Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

A Vital Independence Day Question

As we celebrate our nation’s anniversary, many questions can be asked. What was it like, finally gaining independence? Were the freedom fighters scared? Inspired? Both? Did the actual day—July 4—take on cultural significance at the time?

How do you punch a skull and not break your hand?

Ah—the last one. That, to me, is most pressing as I ponder independence day and Independence Day. In the 1996 blockbuster film, Will Smith plays Steven Hiller, a military pilot who becomes the unlikely leader of the world’s fight for survival against an alien invasion. The movie made oodles of money, and calls for the suspension of belief no less than 2,000 times. The one moment that goes overlooked, however, is the one that always leaves me shaking my head.

In the movie’s first alien-human interaction, Hiller opens the top of the space ship, sees a grotesque alien, punches him and says, “Welcome to earth!” Then he smokes a cigar.

All skull, no flesh.
All skull, no flesh.

If you look closely, the alien’s head is a skull. Literally, it’s bone. So, I ask, how does the punch—even from a 180-pound man like Steve Hiller—knock the alien out with such force and speed? Was there not someone on the production crew whispering, “Maybe he should slug him in the eye …” or “Can we just have the creature eat Will?”

Alas, we’re left with what we’re left with.

Happy 4th!