Independence Day: A Study In Plot Holes, And Why They Don’t Always Matter

If you read this blog regularly, you have probably noticed that I have a love for all things Will Smith.  He is one of the few actors whose movies I will always go to see, even if they don’t immediately interest me, just because he is in them.  Also, because I was alive and conscious in the 90’s, it should come as no surprise that I saw (and loved!) Independence Day, Smith’s 1996 blockbuster about aliens that blow up famous landmarks.

What may come as a surprise is that I have seen this movie enough times (the exact number is impossible to calculate) to have done the following:

1) Notice the numerous, and not minor, plot holes that clog up the logic of the movie,

2) Completely disregard them, and

3) Re-notice them and contemplate why they don’t bother me.

What follows are a few of the major plot holes and the reasons they make no difference to the continuity or the entertainment value of the film:

– Just about every major character has a close shave with being blown up by the alien invaders, and most of these close shaves are completely incredible.  Air Force One almost entirely being engulfed in the inferno of an exploding Washington, D.C.?  I’m no expert in physics, but I’m pretty sure that the plane would get sucked into the flames, if anything.  Certainly, a final, life-saving thrust during takeoff is not really plausible.  But my favorite brush with death belongs to Vivica A. Fox (and her super-lucky dog, Boomer), who manages to kick in the door of a maintenance closet and ride out the explosion running through the tunnel in which she is caught — with the closet door open!  One thing I know for sure: fire loves air.  Even air in closets.




– Will Smith is awesome, but even I have my doubts that a fighter pilot who didn’t make it into NASA learns to fly an alien spaceship just by watching its maneuvers in battle once.  Even less plausible: he learns to fly it in space.  That said, I’m willing to believe that if anyone can manage to do that, it’s Will Smith.


“I’ve seen these things in action, and I’m well aware of their maneuvering capabilities.”


– Jeff Goldblum drinks almost an entire bottle of whiskey before having the epiphany that saves the world: give the alien mothership a computer virus.  The cable repairman then sobers up enough to create a virus that somehow overcomes the aliens’ vastly superior technology (even though that technology has only been available to him for about a day and a half).


“We’ll give it a cold!”


– Randy Quaid manages to take down the alien spacecraft by flying into its laser beam as it begins to fire, causing the beam to blow back into the ship and explode it.  Never mind that the buildings in that same position succumbed quite easily to the aliens’ lasers.  Also, I find it kind of hilarious that, in this film, the whole human race is saved by a suicide bomber.  Probably wouldn’t go over so well today.

“Alright, you alien assholes!”

There are a lot of other plot holes — more than I care to go over — but you get my point.  The movie is not a paragon of believability, fact, or logic.  What it is? A really great friggin’ story.  And that’s really all you need to know about it.

The characters are likeable, the plot is compelling, and the problem (the annihiliation of the human race) is one that audiences really want to get solved.  People want to believe that characters they like can accomplish things that don’t seem possible.  And they really, really, want to believe that people could defeat alien invaders bent on killing off the species.  Besides, if you’re enjoying yourself, why question it?

That said, if the plot of your story isn’t compelling enough, or your audience doesn’t enjoy spending time with your characters, a major plot hole will sink your story before you blink.  The point is, in fiction, things don’t always have to go exactly as they would in real life.  That’s the fun of fiction: you make it up as you go along.