Independence Day (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roland Emmerich|
|Produced by||Dean Devlin|
|Written by||Dean Devlin |
|Starring||Will Smith |
Vivica A. Fox
|Music by||David Arnold|
|Cinematography||Karl Walter Lindenlaub|
|Editing by||David Brenner|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)|| |
|Running time||145 minutes|
Independence Day is a 1996 American disaster science fiction action film about an alien invasion of Earth. The narrative focuses on a disparate group of individuals and families as they converge in the Nevada desert and, along with the rest of the human population, participate in a last-chance counterattack on July 4 – the same date as the Independence Day holiday in the United States. It was directed by German director Roland Emmerich, who co-wrote the script with producer Dean Devlin.
While promoting Stargate in Europe, Emmerich came up with the idea for the film when fielding a question about his own belief in the existence of alien life. He and Devlin decided to incorporate a large-scale attack when noticing that aliens in most invasion films travel long distances in outer space only to remain hidden when reaching Earth. Principal photography for the film began in July 1995 in New York City, and the film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.
The film was scheduled for release on July 3, 1996, but due to the high level of anticipation for the movie, many theaters began showing it on the evening of July 2, 1996, the same day the film begins. The film's combined domestic and international box office gross is $816,969,268, which at one point was the second-highest worldwide gross of all-time. It holds the 31st highest worldwide gross of a movie all-time, and was at the forefront of the large-scale disaster film and science fiction resurgences of the mid-to-late-1990s. It also won the Academy Award for Visual Effects.
On July 2, an enormous alien mothership enters Earth's orbit and deploys 36 saucer-shaped 15 mile wide ships over major cities around the globe. In New York City, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) discovers transmissions hidden in satellite links that he believes the aliens are using to coordinate an attack. David and his father Julius (Judd Hirsch) travel to the White House and warn President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) of the attack. The President, portions of his Cabinet and the Levinsons narrowly escape aboard Air Force One as the alien spacecraft destroy Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, and other major cities.
Meanwhile, USMC Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is part of a counterattack against the ships. His girlfriend Jasmine, her son, and their pet dog survive the destruction of Los Angeles by hiding in a storage closet in a freeway tunnel. The next day, July 3, Jasmine commandeers an abandoned maintenance truck to drive to Hiller's military base. Along the way she picks up several survivors. She also finds the injured First Lady (Mary McDonnell), who had been flying out of Los Angeles by helicopter when it was knocked down in the alien attack.
Captain Hiller leads a squadron of F/A-18 Hornets on a sortie against one of the spaceships. The ships are found to be guarded by force fields, which repel any weapons or detonations. The ship releases scores of fighters, armed with similar shields and weaponry. During a one-sided dogfight, Hiller captures an alien pilot after luring an alien fighter to the Grand Canyon, where he tricks it into a crash landing. While dragging the unconscious alien across the desert, Hiller is picked up by a ragtag group of refugees driving campers and trucks to a nearby military base. The group includes Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), an alcoholic crop-duster who claimed to have been abducted by aliens years earlier. They take the captured alien to Area 51, where Air Force One has already landed. Area 51 conceals a top secret facility housing a recovered spacecraft and alien bodies stored since the Roswell incident in 1947. The captured alien regains consciousness in a sealed lab and reveals that its species travels the galaxy, harvesting planets' resources before moving on. The alien tries to psychically attack President Whitmore, but is killed by his Secret Service detail. A nuclear attack against a shield protected ship over Houston is a failure. Captain Hiller, wanting to find Jasmine, steals a helicopter and travels back to his abandoned base where he finds Jasmine, the First Lady and other survivors. The President and his daughter Patricia (Mae Whitman) later visit the First Lady in the base hospital and she dies from internal injuries from the helicopter crash. The President stays with her for the last few minutes of her life. Outside, Patricia and the President hug and comfort each other.
