of the ship was vaporized (and even then, that much high-temperature vapor in such a low orbit would mean Big Bad Things for the planet, anyway)...
- It doesn't appear the scientists had any alternatives for how to deal with the aliens other then attacking them as shown in the movie. Unless one of them could think of a way (in the span of about 48 hours) to neutralize the entirety of the alien threat without resorting to big booms, the only options available were blowing up the whole thing and take your chances at surviving the coming debris shower or rolling over and definitely be wiped out.
- Did Boomer make it okay?
- At least as far as when Hiller found Jasmine at what had been El Toro, yes. I don't remember whether or not we see him after that, but do remember seeing him interacting with the First Lady while Jasmine was taking care of her.
- Yes, Boomer survives. During the final battle, they briefly show a clip of Jasmine's son talking to the President's daughter as they hide out in the Area 51 bomb shelter together. And sure enough, Jasmine's son has Boomer sitting right next to him. So yeah, the dog lives to see the happy ending.
- I'm watching the movie on DVD here, and I can confirm that Boomer is seen sitting between Connie and Jasmine when they approach David and Steve's downed ship in the last scenes.
- Boomer will live!
- No, really, what was that African ship targeting? Out of all ships shown in the conclusion, it's the one that makes the less sense. So we see one crashed in what seems to be Mesopotamia (presumably on its way to Baghdad or Basra). There's another one in Egypt (on its way to or from Cairo). Then there's the Australian one (on its way to Sydney). Then there's that one ship, crashed against the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in the middle of the Tanzanian wilderness, nowhere close to any major African power or population centers...
- The probably hit it while it was moving somewhere.
- Most likely Nairobi, Mombasa, or Dar es Salaam. Remember, even though they were just briefly mentioned Chicago, Philly, and Atlanta (plus Houston) were the next 3 cities to fall. All 3 of these cities proper are of comparable size and are relatively close to the mountain.
- As cities important to their own countries, yes. But remember that Chicago, Philadelphia were probably hit because they were ripe targets that were easily accessible from NYC and DC (Okay, I'm wondering about Atlanta). I would have figured that the first targets in Africa would be Cape Town/Pretoria/Johannesburg and the conurbation around Cairo. If they wanted to hit another major population center, it would be Lagos and/or Kinshasa. The problem with Nairobi, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam is that, once these gone, there isn't much left around as a matter of close major targets (yes, I'm deriding the lack of importance of my own hometown there).
- It was headed to Antananarivo next. Just to kill you. And the President of Madagascar.
- And really, we should have the same question about Sydney. Australia should have been far, far down the list when you have more than half the human population just sitting a hop, skip, and a jump away in Asia.
- You're forgetting the part where Australia is a pretty major military power in the area and likely at least as much of a threat as, say, Japan. Besides, in global terms, Jakarta and Singapore really aren't that far away, and they'd definitely be on the target list.
- The viral marketing website (which shows every city that was destroyed, and there are a lot), confirms that Nairobi, Kenya and Mogadishu, Somalia were both destroyed. So that Africa ship was likely the one that annihilated Nairobi.
Aliens and Morse
- Watching the film currently, and I just realized that as the aliens have apparently been studying us for half a decade or more, it was entirely possible they'd know out Morse code. I'm glad it works, yay, earth and all that, but that was more a gamble than they realized.
- Picking out a few bursts of morse code amidst the massive slew of vastly more complex signals sweeping across the globe would be like finding a needle in a flash flood during an earthquake while a hurricane is passing overhead, during a meteor strike and a volcanic eruption. There's a reason why the ECHELON system is such a big deal.
- Its implied that the aliens may have actually detected and decoded the Morse code transmissions. The city-destroyer turned and started making a beeline for Area 51, with the general pointing out that "I guess our secret's out, they're heading straight for us."
- Plus Morse Code hasn't exactly been a dominant method of communication in the time they've been observing us. Still in use, obviously, but it would be sort of like expecting the aliens to be fluent in Klingon or Esperanto just because those have been in use during that time period.
- As for the the moving to A51 due to detection, it's possible that they didn't detect and decode the transmission itself, but rather noticed a spike/flurry/sustained increase in activity that they know not to be their own. Even if you don't know what's being said or what's going on, this at the very least tells you something is happening there and you should probably do something about it.
- To use a historical example, in World War II, the majority of German submarines weren't sunk because their enigma codes were broken. They were sunk because destroyers were able to zero in due to their heavy radio traffic.
