- "I spent 20 years trying to get us ready for this. We used their technology to strengthen our planet, but it won’t be enough."
David Levinson is a former satellite technician from New York City who became an integral figure in the War of 1996 in which he was responsible for saving Earth by disabling the aliens' deflector shield technology and the destruction of the alien mothership. Following the war, Levinson became a researcher on alien technology and later Director of the Earth Space Defense.
David was born in 1962 and at the age of five, he was highly intelligent to the point of correctly multiplying the sales tax from buying groceries at a local grocery store. At eight-years-old, David was taught by his father Julius to play chess in which he regularly beat him, much to Julius' consternation. David would eventually excel in academics in which he became a National Merit Finalist and was among the 1% of students who got a perfect ACT score. At sixteen-years-old David graduated early from high school and accepted a full scholarship in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. David became an environmentalist and was very conscientious of how humanity threatens Earth with their waste and pollution. He preferred riding his bicycle over carbon emission cars, and lectured his friends and family on recycling wastes.
In the 1980s, David first met his wife Constance Spano while spending a rare night off in Boston. After graduating in 1985, David married Constance. But despite his keen intellect, David was considerably unambitious and didn't want to do as much as he is really capable of, preferring to work at Compact Cable in Manhattan - in which his father, who was disappointed with David's unmotivated outlook, calls him, a "cable repairman". David's disinterests caused him to grow distant with his wife, who in contrast sought more opportunities by becoming a campaign manager in Thomas Whitmore's presidential campaign.
David was acquainted with Thomas Whitmore, who was an old friend of Constance and attended their wedding, and mistakenly assumed Constance was having an affair with him due to her intense occupation in Whitmore's campaign. This led to a physical altercation with Whitmore started by David in which it consequently led to Constance divorcing him in 1993. Despite the divorce, David retained his feelings for Constance and continued wearing his wedding ring.
War of 1996
On July 2, 1996, David was summoned by his boss Marty Gilbert to Compact Cable to help solve an unknown interference that has been disrupting television and satellite transmissions across the entire northern hemisphere. He discovered a signal embedded into the satellite feed which David was able to decode the signal and learned that it is recycling itself to nothing. By the time David had decoded the signal, he was then brought to attention by news reports of unknown objects entering over Earth's atmosphere. One of which was heading for New York. David headed upstairs to the building's rooftop to see the phenomenon, which reveals itself to be a massive alien ship. David then realized to his horror that the decoded signal is a countdown timer for a coordinated attack by the aliens.
David contacted and tried to warn his ex-wife to leave Washington, D.C. However, in his exhausted and terrified mood, he comes across as extremely paranoid and Constance dismisses him. David resorted to getting Julius and leaving New York, and driving to Washington, as Constance was remaining with the President's staff to establish communications with the aliens. After parking near the White House, David managed to call Constance from her cellphone and explain to her about the countdown. Initially David intended to only have Constance leave with him, but he is convinced by his ex-wife to warn President Whitmore. A late mass evacuation was ordered, and David, his father, and Constance joined the President, his young daughter, Chief of Staff General William Grey, and Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki on Air Force One, which narrowly escaped from the destruction of Washington.
The next day, Whitmore ordered a military counterattack on the City Destroyers, but were unable to penetrate the ships' energy shields, and the aliens countered with their own fighters, erupting into a very one-sided battle that quickly ended in the complete decimation of American forces and their military bases destroyed. After the unsuccessful counterattack, David overheard Nimzicki recommending to Whitmore a nuclear strike against the invaders. David barged into Whitmore's conference and strongly argued against Nimzicki's recommendation, stating that should the United States launch their nuclear arsenal, then other nuclear states would launch theirs as well and causing a nuclear holocaust. During the ensuing argument between David and Nimzicki, Julius defended his unappreciated son and accused the officials that they did nothing to prevent the attacks while David had saved their lives with his warning. Julius further ranted that the government allegedly discovered aliens, which they have hidden in Area 51, much to David's embarrassment, until Nimzicki reluctantly revealed that the rumors are true but neglected to mention it before they ordered the unsuccessful counterattack.
The group landed in Area 51, where the aliens and their ship from the Roswell incident are held and studied. They are toured by the facility's chief scientist Dr. Brackish Okun, who showed them the alien ship, as well as the preserved dead aliens up close. David was then requested by Whitmore to help Okun to learn more about the aliens.