On July 4, David devises a plan to use the 1947 fighter to sneak into the mothership and introduce a computer virus before detonating a nuclear device inside. The computer virus would filter down to the city ships, deactivating their shields. The plan is to simultaneously attack the 36 city ships once their shields are down. Hiller volunteers to be the pilot, since he is the only person to have seen them in action and survive, giving him unique knowledge of the ship's capabilities. David decides he must go along to upload the virus. With few military pilots left the President (a former fighter pilot himself) rallies the refugees and garners a number of volunteers, including Casse. Morse code is used to contact forces around the world in order to coordinate the attack.
After the virus is implanted and lowers the shields, Whitmore leads an attack against the Los Angeles ship slowly approaching Area 51. Although the fighters can now damage the alien ship, they run out of missiles shooting down the large number of the ship's fighters. The city ship's sheer size makes missiles ineffectual and the ship prepares to fire its main weapon at Area 51. Casse has the last missile, but it jams, so he flies his aircraft into the main weapon bay in a suicide attack, causing a chain reaction which destroys the alien ship.
Simultaneously, other forces around the world are able to bring down the remaining destroyers using Casse's method. David and Hiller are discovered on the mothership, but when they fire their nuclear weapon, their ship is freed and they escape with just seconds to spare. The mothership is destroyed and the 1947 fighter crashes in the desert near Area 51. The world celebrates, and the main characters watch debris from the mothership enter the atmosphere, reminiscent of fireworks.
- Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller: An assured United States Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot with VMFA-314. Devlin and Emmerich had always envisioned an African-American for the role, and specifically wanted Smith after seeing his performance in Six Degrees of Separation.
- Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson: An MIT-educated computer expert, chess enthusiast and environmentalist, working as a satellite technician in New York City.
- Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore: President of the United States and a former Persian Gulf War fighter pilot. To prepare for the role, Pullman read The Commanders by Bob Woodward and watched the documentary film The War Room.
- Margaret Colin as Constance Spano: White House Communications Director, David's ex-wife.
- Robert Loggia as General William Grey: A United States Marine Corps general who is the head of US Space Command. Loggia modeled the character after generals of World War II, particularly George S. Patton.
- Randy Quaid as Russell Casse: A widowed, alcoholic crop duster and veteran Vietnam War pilot who claims to have been an alien abductee ten years prior to the events of the film.
- James Duval as Miguel Casse, Russell's eldest son.
- Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson: David Levinson's father. The character was based on one of Devlin's uncles.
- Mary McDonnell as First Lady Marilyn Whitmore.
- Vivica A. Fox as Jasmine Dubrow: A single mother, Steven's girlfriend, and exotic dancer.
- James Rebhorn as Albert Nimzicki: The Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA. Rebhorn described the character as being much like Oliver North. The character's eventual firing lampoons Joe Nimziki, MGM's head of advertising and reportedly accounted for unpleasant experiences for Devlin and Emmerich when studio executives forced recuts of Stargate.
- Harvey Fierstein as Marty Gilbert: David's boss.
- Adam Baldwin as Major Mitchell: A United States Air Force officer who is the commanding officer at Area 51.
- Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okun: The unkempt and highly excitable scientist in charge of research at Area 51. Devlin, who is open to the idea of bringing Dr. Okun back in the event of a sequel, later implied the character is merely in a coma. The character's appearance and verbal style are based upon those of visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun, with whom Emmerich had worked on Stargate.
- Harry Connick, Jr. as Captain Jimmy Wilder: Steve's best friend and fellow pilot. Connick took over the part for Matthew Perry, originally cast in the role.
- Kiersten Warren as Tiffany: Jasmine's exotic dancer friend.
- Mae Whitman as Patricia, the President's daughter. She is called 'Munchkin' by her parents.
- Frank Welker as Alien vocal effects
The idea for the film came when Emmerich and Devlin were in Europe promoting their film Stargate. A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a movie with content like Stargate if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover 15-mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the largest cities in the world. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said "I think I have an idea for our next film."
