Happy 4th of July!

You know what would make sense? Releasing Captain America: The First Avenger on the 4th of July weekend. I mean, that’s just screaming “Duh!” Right?

But since I’m not in charge of the schedule, and since we have to wait just a little while longer for that movie, here’s a list of some good old-fashioned red-blooded American hero pix:

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Yeah. Because it’s freakin’ Independence Day, and there are lots of ‘splosions. And Randy Quaid flies a fighter jet up into the belly of the Beast and says “I’m back!” Priceless.

And it gives Bill Pullman a chance to chew the scenery as the President. Plus, there’s Brent Spiner and Robert Loggia and a cast of thousands. And really, you do realize that the ending is the 20th century equivalent of The War of the Worlds, right? It’s just a different kind of bug that got the alien invaders.

G. I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra

Come on. The slogan says it all: “A Real American Hero”. What? You think it would make sense to turn Joe into this multi-national coalition force in the name of Political Correctness? Oh, wait…

OK, then. Dennis Quaid and Sienna Miller.

I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled with this iteration of JOE. I thought the notion of making the “Joes” anything but American military was disrespectful to the service men and women who put their lives on the line so Hollywood can go and do something like this just because the suits in Marketing think other countries don’t like us very much and won’t buy a ticket.

Let’s ask Joe Johnston about that after Captain America shows ’em what’s what.

WONDER WOMAN

The original TV show, not the tripe David E. Kelley tried to pass off as the real thing. The show that launched Lynda Carter into “icon” status wasn’t ashamed to embrace the character’s roots in World War I, and to keep the notion that Wonder Woman’s costume was based on Old Glory.

Of course, if animation is more your thing, you can opt for the more recent movie from 2009, starring Keri Russell as the voice of the Amazon. And Lucy Lawless took a turn in the tights (sort of ) in the animated Justice League: New Frontier.

FALLING SKIES

[For our coverage, click here.]

So far, this is a really well-done show about what would happen if we were bounced around by aliens playing in a new sandbox. And the pilot draws so many parallels to the American Revolution, it’s perfectly logical to include it here. The resistance fighting the oppressive regime has long been a trope of science fiction, but a lot of times it’s because it works. You root for the underdog, especially if he’s right and has a moral clarity that the Bad Guy doesn’t have.  Plus, “Falling Skies” is a great companion piece to…

V & V: THE FINAL BATTLE

“Falling Skies” is the American Revolution. “V” was World War II, with plenty of Nazi and Holocaust references. Nowadays, the cultural symbolism might be lost on the younger generations, which is lamentable. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat the mistakes, etc. etc.

And while “V: The Final Battle” may have fizzled at the end with the whole “Star Child” thing, the two mini-series as a whole unit gave us some of the best science fiction on television at the time. Impressive effects, including make-up, and of course, Micheal Ironside. And Faye Grant.

Speaking of Faye Grant:

THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO

Again, the whole “American” thing. This was back when it was OK to be proud that you lived in the US. I still am. You should be, too. Unless, of course, you live someplace else.

The show took a well-worn trope (mortal gets powers from superior beings) and turned it on its head when Ralph loses the instructions. Not just once, but twice. How does that happen? This show also gave us an early glimpse at Faye Grant and Micheal Pare, who went on to star in

THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT

Remember this one? Based on “actual events” in 1943 (which cannot be confirmed, of course), this movie is about a US Navy ship that was the test bed for an experimental device that was designed to generate force fields and invisibility. Except it sent the ship hurtling through time instead, all the way to 1984. The movie also stars a pre-Robocop Nancy Allen.

I still remember seeing the ship in the aftermath of the experiment, with the ship’s crew fused into the decks and hull of the ship.  I was 14 when this movie came out, and the sight of the crew in such a state is still creepy.  (They obviously did not have the oscillation overthruster.)

BATMAN BEGINS & THE DARK KIGHT

This one has it all: a survivor of a tragedy picks himself up instead of wallowing in despair and blaming everyone else, Bruce Wayne trains to become the avenger for those who can’t fight for themselves. It’s the ultimate “fighting for justice” story. And it also shows that audiences still care to see a definite good guy and bad guy, and we don’t have to understand or sympathize with said bad guy. We just want to watch the Good Guy win.

The sequel, TheDark Kight, has been characterized by the Wall Street Journal as a parallel for the administration of President George W. Bush, citing how the two are demonized by the media and certain members of society, how they have to make difficult decisions in extreme circumstances… Whatever your political view, the fact that The Dark Kight is willing to take on those questions adds a depth that previous Bat-movies lack. The Joker, in this version, is essentially a domestic terrorist, and Batman’s approach to his capture are in line with that post-9/11 mentality.

SUPERMAN & SUPERMAN II: THE RICHARD DONNER CUT

Where would we be without the Big Blue Boy Scout? The Kryptonian who was rocketed to Earth as an infant, and grew up in a small town in the middle of Kansas, where he learned Midwest values. With power beyond those of mortal men – capable of bending steel in his bare hands, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound. And you remember what he used to fight for, right? “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”. That still means something to some of us fans.

It’s a shame Donner had a falling out with the Salkinds before these two films were complete. Seeing the Donner cut of Superman II makes me wonder what it would have been like to see that nuclear missile go up into space and detonate the Phantom Zone grid at the end of the first one, leaving a Zod-tastic cliffhanger. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Unless you pull a Roberto Orci and invoke quantum physics, in which case it did in some iteration of the universe.

Still, it’s a great piece, a fascinating look into what could have been. You can even get past the couple of scenes that are comprised only of rehearsal/audition footage. It’s wonderful stuff.

Honorable Mention: LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD

This one’s iffy, in terms of being genre, but the notion of a handful of people hacking into the Internet and disrupting everything all at once – from a moving tractor-trailer rig, no less – has some definite science fiction vibes. Plus, there’s Mac.. er, Justin Long.

And Maggie Q, who currently stars as a government agent gone rogue in “Nikita”. Can’t beat that with a stick. And if you did, she’d kick your butt down the street a few blocks.

So, happy Fourth of July, everyone! And thanks to all of our real heroes: the men and women in our armed forces, the police and fire & first responders, and everyone who sacrifices so these folks can go off to do their jobs and keep the rest of us safe and free.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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