The Russell Casse Maneuver
- So, they find out that you can take out an alien ship by ramming into it's main gun (or maybe launching a missile into it). That's the only way. There are 36 ships. Did they pull the same trick on all of them at the same time or did the aliens become instantly retarded, allowing the enemy aircraft near their main guns again and again even after seing their ships going down from it? Because we've seen that even without shields the human weapons are still not enough to penetrate the ships' exteriors.
- "Allowing the enemy"? No, and they weren't "allowing" the enemy that close in the first place. The American planes didn't get close just because the aliens let them, they got that close because they fought their way there.
- Yeah, but the point is that the gun was exposed at the time, and is normally and easily kept well out of harm's way. The smart thing for the aliens to do is sheath their main weapons, figure out how to turn the shields back on, and then proceed as normal. Instead, worldwide, they appear to have disregarded the fate of their sister ship, kept their glaring weakness out in the open, and allowed themselves to be picked off one-by-one.
- The only reason the worldwide counterattack worked is because it was simultaneous. The other ships were taken down within minutes of the first one. Besides, their comms were down as a result of the mothership exploding. Each city-destroyer was completely cut off from the others.
- Missiles were shown to be able to punch through their armor. So "sheathing" their weapons would have done nothing. And if it is really an anti-matter gun as so many have suggested, it wouldn't have to be firing. But hitting it and taking out the containment would do it.
- It's never established that an attack on the exposed main weapon is the only way, just that it's obviously the most effective way, thus why they pass that information on. Without their shields, the ships are vulnerable to normal fire as well, it would probably just require using much heavier weaponry to eventually get through the physical hull. But the point is moot ultimately... the aliens can't destroy any more cities without leaving themselves open to destruction, so their only choices are to use their fighters (which are also vulnerable now) for much less effective destruction, or to go away and stop bothering us. There's nothing to indicate they were capable of turning their shields back on... it's heavily implied that resistance had never happened before, it's entirely possible that generations of aliens have come and gone only knowing how to use technology, not repair or improve it.
- The one over Area 51 was priming its main weapon and about to destroy the installation, thus the weapon was "hot" and vulnerable to attack. Doesn't explain how the others around the world went down, unless each one was lured to a target of opportunity by human armies and exposed its main weapon to destroy said target. As previous tropers mentioned, the hull of the saucers is incredibly resilient. Dozens of air to missiles did nothing to stop it. Seems a little contrived that each one went down the same way.
- Ground forces might have used artillery to open fire on the aliens with their shields down, with aircraft and SAM systems protecting them from retaliation.
- Dead men tell no tales. The aliens had NO WAY to know that those puny earthlings were able to discover a weak point, and were able to put that knowledge to a good use. They only would notice that the Invincible Battleships were falling, one after another. They would get nervous. "What are those Puny Eartlhings made of? Let's kill them with everything we have! Ready the main gun"
- Also, none of the big ships knew that the others were going down. All of them were flying blind, with their comms cut off due to the virus on the Mothership. So when the first ships went down, none of the others knew about it, and had no idea that their comrades were being taken out. As far as any of them knew, they were the only ship under attack at that time.
- I always got the feeling that the Battle of Area 51 took place just before the rest of the global battle, allowing them to alert the other forces before they ran out of missiles too. Once they knew what to hit, the other air forces focused on the primary weapon (while screening from the attackers) since it's protected by fairly thin and weak panels. Plus, just because the weapon was probably cold in most instances, that doesn't mean that hitting it wouldn't cause a reactor breach.
- Those panels don't look particularly weak, they're easily half a building thick. Punching through them would probably require a bit of firepower.
Why Don't You Just Sterilize 'Em?
- If the aliens were only after Earth's natural resources, why did they bother with selectively targetting cities and planning a ground invasion? Why not just sterilize the entire planet at once?
- And what makes you think they could?
- I got the idea they wanted the organic matter intact. Once they wiped out the dominant species, they can harvest everything else at will.
- "Sterilizing the entire planet at once" would require sufficient firepower to destroy most of the resources the aliens want.
The First Lady's Injuries
- So the First Lady was firstly injured in a helicopter crash during the attack, she survived and was so conscious that she could talk to people without any problem, then she's carried to the hospital and then dies! What kind of injury could she have that killed her so slowly?
- Internal bleeding. Like they say directly in the movie.
The First Lady's Helicopter
- How is the First Lady caught in the destruction of Los Angeles? Her helicopter is shown departing just as the saucer begins opening its main weapon, and based on the time it takes to prepare, and the speed of the ensuing blast wave, her helicopter should have been well clear of the city by the time the blast wave propagated past Downtown.
- It probably got swept up by displaced air from the blast wave. Compared to other cities, the Los Angeles destroyer seemed to barely clear the skyline.