Emmerich and Devlin decided to expand on the idea by incorporating a large-scale attack, with Devlin saying he was bothered by the fact that "for the most part, in alien invasion movies, they come down to Earth and they're hidden in some back field ...[o]r they arrive in little spores and inject themselves into the back of someone's head." Emmerich agreed by asking Devlin if arriving from across the galaxy, "would you hide on a farm or would you make a big entrance?" The two wrote the script during a month-long vacation in Mexico, and just one day after they sent it out for consideration, 20th Century Fox chairman Peter Chernin greenlit the screenplay. Pre-production began just three days later in February 1995. The United States military originally intended to provide personnel, vehicles, and costumes for the film; however, they backed out when the producers refused to remove the Area 51 references from the script.
A then-record 3,000-plus special effects shots would ultimately be required for the film. The shoot utilized on-set, in-camera special effects more often than computer-generated effects in an effort to save money and get more authentic pyrotechnic results. Many of these shots were accomplished at Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California, where the film's art department, motion control photography teams, pyrotechnics team, and model shop were headquartered. The production's model-making department built more than twice as many miniatures for the production than had ever been built for any film before by creating miniatures for buildings, city streets, aircraft, landmarks, and monuments. The crew also built miniatures for several of the spaceships featured in the movie, including a 30-foot (9.1 m) destroyer model and a version of the mother ship spanning 12 feet (3.7 m). City streets were recreated, then tilted upright beneath a high-speed camera mounted on a scaffolding filming downwards. An explosion would be ignited below the model, and flames would rise towards the camera, engulfing the tilted model and creating the rolling "wall of destruction" look seen in the film. A model of the White House was also created, covering 10 feet (3.0 m) by 5 feet (1.5 m), and was used in forced-perspective shots before being destroyed in a similar fashion for its own destruction scene. The detonation took a week to plan and required 40 explosive charges.
The aliens in the film were designed by production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. The actual aliens of the film are diminutive and based on a design Tatopoulos drew when tasked by Emmerich to create an alien that was "both familiar and completely original". These creatures wear "bio-mechanical" suits that are based on another design Tatopoulos pitched to Emmerich. These suits were 8 feet (2.4 m) tall, equipped with 25 tentacles, and purposely designed to show it could not sustain a person inside so it would not appear to be a "man in a suit".
Principal photography began in July 1995 in New York City. A second unit gathered plate shots and establishing shots of Manhattan, Washington D.C., an RV community in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the Very Large Array on the Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico. The main crew also filmed in nearby Cliffside Park, New Jersey before moving to the former Kaiser Steel mill in Fontana, California to film the post-attack Los Angeles sequences. The production then moved to Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada, where the deserts doubled for Imperial Valley and the Wendover Airport doubled for the El Toro and Area 51 exteriors. It was here where Pullman filmed his pre-battle speech. Immediately before filming the scene, Devlin and Pullman decided to add "Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!" to the end of the speech. At the time, the production was nicknamed "ID4" because Warner Bros. owned the rights to the title Independence Day, and Devlin had hoped if Fox executives noticed the addition in dailies, the impact of the new dialogue would help them win the rights to the title. The right to use the title was eventually won two weeks later.
The production team moved to the Bonneville Salt Flats to film three scenes, then returned to California to film in various places around Los Angeles, including Hughes Aircraft where sets for the cable company and Area 51 interiors were constructed at a former aircraft plant. Sets for the latter included corridors containing windows that were covered with blue material. The filmmakers originally intended to use the chroma key technique to make it appear as if activity was happening on the other side of the glass; but the composited images were not added to the final print because production designers decided the blue panels gave the sets a "clinical look". The attacker hangar set contained an attacker mock-up 65 feet (20 m) wide that took four months to build. The White House interior sets used had already been built for The American President and had previously been used for Nixon. Principal photography completed on November 3, 1995.
