The summer blockbuster season always serves as an unwritten invitation for filmmakers to blow up stuff. But in recent years, filmmakers often have chosen to blow up stuff in a specific place: Washington, D.C.
Havoc has been wreaked in the on-screen version of our nation’s capital many times during the past 15 years, ever since “Independence Day” set a new benchmark for monumental destruction by depicting aliens blowing up the White House.
On this July 4th weekend — as we celebrate our nation’s independence as well as the 15th anniversary of that Will Smith disaster classic — here’s a look at some of the more notable examples of summer-movie madness unleashed right here in Washington.
1996: “Independence Day”
Aliens take over Earth in epic and deafening fashion, making the White House go kaplooey and thereby rendering President Bill Pullman — not to mention the inhabitants of D.C. and other major cities — homeless. But no need to worry: the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Jeff Goldblum eventually get everything under control.
D.C. damage assessment: Total annihilation.
2001: “Planet of the Apes”
Spoiler alert: During the conclusion of this Tim Burton remake, Mark Wahlberg travels through space as well as time, crash lands in the Reflecting Pool and skids onto the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Which is now presided over by — what? — a stone statue of a simian general!
D.C. damage asssessment: Some cosmetic surgery may be needed on the National Mall. But most of the damage here was psychological, as moviegoers struggled to understand what the heck that ending meant.
2003: “X2: X-Men United”
The second X-Men movie opens with a mutant named Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) breaking into the White House and attempting unsuccessfully to assassinate the president.
D.C. damage assessment: Minor. Some furniture may have broken and the Secret Service may have left behind some unsavory bullet holes in the Oval Office. But the White House and commander in chief remained intact.
2007: “Live Free or Die Hard”
In addition to a stunning series of July 4th weekend car accidents on the streets of D.C. — including one in which a police cruiser improbably collides with a helicopter in flight — this John McClain flick also features the chilling (and phony) broadcast image of the Capitol getting blown to bits.
D.C. damage assessment: The streets are a mess and massive panic ensues. But since the TV footage of the Capitol was just a ruse cooked up by that mean Timothy Olyphant, at least debate on the House floor can eventually resume.
2011: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
The Autobots and Decepticons play some of their smashy-crashy war games in Washington. As a result, the head of Abraham Lincoln gets decapitated from his memorial, the 16th president is ousted from his seat and Megatron takes Lincoln’s place.
D.C. damage assessment: The city most definitely ends up in bad shape, although Chicago ultimately gets it much worse. Here’s another matter worth assessing: What’s more disturbing — an ape taking over the Lincoln Memorial or a Michael Bay-crafted robot? While you mull over the answer to that question, reminisce about the actual accident that occurred in D.C. during filming of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”