Analysis of the extraterrestrial species in ‘Independence Day’
Being one of the most famous Science-Fiction films of all time, ‘Independence Day’, which was directed by Roland Emmerich, deals with an alien invasion of the earth and mankind’s response to it. The film was published in 1996 and enjoyed great popularity within its world-wide audience, making it the current 39th-highest-grossing film of all time (Source: the-numbers.com).
This success might be down to the illustration and visualisation of the aliens who invade the earth, and to answer the question of their importance for the film, I am going to analyse the extraterrestrial race in this essay.
First of all, it can be seen that the aliens hide their actual appearance in a bio-mechanical suit, before their body is revealed later on. These suits enclose their real bodies (probably in order to protect them) and have several tentacles attached to the back. While the suits have a sand-like colour, the aliens’ real skin colour is more of a brown/green-mixture. In contrast to the suits, their bodies are actually slimy and greasy, which, in addition to their smelliness, lets the humans perceive them as pretty disgusting creatures. The bodies consist of a huge, triangle-shaped head with large eyes and no mouth; as well as a slim torso with skinny limbs and claw-resembling hands and feet.
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Since the aliens have no sort of organ of speech/hearing, they communicate with each other through telepathy and they are also able to gain the control over humans and make use of them in order to communicate with creatures of another race, as it can be seen in the scene where an alien controls the doctor who tried to inspect it. Technologically, the aliens are far more advanced than the humans: their attacks are led by a huge mother ship containing thousands of aliens; it possesses the power of sending out several smaller space ships to operate simultaneously. They synchronise their efforts through a signal which is hidden inside the human satellite system, making use of it by attacking multiple big cities on earth at the same time. Having no opportunity to save these cities from the attacks and being left helpless, humankind’s inferiority in this aspect is shown quite clearly. As well as their attacking potential, they also are hard to be harmed because of their bio-mechanical suits and a protective shield which surrounds the spaceships. But apart from the technological superiority, they have similar living conditions as a human being; they breathe oxygen and show similar reactions to heat and coldness.
In the film, there are several indications of the fact that the same extraterrestrial race has already been to the earth about fifty years ago, in form of three alien bodies and a spaceship which are stored at the US Air force base. The scientists had the chance to study the aliens’ physique and the technology of the spaceship, which crashed on Roswell in 1947; leading to important knowledge that is necessary for the humans’ victory over them at the end of the film. As it becomes clear in the scene where a captured alien is questioned by the president, their plans do not include making new friends on earth as some Americans assumed before the aliens started destroying New York. Quite the opposite, it is revealed that the extraterrestrial species moves from planet to planet and simply consumes all natural resources existent.
But are the aliens featuring in ‘Independence Day’ typical aliens who match the imagination of most viewers?
On the one hand, there are lots of stereotypes connected with an extraterrestrial race which can be found in the film, such as the great disparity of their appearance in comparison to the humans’: green skin, sliminess, weird shapes, huge heads, boniness and large eyes are just some of the physical aspects which separate them from us. Additionally, there are not many alien films in which the aliens are not planning to take over the planet but are just looking for friendship; they are shown as evil creatures that do not really have any feelings – so this is another criterion which is matched by the film. Another stereotype the film makes usage of is making the aliens the superior race, in similar films it can always be seen that the extraterrestrials are more intelligent and have technology far more advanced than ours. Referring to said intelligence, the aliens know exactly where they can hurt the Americans the most, obviously starting with the Statue of Liberty and the White House.
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On the other hand, the owning of a protective suit, which is more like a ‘second skin’ is not really stereotypical for aliens; usually the aliens in films just focus on the attacking qualities. But the suit is again used to make them seem invulnerable at the beginning of the film, before the scientists later discover that they actually can be harmed; that is often the case in alien films.
To sum up, it can be seen that the extraterrestrial race in ‘Independence Day’ is based on many different stereotypes, making it an important group of the film. As I already concluded, most of this fear evolving in the viewer’s mind is due to the aliens’ non-human-like appearance and their abnormal superiority. Since a human being is also fascinated by this extraterrestrial race and curious about it, the aliens are an essential part which arouses interest in the film and it could be suggested that they played an important part in the films’ global success.