The movie originally depicted Russell Casse being rejected as a volunteer for the July 4 aerial counteroffensive because of his alcoholism. He then uses a stolen missile tied to his red biplane to carry out his suicide mission. According to Dean Devlin, test audiences responded well to the scene's irony and comedic value. However, the scene was re-shot to include Russell's acceptance as a volunteer, his crash course in modern fighter aircraft, and him flying an F-18 instead of the biplane. Devlin preferred the alteration because the viewer now witnesses Russell ultimately making the decision to sacrifice his life, and seeing the biplane keeping pace and flying amongst F-18s was "just not believable". The film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.
The score was composed by David Arnold and has received two official CD releases. RCA released a 50 minute album at the time of the film's release. Then in 2010, LaLaLand Records released a limited edition (5000 units) 2-CD set that comprised the complete score plus 12 alternate cues. As of October 2011, the 2-CD set is still available.
RCA, 2 July 1996
- 1969 - We Came in Peace (2:04) (later pressings contain the film version of this track, while earlier ones contain an alternate composition)
- S.E.T.I. - Radio Signal (1:52)
- The Darkest Day (4:13)
- Cancelled Leave (1:45)
- Evacuation (5:47)
- Fire Storm (1:23)
- Aftermath (3:35)
- Base Attack (6:11)
- El Toro Destroyed (1:30)
- International Code (1:32)
- The President's Speech (3:10)
- The Day We Fight Back (4:58)
- Jolly Roger (3:15)
- End Titles (9:08)
LaLaLand Records, 27 April 2010
CD 1: (65:31)
- 1969: We Came in Peace (2:01)
- S.E.T.I. - Radio Signal (1:53)
- Mysto Bridge*/Satellite Collision*/ Destroyers Disengage*/Russell Casse - Pilot* (2:17)
- First Sighting*/AWAC Attack* (2:18)
- The Darkest Day (4:14)
- Moving Day*/Countdown* (2:12)
- Cancelled Leave (1:46)
- Commence Lift-off*/Parabolic Indenwhat?* (1:17)
- Evacuation (5:48)
- Firestorm (1:24)
- Aftermath (3:36)
- Base Attack (6:11)
- Marilyn Found* (1:29)
- Area 51*/The Big Tamale*/Formaldehyde Freak Show* (4:12)
- El Toro Destroyed (1:31)
- Slimey Wakes Up* (5:24)
- Target Remains*/Rescue* (5:56)
- The Death of Marilyn*/Dad's a Genius* (3:34)
- Alien Ship Powers Up* (1:46)
- International Code (1:32)
- Wedding* (1:50)
- The President's Speech (3:11)
CD 2: (63:34)
- Just in Case*/Attacker Fires Up* (3:10)
- The Launch Tunnel*/Mutha Ship*/Virus Uploaded* (8:27)
- Hide!*/Russell's Packin' (The Day We Fight Back)* (4:44)
- He Did It* (1:33)
- Jolly Roger (3:17)
- Victory* (3:40)
- End Credits (9:07)
- 1969: We Came in Peace - Alt.* (2:11)
- Destroyers Disengage (No Choir)* (0:34)
- Cancelled Leave - Alt.* (1:43)
- Commence Lift-off - Alt.* (0:55)
- Base Attack (Segment - Film Version)* (2:27)
- Marilyn Found (No Choir)* (1:28)
- Target Remains/Rescue - Alt.* (2:40)
- Dad's a Genius - Alt.* (0:45)
- Attacker Fires Up (Original Version - No Choir)* (2:01)
- Virus Uploaded - Alt.* (2:35)
- The Day We Fight Back (Original Version) (5:48)
- Jolly Roger - Alt.* (3:22)
- End Credits (Segment, No Choir)* (2:47)
While the film was still in post-production, 20th Century Fox began a massive marketing campaign to help promote the film, beginning with the airing of a dramatic commercial during Super Bowl XXX, for which Fox paid $1.3 million. The subsequent success of the film at the box office resulted in the trend of using Super Bowl air time to kick off the advertising campaign for potential blockbusters.