Soon afterwards, a live alien was captured by Captain Steven Hiller, the only survivor of the Black Knights' attack on Los Angeles. Making contact with the alien, they learned of the aliens' intentions of harvesting Earth's resources at the cost of wiping out its inhabitants. The president then reluctantly ordered a nuclear strike against the invaders, much to David's dismay. Afterwards, David spent his time drinking before being confronted by Constance. He and Constance discussed their failed marriage in which Constance reminded him of his lack of ambitions that was part of the cause of their breakup. David replied that he was happy where he was and that his part of “something special” was their marriage.
David's fears of nuclear war against the aliens was averted when a nuclear attack on a City Destroyer over Houston failed to penetrate its shields, forcing Whitmore to call off the strike. However, David was still demoralized over Earth’s imminent extinction and became drunk. The next day, David was found by Julius, angry and ranting that humanity should start polluting their planet so that the aliens won’t want it anymore. David was then quickly calm by his father, who told him of his personal suffering over the death of David's mother. During this moment Julius inadvertently gave David an idea on how to defeat the aliens thanks to a simple reminder from his father. Having acknowledged that the alien ships are in constant communication and coordination with the mothership, David devised a plan to completely shut down their shields by using Area 51's recovered alien ship to infiltrate the mothership in space and upload a coded virus into its mainframe that will deactivate their shields, thus allowing human military forces to strike back against the invaders.
David proposed his plan to Whitmore, who accepted it and commanding remaining U.S. forces to coordinating with the rest of the world's surviving armies for a simultaneous counteroffensive against the aliens. Captain Steven Hiller served as the captured ship's pilot. David also volunteered in the infiltration due to his expertise to transmit the virus. He and Hiller also brought a nuclear warhead to cripple the mothership. Before the operation begins, David and Constance attended the private wedding of Steven Hiller and his girlfriend Jasmine, where the former couple reconcile with each other.
On July 4, with the Americans gathering whatever manpower they could salvage for the final attack, David and Steve flew the restored alien attacker into space, where they reached the mothership and were automatically docked inside. David successfully transmitted the virus, and the Americans began their attack, led by President Whitmore, and narrowly saved Area 51 from a City Destroyer. David and Steve launched the warhead into the heart of the mothership and barely managed to escape as the explosion completely engulfs and destroys the mothership.
By the time they return to Earth, the rest of the world followed the Americans' victory, and the City Destroyers were brought down. David and Steven safely crash land in the desert outside of Area 51, where they are reunited with their families and congratulated by Whitmore. David celebrated with Constance and his father, as they watched pieces of the mothership burning up in the atmosphere.
Following the war, David worked at Area 51 and became a foremost expert on alien technology. A year later, David became concerned that Area 51 was too limited to carry out the necessary research and application of alien technology massively gained from the War of 1996, and as well the likelihood that the aliens may have sent a distress signal which signifies a possible return of more alien forces. He then proposed to Whitmore the creation of an international agency suitable to this task. Whitmore agreed with David's proposal and consolidated it under the Earth Space Defense initiative. Also to David's surprise, Whitmore recommended on appointing him as the civilian director of the ESD. Although David politely refused Whitmore's appointment, the directorship remained his recommendation.
While serving under the Lucas Jacobs administration, David was pressured by the government to meet the deadline in re-engineered alien/human hybrid technology while stressing the safety issues of the new technology that is barely understood and cost the lives of several staff members from previous test accidents. His warnings to the government were not heeded, as the Jacobs administration was determined to catch up in technological advancement with other nations such as China.
Much to David's fear, the government proceeded in hosting a manned test flight of a hybrid fighter jet in the 2007 ESD Spring Expo. Although David tried to protest against this by citing that the fighter was not ready, the current Secretary of Defense Reese Tanner had him removed from the hybrid fighter project. However, David was given a chance by the Vice President Elizabeth Lanford to make sure the hybrid fighter was fully functional and safe. To David's surprise, his longtime friend Steven Hiller volunteered to be the pilot of the hybrid fighter. On April 27th, David's fears were proven when the hybrid fighter malfunctioned and killed Hiller.
Director of the ESD
Hiller's demise caused David to accept the director position of the ESD after realizing that his position would prevent the loss of human lives from government negligence and ensuring hybrid research would proceed at an appropriate pace. Three years after his directorship, David faced further tragedy when Constance was killed in a car accident. David tried to proceed in his life without his wife, but remained distraught.
David attended the 2012 ESD Spring Expo. There, he first became acquainted with French psychiatrist Dr. Catherine Marceaux. David first gleaned information from a refugee from the isolationist National Republic of Umbutu about the country's intact alien spaceship being capable of drilling into the Earth. This discovery changed David's theory about the City Destroyers.
