“Didn’t I Promise You Fireworks?” A Bold Proposal for an “Independence Day” 20th Anniversary Celebration

If a Powerbook can hack an alien spaceship, then surely we can pull this off.

[Editor’s note: Are you fan of all things ID4? Don’t miss the Independence Day Overview, our downloadable commentary on the movie. Get it now!]

independence day will smith

“Didn’t I promise you fireworks?”

That’s the last line of the landmark 1996 action movie Independence Day: Captain Hiller fulfills a pledge he made to his son earlier in the movie for fireworks on the Fourth of July, albeit in a slightly different way than he’d anticipated.

independence day fireworks

Hiller’s son got his fireworks. So where are ours?

Don’t get me wrong: if you live in the United States, you can get fireworks–and I mean the traditional kind, not the radioactive alien shrapnel variety that Hiller’s son gets–without too much difficulty on the Fourth of July. Any municipality that loves America will ensure that its citizens get to enjoy a fireworks show on this day.

But not in the way that we deserve them.

“Didn’t I promise you fireworks?”

Recently I was struck by a seemingly obvious idea: why not screen Independence Day outdoors on Independence Day, followed by a massive fireworks show? The pyro would start right after the aforementioned line and just let loose as the credits roll. It would be glorious, wouldn’t it? So why doesn’t this happen every year, all over the place?

The reason is, unfortunately, as obvious as the appeal of this idea: the fireworks show would start too late. An outdoor movie needs to start after sunset. If the screening were to start at 8:30 PM, the fireworks show wouldn’t start until close to 11 PM, when, let’s face it, plenty of people will already be asleep.

“Didn’t I promise you fireworks?”

But here’s the thing: I have a solution to this problem. And like the solutions to the alien invasion depicted in the movie, they’re as crazy as the crazy circumstances call for:

Conduct the movie and fireworks show far from major population centers that would be disturbed by a massive display of fireworks at 11 PM.

What sort of place would fit the bill? Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps a DESERT. Kind of like this one:

independence day desert

That’s right. I’m calling for a festive outdoor screening of Independence Day and fireworks show on Independence Day in the middle of the desert, as close to Area 51 as the Federal Government and logistical concerns would allow.

Crazy, right? Who in their right mind would camp out in the desert for a movie and fireworks show?

Well, first of all, there is a precedent for people camping out in the desert for a major event. It’s called Burning Man.

And second, perhaps most importantly, the perfect occasion for this event is coming soon. Very soon. Early July 2016 will see the 20th anniversary of the movie and, if the rumors are to be believed, the release of the long-awaited sequel. If there will ever be a time to gather thousands of people in the desert for a movie screening (or two) and fireworks show, it will be Early July 2016.

Still not sold on the idea? Haven’t reserved your plane ticket and RV rental yet? I don’t blame you. But hear me out on this. See, this isn’t just a single night of festivities (maybe two if this sequel actually happens, but I’m not banking on it). Like Burning Man, it’s going to be a days-long festival. After all, the movie already gives us a structure for this:

July 2

The festival will start with an “End of the World” concert featuring apocalyptic songs from and thematically related to the movie such as “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” and “I Want an Alien for Christmas” (by Fountains of Wayne. Different holiday, but I mean, how could you not?).

After the concert, scale model replicas of major world landmarks will be destroyed with high explosives. We’ll be in the middle of the desert, after all. Where else could you do this? It would be a shame not to.

independence day empire state building

July 3

The day will start with a somber reflection on the twenty years that have passed since the release of Independence Day. Just like the failed counterattacks against the aliens on this day (in the movie), how too, have we tried but failed to prevent calamity at home? Historians will lecture on Hurricane Katrina,  9/11, and the Great Recession.

In the movie, July 3 ends on a major downer: the death of the First Lady. It’s a really bad day. So as not to make this entire day of the festival devoid of any fun, we’ll borrow an event from the early hours of July 4: a couple will get married. They don’t have to be a Marine Corps aviator and a stripper dancer,  but the festival organizers will do their best to find such a pair. A security guard and a woman who knows how to Dougie would probably be close enough.

independence day wedding

July 4

During the day, computer programmers will participate in a “hackathon.” They’ll create an iPhone game, an astronomy app, or something else that can be remotely connected to the effort to defend Earth from interstellar invaders (but no viruses!).