Fox's Licensing and Merchandising division also entered into co-promotional deals with Apple Inc. The co-marketing project was dubbed "The Power to Save the World" campaign, in which the company used footage of David using his PowerBook laptop in their print and television advertisements. Trendmasters entered a merchandising deal with the film's producers to create a line of tie-in toys. In exchange for product placement, Fox also entered into co-promotional deals with Molson Coors Brewing Company and Coca-Cola.
The movie was marketed with several taglines, including: "We've always believed we weren't alone. On July 4, we'll wish we were", "Earth. Take a good look. It could be your last", and "Don't make plans for August". The weekend before the film's release, the Fox Network aired a half-hour special on the movie, the first third of which was a spoof news report on the events that happen in the film. Roger Ebert attributed most of the film's early success to its teaser trailers and marketing campaigns, acknowledging them as "truly brilliant".
The film had its official premiere held at the now-defunct Mann Plaza Theater in Los Angeles on June 25, 1996. It was then screened privately at the White House for President Bill Clinton and his family before receiving a nationwide release in the United States on July 2, 1996, a day earlier than its previously scheduled opening.
After a six-week, $30 million marketing campaign, Independence Day was released on VHS on November 22, 1996. It became available on DVD on June 27, 2000, and has been re-released on DVD under several different versions with varying supplemental material ever since, including one instance where it was packaged with a lenticular cover. Often accessible on these versions is a special edition of the film, which features eight minutes of additional footage not seen in the original theatrical release. Independence Day became available on Blu-ray discs in the United Kingdom on December 24, 2007, and in North America on March 11, 2008. The Blu-ray edition does not include the deleted scenes.
In other media
Author Stephen Molstad wrote a tie-in novel to help promote the film shortly before its release. The novel goes into further detail on the characters, situations, and overall concept not explored in the film. The novel presents the finale of the film as originally scripted, with the character played by Randy Quaid stealing a missile and roping it to his crop duster biplane.
Following the success of the film, a prequel novel entitled Independence Day: Silent Zone was written by Molstad in February 1998. The novel is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and details the early career of Dr. Brackish Okun.
Molstad wrote a third novel, Independence Day: War in the Desert in July 1999. The novel is both a midquel and sequel to the film. Set in Saudi Arabia on July 3, it centers around Captain Cummins and Colonel Thompson, the two Royal Air Force officers seen receiving the Morse code message in the film.
A Marvel comic book was also written based on the first two novelizations.
On August 4, 1996, BBC Radio 1 broadcast the one-hour play Independence Day UK, written, produced, and directed by Dirk Maggs, a spin-off depicting the alien invasion from a British perspective. None of the original cast was present. Dean Devlin gave Maggs permission to produce an original version, on condition he did not reveal certain details of the movie's plot and the British were not depicted as saving the day. Independence Day UK was set up to be similar to the 1938 radio broadcast of The War Of The Worlds; the first 20 minutes were set as being live.
An Independence Day video game was released in February 1997 for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC, each version receiving mostly tepid reviews. The multi-view shooter game contains various missions to perform, with the ultimate goal of destroying the aliens' primary weapon. A wireless mobile version was released in 2005. A computer game entitled ID4 Online was released in 2000.
Independence Day was the highest-grossing film of 1996. In the United States, Independence Day earned $104.3 million in its first full week, including $96.1 million during its five-day holiday opening, and $50.2 million during its opening weekend. All three figures broke records set by Jurassic Park three years earlier. That film's sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, claimed all three records when it was released the following year. Independence Day stayed in the number-one spot for three weeks, and would gross $306,169,268 in the domestic market and $510,800,000 in foreign markets during its theatrical run. The combined total of $816,969,268 once trailed only the worldwide earnings of Jurassic Park as the highest of all-time. It has been surpassed by several 21st century films since, and currently holds the 30th highest worldwide gross for a movie all-time. Hoping to capitalize in the wake of the film's success, several studios released more large-scale disaster films, and the already rising interest in science fiction-related media was further increased by the film's popularity.
A month after the film's release, jewelry designers and marketing consultants reported an increased interest in dolphin-themed jewelry, since the character of Jasmine in the film wears dolphin earrings and is presented with a wedding ring featuring a gold dolphin.