David would again reunite with Catherine Marceaux in Lisbon on business matters concerning alien telepathic contact with human beings. This meeting soon blossomed into an intimate relationship that allowed David to move on after his wife's death.
War of 2016
In July 2, 2016, David was granted entry to the National Republic of Umbutu by Dikembe Umbutu to study the intact Destroyer, which had been automatically reactivated. He was also reunited with Dr. Marceaux. Their investigation of the Destroyer revealed that a distress signal had been sent by the ship into deep space, thus confirming his fears that the aliens have been trying to warn for help since the end of the war.
David was then informed of the loss of Rhea Base and immediately sends word of this to President Elizabeth Lanford. Soon afterward, an unknown alien ship appeared on the Moon. Seeing that the ship's technology does not resemble the aliens in 1996 and showing no signs of hostile intentions, David rationalizes to Lanford and the other leaders of the UN Security Council that the ship belongs to a different alien race and attacking it would provoke a war with an entirely new species. But against Levinson's urging, the council ultimately voted to shoot it down regardless. Frustrated by the incident and delayed of requesting a salvage operation, David called ESD space tug pilots Jake Morrison and Charles Miller to be taken to the site of the spaceship's wreckage in the Van de Graaff crater. Reluctantly, David also allowed Dikembe Umbutu, Dr. Marceaux, and government comptroller Floyd Rosenberg to join in his investigation.
Accompanied by Morrison, David ventured through the wreckage and found an intact container holding a spherical object. Just as they recover the container, a massive alien mothership suddenly appeared. David and his group tried to flee from the mothership, but their space tug became caught in the ship's gravity. The group helplessly watched the mothership destroying the ESD Moon Base and Earth's planetary defenses. Upon entering the Earth's atmosphere, the group witnessed the mothership's gravitational pull lifting objects from across Asia and subsequently causing the debris to fall over Europe, which the group's space tug narrowly escaped over London. While traveling to Area 51, David received a phone call from his father, who was currently fishing off the coast of Galveston and trying to escape from the landing of the mothership. David tries to tell Julius to get to shore as fast as possible, but his call is suddenly cut off.
After arriving in Area 51, Levinson finds Thomas Whitmore having locked himself with an alien prisoner in order to interrogate it. The prisoner vaguely called that "she is all" until it was killed by Dikembe. Further analysis of the alien mothership made David to realize that the aliens are being led by a queen and their operations on Earth are drilling into the Earth's core, which by removing it will destroy both the planet's magnetic field and atmosphere in the process, causing "the end of life on this planet." He then hypothesizes that similar to the destruction of the mothership (along with eliminating the aliens' Queen that was unknowingly on the vessel) in 1996 in which it caused the aliens to cease their activity, and by killing the current Queen, her forces will cease drilling and retreat. The ESD acted on David's suggestion and launched a retaliatory strike on the Mothership. However, the strike failed in which the ESD forces were led into a trap and nearly decimated.
The container that was recovered from the Moon was soon opened by Dr. Brackish Okun and it released an virtual intelligence dubbed the "Sphere"; the being was indeed benevolent as David previously assessed. It had come to Earth to evacuate humanity and join a resistance force of other alien races to fight against their common enemy, the "Harvesters". The Sphere implored the humans to destroy it to prevent it from falling into the possession of the Harvesters and discovering the refugee planet of the Sphere's resistance. David then gets an idea; given that the Harvester Queen is aware of the Sphere's presence, the ESD can hide the Sphere and duplicate its signal to lure the Queen into a trap in the salt flats, where cold fusion bombs can be detonated and contained in a force-field. However, this endeavor requires the sacrifice of a pilot to fly a space tug into the Queen's ship with the bombs. Much to David's surprise, Whitmore volunteered to be the pilot.
David oversaw the distribution of the shield generators from Area 51 in preparation to trap the Queen's vessel. As the Harvesters began their attack, David was surprised to see a school bus driven by Julius right into the shield perimeter. He quickly flagged Julius out of the perimeter shortly before the Queen's ship fell into the trap. However, the Queen survives due to her personal energy shield. David quickly commandeered Julius' bus and taking his father and the children he gathered flees from the enraged Queen. The chase ended when the Queen broke off from her pursuit and redirected her attention to Area 51 after detecting the Sphere's real location.
David followed the Queen in the school bus and witnessed her attempt to forcefully obtain the Sphere until she was killed by ESD pilots. With the Queen dead, the Harvesters lose cohesion and the mothership leaves Earth. David was congratulated by the now President Joshua Adams. Though having the aliens defeated, David was worried for Earth surviving another such attack. But his worries were reassured by Dr. Okun, who informed him and the ESD that the Sphere had decided to offer its advanced technology to humanity and asked them to lead its resistance in preparation for a counterattack on the Harvesters.
