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Local Marine Makes Good: the Movie

Hollywood: The film version of the El Toro air station gives 'Independence Day' a realistic target (for the aliens) and hero (to save the world). But there are a few bits of science fiction.

July 12, 1996|STEVE EMMONS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the movie "Independence Day," the general turns to the El Toro Marine pilot with the awful news: "Haven't you been told? El Toro doesn't exist anymore."

Alas, a squadron of undocumented aliens from outer space has laid waste to the base. It's just one of many moments in the film that ring true to Orange County viewers.

For example:

* Aliens obliterate the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station--just as the economy did, only faster. To save money, the base will be closed by 1999 to become who-knows-what.

* The aliens are defeated by two of the most fearsome men in '90s America: an El Toro Marine and a computer-hacking cable guy.

* The aliens are attacked by El Toro's Black Knights squadron. Until recently, if real aliens had attacked, planes including the Black Knights' really would have taken off from El Toro to meet the threat. Cpl. Peter Dean of the base public information office says the Marines' attack planes have moved to Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.

* The El Toro base is depicted realistically--from the Marine Corps' point of view. That is, there are the mountains, the base . . . and nothing else. No complaining homeowner associations anywhere.

There are some huge mistakes, however, that will stand out to any Orange County resident--and not just because scenes were filmed at the former Hughes facility in Los Angeles.

* After the aliens level downtown Los Angeles, a heroine finds a truck in the rubble, starts it and drives to El Toro in a few hours. You can't even do that on a normal Friday night in the car-pool lane.

* Our hero pilot commandeers a small helicopter and flies from a base in Nevada to El Toro and back, setting a fantastic record for fuel economy.

* The aliens want to mine our natural resources. Good luck. Guess they don't realize just how tough the CC&Rs are around here.

Some moviegoers in the county seemed less-than-saddened at seeing El Toro razed.

"Actually, we in the South County consider anyone north of the El Toro 'Y' to be an alien invader," said Mark Goodman, a Laguna Niguel City Council member who has been a leader in first trying to preserve the base, then preventing efforts by more northerly cities to convert the base to a noisy commercial airport.

"My dad was a Marine," Goodman said. "I have a fondness for the Marine Corps, but, if it had been a commercial airport, we might have invited the aliens."

Ronald Regehr, a technical writer from Huntington Beach, saw the film on opening night and also admitted to mixed feelings, especially when the aliens wiped out Congress.

But all in all, he said, "I loved it. My family's a Marine family, and it was an El Toro Marine that defeats them. A good, stereotypical Marine. He has our very first contact with an alien life form, and he punches him in the mouth."

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