The Army's latest recruiting effort dips into a parallel universe, attempting to engage young sci-fi fans who may not be aware of the service's high-tech career paths.

The partnership with Twentieth Century Fox puts Army recruiters on the front lines of the promotional push behind "Independence Day: Resurgence," the sequel set to hit theaters June 24. In the movie universe, the forces of a united Earth prepare for the return of aliens that laid waste to much of the planet in 1996, before being dramatically defeated at the last minute by heroes who looked remarkably like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.

The Army's involvement – which includes both Army- and film studio-produced commercials, as well as a website with interactive games for potential recruits – came about as movie marketers attempted to bridge the gap between the two films.

"When they looked around, and rightfully so, it was their belief that it took an institution like the United States Army to do one of two things: One was to advance the technology to a state where we were able to defend another attack … and the second was, who put the world together – if you look at [the movie’s Earth Space Defense force], ESD is a multicultural, multi-nation force."

Cross-platform play

The campaign launched last week with an Army-produced television commercial featuring the proud father of an ESD soldier. A veteran of the first alien encounter, he explains over soft music that the "planet is safer because she’s defending it" before viewers are directed to an Earth Day spot

That clip, which has more than 110,000 YouTube views, was put together by Roland Emmerich, director of both films in the franchise. Viewers are directed to as a flight suit-wearing William Fichtner ("Armageddon," "Black Hawk Down," "The Longest Yard,") looks at the camera to say, "When the world was brought to its knees, the Army was there to fight back."

The Army paid about $2.4 million in production costs to attach themselves to the "Resurgence" marketing machine, an AMRG spokeswoman said, not including pre-existing ad-time purchases that were redirected to the program.

Want to join Liam Hemsworth in the Earth Space Defense? There's a website for that ... and it links to the Army's recruiting efforts.

Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Twentieth Century Fox

Next month, the Army plans another video release that will incorporate movie footage with that of real soldiers, showing how Hollywood’s portrayal of ESD heroes has its roots in those now in uniform.

It’s part of an ongoing effort to correct what Ortiz called "misperceptions" about the Army by the general public.

"We constantly hear America talk about the Army in a very detrimental way, in that we are low-tech, we are low-skill, and for the most part, because of those first two, we are the institution of last resort," he said, adding that the responses from the public became so familiar that "two years ago, we stopped asking."

Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.

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