The Second Helicopter
- Speaking of helicopters, something that always bugged me was the second Presidential helicopter. Half an hour before "checkmate," David explains everything to Whitmore, who then orders an evacuation. Twenty minutes later, the main cast board Marine One and depart the White House. Ten minutes later, they're just getting aboard Air Force One and take off when Washington is destroyed. Now, I can buy that it took twenty minutes to call the choppers, with stretching plausibility in that it took ten minutes to get to Andrews Air Force Base, and that Whitmore essentially condemned half his staff to die because there was no more time. However, the second chopper takes off right as the White House is obliterated. What happened that took an extra ten minutes for that chopper to take off?
- Getting the stragglers? It could be that the helicopter carrying the President was ordered to get going sooner, since it had, you know, the President on it. The second chopper might have waited a little longer, perhaps underestimating the blast wave's reach or being desperate enough to risk delaying the departure.
- Addendum. OP here. If you look closely when David and Julius arrive at the White House, the helicopters are already there on the south lawn.
Captain Hiller's parachute
- When Captain Hiller is chased by a lone alien fighter, he release his parachute which collides on the alien fighter, blinding it and causing it to crash. Why did the alien fighter's shields not activate?
- Perhaps, like in Star Wars, shields prevent high-velocity objects (relative to the ship) from going through, but lower-velocity ones don't. Hence, bullets and missiles would do nothing but a parachute would be moving slow enough to pass through the shield.
- They definitely work that way — note how David is able to walk right up to the ship and put a soda can on it without the shield stopping him, but it deflects a bullet fired at it immediately after.
- The election of Whitmore is starting to bug me. So, the new website firmly establish the film took place in July 1996. Whitmore was a fighter pilot in the Gulf War (August 1990 - Feburary 1991). Whitmore would have needed to be elected in 1992; the way the pundits criticize him, it doesn't sound like he started as VP. In addition, it doesn't sound like he had experience in politics. From what I know, they don't let colonels fly planes (I could be wrong), so he probably wasn't a high-ranking officer. So, given America's current political environment, where you at least need time in public office or plenty of political clout to be considered for the job, how would a low-ranking Marine pilot get elected president?
- It's rare, but not unheard of, for people relatively unknown to the rest of the country to rise up to being president, especially before the Internet became what it is today (i.e., 1992). Maybe he just played his cards right.
- OP here: I did a little digging on the wiki and found that the novelization says Whitmore was a junior senator. So I guess it's not a stretch that he was in Congress, then served, and used that popularity to become president.
- Scenes early in the film suggest that Whitmore was elected in part because he wasn't a typical politician. Connie's comments over breakfast seem to say that his campaign was based around playing off his status as a war hero: a young, idealistic man who won't let the scheming politicians stand in his way. At the beginning of the film, they mention that Whitmore is being criticized largely because he isn't that kind of person: he's very willing to compromise if it means making a little progress toward his goals, ie, he knows how politics work and he's acting like a politician.
Looks like their preparing for an invasion
- while Steve and David are flying through the Mother ship, they notice what appear to be an army of alien soldiers. David says that they appear to be preparing for an invasion. But why? wasn't the destruction of the world's major cities the invasion? Weren't the City Destroyers and Alien Attackers pretty effective at what they did? why did they need to send in ground troops when they could just use their Ships? they got the job done so why send in Infantry?
- Just bombing is not an invasion, it's a bombing. They took down what seemed to be the biggest population centers and military bases, and the infantry goes in to mop up and clear out whatever's left. And the fact that there was still armed human resistance means that the city destroyers obviously did not get the job done.
- Exactly. Plus, they're not destroying cities for the fun of it. They want to move in, and the best way to move in is to kill the cockroaches first. I'm also guessing that a lot of those soldiers are sappers and logistics troops who are going to start building settlements for the alien civilian population and scout for resources they can exploit.
- What I don't get is, why those troops aren't on the city destroyers. It (at least from a human standpoint) makes little logistical sense to have said forces on the mothership which is farther away and traveling from it would take additional time, when they could deploy from the city destroyers (which are already above their targets and closer to the ground) especially after the destroyers have cleared the area of any resistance.
- For what it is worth, Resurgence (along with jossing some other explanations thrown about on this page) indicates that the city destroyers do have troops on them. Presumably the mothership troops were intended to reinforce them (as Resurgence also indicates that their ground troops are not given shields, and consequently can be killed by humans).