Independence Day: Resurgence
- "Did you hear me tell you that the signal in the satellite feed is slowly recycling down to extinction?"
- ―David explaining to Marty of the aliens' impending attack.
- "He wasn't the President then. I punched him, he fought back, we wrestled around, it was a fight."
- ―David recalling his altercation with Whitmore.
- "They're using our own satellites against us. And the clock is ticking."
- ―David showing the countdown to President Whitmore.
- "We gotta burn the rain forest, dump toxic waste, pollute the air, and rip up the OZONE! 'Cause maybe if we screw up this planet enough, they won't want it anymore!"
- ―David during a drunken rant.
- "My dad. A total genius."
- ―David is inspired by his father.
- "I gave it a cold? I gave it a virus. A computer virus."
- ―David explaining his plan.
- "[Holds up a soda can] You know how I'm, like, always trying to save the planet? [Tosses the can in the recycle bin and looks at the spaceship] Here's my chance."
- ―David explaining to Connie his reason for saving Earth.
- "It's funny, I always thought these things were gonna kill me."
- ―David preparing to light his cigar.
- Steve: "You think they have any idea what's about to happen to them?"
- David: "Not a chance in hell. Goodnight!"
- — Steve and David preparing to launch the nuke.
- David: "We're loose. Can you get us out of here in thirty seconds?"
- Steve: "I ain't heard no fat lady!"
- David: "Forget the fat lady. You're obsessed with the fat lady. Drive us out of here!"
- — David and Steve makes their escape from the mothership.
- "Must go faster, must go faster!"
- ―David urging Steve to "go faster".
Independence Day: Crucible
- "Oh, I didn't take a swing. I connected."
- ―David reminiscing his physical altercation with Whitmore.
The Art and Making of Independence Day: Resurgence
- "I do find it ironic that we came together and triumphed on a day named for independence and separation. But I'm guessing extra-terrestrials don't have a good sense of irony."
- ―David reminiscing the War of 1996.
- ""If we don't end war, war will end us" is what H.G. Wells said in 1936. We now understand, finally, that we are stronger together. It's just a shame that it took the deaths of untold countless to educate us."
- ―David on the price of human unity.
- "We live in a world now that feels very much like the future we envisioned back in the mid-20th century. Impossible technology, living on the moon, 'laser' guns. That said, I still need to wear glasses and I still have to remind people to recycle. It's not Utopia, but we're getting there."
- ―David's views on humanity's advancement.
Independence Day: Resurgence
- "At least your father spared the elephants."
- ―David commenting on Upanga Umbutu's portrait.
- "Do you want to see my best smile?"
- ―David to Reese Tanner before hanging him up.
- "That's... definitely bigger than the last one."
- ―David commenting the Harvester Mothership.
- "What goes up must come down."
- ―David realizing the debris are about to fall.
- "They like to get the landmarks."
- ―David commenting on the aliens' attack on London.
- Independence Day/novel (first appearance)
- ID4: Independence Day
- Independence Day: Crucible
- Independence Day: Resurgence/novel
Behind the scenes
- David was portrayed suffering from air sickness while riding Air Force One. In previous film roles, Jeff Goldblum has played characters with various sicknesses, e.g. sea sickness in The Right Stuff (1983), motion sickness in The Fly (1986), and even in Jurassic Park (1993) he's seen clutching his stomach in some scenes, etc.
- Jeff Goldblum uses one of his lines, "Must go faster, must go faster!" from Jurassic Park, during the escape from the mothership. This was at the request of director Roland Emmerich, who wanted a similar line to what Goldblum used in that movie, but couldn't quite remember the exact line.
- The laptop used by David in Independence Day is an Apple PowerBook, with a prototype designation XXXX; it was in fact a PowerBook 5300 model that was part of a high-profile product placement deal, in which Apple Computer and Fox were able to market it as "The Power to Save the World." However, the PowerBook 5300 was discontinued a month after the film's release due to design faults and manufacturing problems. Incidentally, Jeff Goldblum would go on to become a spokesman for Apple Computer's highly-successful iMac computers and iBook laptop campaigns in the late 1990s.
- When David opens his laptop while aboard the mothership, a red camera interface appears and a voice says, "Good Morning, Dave." This is a reference to HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Before Jeff Goldblum was cast, Matthew Broderick was offered the role of David Levinson, but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts.
- How I Saved the World
- Independence Day: Crucible
- "Independence Day: 10 Easter Eggs You Didn't Notice". WhatCulture. February 12, 2015