The reviews of the movie were generally positive. Independence Day is ranked as "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes with a 61% positive rating, with 33 out of 55 critics giving it positive reviews. It has a metascore of 59 (based on 18 reviews) on Metacritic. Critics acknowledged the film had "cardboard" and "stereotypical" characters, and weak dialogue. The shot of the White House's destruction has been declared a milestone in visual effects and one of the most memorable scenes of the 1990s. In a 2010 poll, the readers of Entertainment Weekly rated it the second greatest summer movie of the previous 20 years, ranking only behind Jurassic Park.
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film his highest rating, declaring it the "apotheosis" of Star Wars. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+ for living up to its massive hype, adding "charm is the foremost of this epic's contemporary characteristics. The script is witty, knowing, cool." Eight years later, Entertainment Weekly would rate the movie as one of the best disaster movies of all-time. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times felt that the movie did an "excellent job conveying the boggling immensity of [the] extraterrestrial vehicles [...] and panic in the streets" and the scenes of the alien attack were "disturbing, unsettling and completely convincing".
The nationalistic overtones of the film were widely criticized by reviewers outside the USA. Movie Review UK described the film as "A mish-mash of elements from a wide variety of alien invasion movies and gung-ho American jingoism." The speech in which Whitmore states that victory in the coming war would see the entire world henceforth describe July 4 as its independence day, was described as "the most jaw-droppingly pompous soliloquy ever delivered in a mainstream Hollywood movie" in a BBC review. In 2003, readers of the United Kingdom's most popular movie magazine, Empire, voted the scene that contained the speech as the "Cheesiest Movie Moment of All-Time". Inversely, Empire critic Kim Newman gave the film a five-star rating in the magazine's original review of the film.
Several prominent critics expressed disappointment with the quality of Independence Day's much-hyped special effects. Newsweek's David Ansen claimed the special effects were of no better caliber than those seen nineteen years earlier in Star Wars. Todd McCarthy of Variety felt the production's budget-conscious approach resulted in "cheesy" shots that lacked in quality relative to the effects present in films directed by James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. Roger Ebert cited a lack of imagination in the spaceship and creature designs as one of the reasons for his marginally negative review, and Gene Siskel expressed the same sentiments in their on-air review of the movie.
Despite this, the film won the Academy Award for Visual Effects, beating Twister and Dragonheart. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound (Chris Carpenter, Bill W. Benton, Bob Beemer and Jeff Wexler) but lost to The English Patient. Composer David Arnold won a Grammy Award for his work on the film. The movie also won an Amanda Award for Best Foreign Feature Film. Viewers voted for Independence Day to receive an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, a People's Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture, and a Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie. It received Saturn Awards for Best Director, Best Science Fiction Film, and Best Special Effects. The film was awarded Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects at the inaugural Golden Satellite Award ceremony. The film received a Golden Raspberry nomination in 1996 for Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 million but lost to Twister.
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Science Fiction Film
The possibility of a sequel had long been discussed, and Devlin once stated the world's reaction to the September 11 attacks influenced him to strongly consider making a sequel to the film. Devlin began writing an outline for a script with Emmerich, but in May 2004, Emmerich said he and Devlin had attempted to "figure out a way how to continue the story", but that this ultimately did not work, and the pair abandoned the idea.
In October 2009, Emmerich said he once again had plans for a sequel, and has since considered the idea of making two sequels to form a trilogy. On June 24, 2011, Devlin confirmed that he and Emmerich have found an idea for the sequels and have written a treatment for it, with both Emmerich and Devlin having the desire for Will Smith to return for the sequels. In October of 2011, however, discussions for Smith returning were halted, due to Fox's refusal to provide the $50 million salary demanded by Smith for the two sequels. Emmerich, however, made assurances that the films would be shot back-to-back, regardless of Smith's involvement.
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Independence Day|
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|Awards and achievements|
|Preceded by |
|Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film |
|Succeeded by |
Men in Black
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