Before the main event, a panel of cast and crew will speak about their experiences making the movie and its impact on their careers. Randy Quaid will make a triumphant return from alcoholism insanity exile in Canada to join the panel. Sacrificing himself to save the movie and/or fireworks show hopefully won’t be necessary, but presumably he could be convinced to commit a selfless act for the greater good.

independence day randy quaid

July 5

If Roland Emmerich is to be believed, there will be be a screening of the Independence Day sequel.

But again, I’m not banking on this. If there’s no Independence Day sequel, the festival will end. Stragglers could stay behind and watch Mars Attacks, which will also be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016.

By now, you’re either convinced of the brilliance of this idea or have stopped reading a long time ago. So assuming you’re in the former camp, you’re probably now wondering who has the resources and the spare time to pull something like this off. Well, I have an answer for that too. The first option would be 20th Century Fox, who would have both the resources and staff time to organize a major event to promote this theoretical Independence Day sequel. But if they’re not interested, or if, as we all expect, this movie never gets made, I have to look to…you.

All of you. Or rather, one of you who’s crazy enough to make this happen. Feel free to take this idea and organize a Kickstarter. If you do, just let me know about it. We’ll help publicize the campaign. I’ll kick in more than a few bucks and, of course, will show up to participate in the festivities.

I suspect this will forever remain an insane idea that I cooked up and posted onto the internet. July 4, 2016, will probably come and go without an Independence Day screening and fireworks show in the middle of the desert. But how glorious would it be if it were to happen? What greater celebration of the American spirit could there be than defying impossible odds to achieve great things?

Truly great things, like blowing things up in the most spectacular fashion possible?

independence day mothership

“Didn’t I promise you fireworks?”

6 Comments on ““Didn’t I Promise You Fireworks?” A Bold Proposal for an “Independence Day” 20th Anniversary Celebration”

  1. Ben Adams OTI Staff #

    Also, I’m sure that Captain Hiller is excited about defeating the aliens and all, but he’s pretty cavalier about the whole thing. It’s worth remembering that when he’s looking up at the the “fireworks,” he’s looking at the last remains of an entire race of people. We (humanity) just committed genocide – IIRC, the entire alien civilization packs up and goes from planet to planet, so it’s quite probably that between the mother ship and the saucers around the world that have been taken down, we got them all. Sure, it was in self-defense, and they were trying to genocide US first, but surely that’s occasion for at least some reflection.


  2. Jamas Enright #

    If it’s 20 years for ID4… then it’s 20 years for a great sci-fi alien invasion story: The Arrival! (Although I think we should all agree to ignore that sequel…)


  3. An Inside Joke #

    OK, but seriously? You’d need:

    – Permits
    – Rights to the film
    – Projection equipment
    – Funding for the fireworks and access to a professional fireworks shooter (feel free to fill me in on what this job title is.)

    The events for the 2-3 and 5th might be more difficult to plan, as they’re events in their own rights, but the 4th plans seem plenty feasible. Maybe knock it down from full out concert/panel discussions/hack-a-thon into a more relaxed live OTI discussion, some indie art projects, and it can’t be any more difficult to organize than the aforementioned Burning Man, and we have two years.

    I’m in!


    • Shana Mlawski OTI Staff #

      I agree with these points. My feeling is the way to make this actually feasible would be to avoid using Burning Man as a model (too long, too enormous) and look at something smaller. I was just at Dublin Bloomsday, so I’ll use that as an example. It’s just a one day thing, and even though there were lots of events, they were all fairly small, and most were organized by smaller groups. Stuff that was featured that could be ID4-ified:

      -Book readings: People can read their short ID4 fan fiction or act out famous scenes from the movie

      -Themed food and drink: Sold at stalls and/or served at a single themed meal (tickets bought in advance)

      -Singalongs: Using songs from the movie (would you need to get the rights, I wonder?) or fan-written songs

      -Cosplay contest: Self-explanatory

      -Lectures, panels, and special guests: BECAUSE WHAT IS BILL PULLMAN DOING I ASK YOU

      -Indie theater/burlesque: Plus maybe a stripping contest to honor Vivica A. Fox?

      -Gallery of fan art or, if possible, actual items from the movie

      -Show the movie

      This seems doable to me, so long as you could persuade indie artists and other groups to take the reins on some of this stuff.

      The main problem I see with doing this in the middle of the desert would be security. Also toilets. Yes I know I’m taking this too seriously


  4. Jamas Enright #

    “I’ll go build my own screending, with blackjack and hookers. In fact, forget the screening and the blackjack. Ahh, screw the whole thing!”


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