The targets the City Destroyers choose
- How do the city destroyers choose their obliteration targets? At first I thought it was generally the tallest and most central building in each city (the fact that U.S Bank Tower in LA and the ESB in New York are the targets there supports this somewhat) but then that theory is blown apart by the White House in D.C being the target there (it is not the tallest building in the city by a long shot, the Washington Monument is the tallest in the city proper, nor is it centrally located, the Capitol Building is considered most central). Other scenes in the movie, especially news broadcasts seem to also dispute this (in Paris, the target isn't known, but it isn't the Eiffel Tower, which is the tallest structure in Paris, though my theory is it's either the Louvre or La Defense).
- Most likely they either targetted the center of each city for the greatest amount of destruction, or a specific building for shock value to demoralize people (like the White House). It had been noted that they'd been studying humans for years, so they would likely know which buildings are culturally important.
The beam and the pulse
- There seems to be some inconsistency as to how the primary weapon of the aliens works. The basic manner seems to be that the ship creates a downward beam, and then sends a pulse down. 3 times out of 4, it's the pulse that causes the destruction, not the beam, as we don't see any destruction begin until the pulse appears and makes contact with something. However, in the White House destruction scene, the White House begins blowing up when the beam appears; the pulse is still shot down but the White House is already exploding. In the other 2 city scenes, the explosion doesn't begin until the pulse makes contact with the building. In the self-sacrifice scene toward the end, the guy pilots his jet right into the beam no problem, until he is near the tip of the weapon: When the pulse emerges, both plane and the alien cannon are destroyed. There seems to be inconsistency here.
- It may have something to do with the beam intensity and building materials. When they fire at Area 51, the base shakes and the lights flicker, indicating some sort of interference. However, what gets me is how long they keep firing the beam after the pulse. The LA ship keeps firing the beam until the blast wave has gone a few miles in all directions. However, the NYC and DC ships seem to cut out immediately after the pulse.
- The LA ship firing a second pulse I think is a mistake, because there's no reason to fire it again as the wave is already propogating past Downtown and into the surrounding areas. Why the White House starts blowing up when the beam fires is probably because unlike the US Bank Tower and ESB, the White House (to my knowledge) is primarily a stone structure with steel interior framing and is much older. The ESB and USBT are steel structures and are relatively new. The beam caused the building to start losing structural integrity and catch fire. The beam that is fired is likely a "designator" beam, then the main pulse rides down the beam to the target. Until the main pulse is ready, the beam is inert.
- The LA ship doesn't fire a second pulse. It shoots the targeting beam, fires the pulse, then keeps the targeting beam active for at least a minute, even after all of downtown LA has been flattened. Could be a production mistake, of course.
Where the hell's the Secret Service?
- The President shows a reckless disregard for his own safety throughout the movie. In real life, the Secret Service would've dragged him out of Washington long before the alien ship attacked that helicopter.
- Up until then, the aliens had shown no obvious sign of being hostile. Whitmore was staying of his own accord. They do stay alongside him for the rest of the film and help blast the Area 51 prisoner.
Aliens are too dumb to live?
- The aliens must have realized during the final battle that their shields had suffered some sort of malfunction. They also must have known that having stuff explode in their energy cores is a very bad thing for them. So why did they open up their energy cores in the first place to so that those pesky humans could Attack Its Weak Point? They may as well have hung out a sign saying "please kill us now". And apparently all the city-destroyers were taken down this way, so all the aliens were apparently just that dumb.
- They suffered a computer failure, but possibly didn't realize the shields were down until the first missile hit. Opening the weapon was risky, but they were trying to wipe out a center of resistance. Their fighters had already strafed the base, however the base was deep underground. This necessitated the main weapon. Also, it can be inferred the other air forces concentrated their firepower on the weapon, blowing off the panels and triggering it that way.
- They may not have realized it was possible. The rest of the missiles fired barely scratched their paint. The effect looks like the plane being in the targeting area when they fired caused their own gun to backfire.
- Dr. Okun is taken over by the alien and murdered. Reaction: oh well. President is taken over by the alien. Reaction: quick, let's kill it!
- Ok, so they know they may only have a few minutes of time with the shields down. It's best to hit them with the most powerful stuff you've got (except for nukes). So they go with the same plan as before - a plan that was idiotic vs a 15-mile-wide ship in the first place: use sidewinders and similar types of missiles fired from fighter jets, meant for destroying other jets or possibly armored vehicles and small ground installations (the sidewinder is air-to-air, but they fire some other type of missile also). This would be like sending a bunch of guys with pistols and grenades to try and sink an aircraft carrier. Why not employ bunker-busters, cruise missiles, etc? Granted maybe they are unable to find many of those available by the time of the second attack. It still is odd that the USA doesn't go with these in the first attack - they wouldn't have worked anyway, but nobody knew that at the time. They just send out fighter jets and then jump straight to H-bombs.