Experience the original OSCAR®-Winning (Best Visual Effects) sci-fi epic that launched a new era in blockbuster filmmaking. Director Roland Emmerich, producer Dean Devlin and an all-star cast including Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman join forces to deliver the ultimate encounter between powerful aliens and the human race. When massive spaceships appear in Earth’s skies and blast destructive beams of fire down on cities all over the planet, a determined band of survivors must unite for one last strike against the invaders before it’s the end of mankind.
There's something about the 90s era summer blockbusters that make me happy whenever I sit down to revisit them. Movies like 'Jurassic Park,' 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day,' and 'Batman Returns' are all prime examples of films that I saw multiple times in the theater as a kid. It didn't matter if I'd just seen it a few days earlier if a friend called up and wanted to go again, I was more than happy to blow some of my allowance on a ticket. In 1996, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's 'Independence Day' was the "it" movie of that summer. It was a cornball throwback to 1950s alien invasion films and 1970s disaster epics all rolled into one - and I ate it up over and over again. I loved this movie - while it was in theaters. 'Independence Day' was the first film where I felt the "scale" of a film. Suddenly, watching the movie on a 25" tube TV, the film lost a lot of the impact and excitement when it was released on VHS, and a lot of the enjoyment went with it. Thankfully in this grand age of Blu-ray and 4K transfers, the fun spectacle of 'Independence Day' is back.
We always assumed humans were the only intelligent beings in the vast universe. With multiple radio telescope arrays and orbiting telescopes, we searched the cosmos for other signs of life, we just never thought other beings would come looking for us. On July 2nd, the world awoke to news of a gigantic alien craft setting into an Earth orbit. As President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), a former Air Force pilot and Gulf War hero tries to figure out how to respond to what may or may not be a threatening species, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) gets to work deciphering the signal the aliens are sending through our own satellites.
When a dozen smaller crafts the size of major metropolitan cities break off of the mother ship and strategically station themselves above government capitals around the globe, it becomes all too clear that these aliens have hostile intentions. When our fighting forces, including men like fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) are called into action, it may be too late. Once the aliens attack, the massive devastation sends humanity into turmoil. With their advanced weaponry and shields, nothing we throw at them seems to make any difference. When David stumbles onto a way to disable the invading Alien's defenses, humanity must launch a last stand strike or face complete and total annihilation.
It's strange to me to consider that twenty years later there are perhaps some people out there who haven't seen or even heard of 'Independence Day.' That summer that I turned 14, this was the movie that every kid in school was looking forward to and then went to see over and over again. I even remember some friends of mine competing with each other over how many times they could see it in the theater. I shared the rampant enthusiasm and went to see it at least four times, possibly more. I loved it, it was goofy, but action packed. It had a sense of humor but it also maintained the human drama to make you feel like the end of the world was near.
Then the film came out on VHS. I grew up in a house that loved our movies. My Dad was an early member of Columbia House because at the time it was the most convenient and cheap way to buy tapes, so it was a regular occurrence for us to own the movies we loved seeing in the theater. 'Independence Day' was different. Something about seeing that massive alien attack ship floating over the white house and then blowing it up simply didn't translate to the small screen. It was like having someone take a pin to a party balloon, all of a sudden, I just did not like 'Independence Day' anymore and so it became something to ridicule. I stopped calling myself a fan of the movie and would harp on the film's intended cheesiness and the simplistic plot. I became a movie snob.
Thankfully, the rise of DVD and HD began a change for the better. Televisions started getting bigger, screens started getting thinner, they changed shape from a square box to a widescreen-friendly rectangle. All of a sudden, that big screen theatrical experience was attainable at home! And around that same time, I started enjoying 'Independence Day' all over again. Yes, the movie is simple and easily digestible fast food cinema intended for wide audiences, but it's still a fun experience all these years later. I still give a little cheer when Will Smith punches out an alien and throws out his badass "Welcome to Earth!" line. I still want to give a little first pump at the crescendo of Bill Pullman's inspirational St. Crispin's Day knockoff speech, and I still laugh and cheer at Randy Quaid's Russell Casse who gets his revenge against the aliens who kidnapped him decades earlier.
'Independence Day' isn't a perfect movie, not by a long shot. If you're so inclined, you could write a doctoral dissertation about the film and its faults, but you would be missing the point. 'Independence Day' is a crowd pleaser, it's not meant to be dissected and analyzed for its artistic merits, you're supposed to sit down and turn your brain off and be entertained for two hours. Writer and Director Roland Emmerich and Co-writer and producer Dean Devlin instinctively knew how to press all of the right buttons to make this movie a hit. It's funny, suspenseful, exciting, and continues to be wildly entertaining. I'm actually grateful that technology has improved to the point that the home viewing experience can mirror the theatrical one to some extent. I'd hate to have gone the rest of my days hating this movie for no real good reason when there is so much innocent good-natured fun to be had. I came away from this viewing ready and excited for 'Independence Day Resurgence' and hope this new outing can live up to its predecessor.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 2-disc 20th Anniversary release of 'Independence Day' arrives on Blu-ray thanks to 20th Century Fox. The film is pressed onto a Region A BD50 disc with a Region A BD25 disc for additional bonus content. Both discs are housed in a 2-disc eco-friendly Blu-ray case with identical slip cover. The film disc opens to a trailer for the upcoming sequel 'Independence Day Resurgence' before arriving at an animated main menu featuring traditional navigation options where you can choose from either the 2 hour and 24 minute theatrical cut or the 2 hour and 33 minute extended cut. An Ultimate Edition is also available that features this Blu-ray set packaged with a statue of an alien fighter ship as well as a booklet of stills and behind the scenes photos. Also included in this set is a Digital HD Ultraviolet and iTunes voucher slip.
'Independence Day' rockets onto Blu-ray again with a beautiful 2.39:1 1080p transfer from a fresh 4K scan. When 'Independence Day' was first released on Blu-ray back in 2008, it was already a disc that easily could be labeled "Demo Worthy." With that in mind, I wasn't sure how much better this film could look on Blu-ray. To get the ball rolling, the film grain appears to much more stable in this release than in the 2008 release. The 2008 release had nicely visible grain but during darker scenes and night shots, it could appear very noisy. This new scan maintains the apparent grain field while also stabilizing the night scenes allowing finer details to appear and a better sense of depth. Where this new transfer excels is in showcasing finer details. It may be difficult to notice in side-by-side comparisons, but if you pay attention and really look closely, the differences become easier to spot. Individual stitches in clothing, individual scruffy beard hairs on Randy Quaid's face, as well as the texturing of the models of the alien attack fighters. Colors also appear richer with a beautiful vibrancy. The scene in the beginning with Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch playing chess is where I really started to appreciate this transfer. Greens and earth tones look fantastic, primaries have plenty of natural pop - especially the bright blue sky, and flesh tones look fantastic. Later in the film, fiery explosions appear a richer, more natural looking orange. Black levels are strong with impressive shadow separation ensuring plenty of image depth. Contrast levels also appear under control without any blooming. This new scan does appear to have had a bit of a teal/orange push to it, however, the benefits I would argue are more stable natural looking flesh tones and primaries. In the 2008 transfer people tended to look unnaturally pink and reds were pushed too hot in places. This new scan seems to have corrected that issue to some extent, although it may be a sticking point to some viewers.
That said, where this transfer does a bit awry is with the film's numerous effects shots. Green screen backgrounds can stand out like a sore thumb and due to the now dated technology, some of the CGI creations can appear smooth and weightless. Some explosions and the alien craft can at times appear to hover off of the screen - especially when there are physical models being used, the CGI elements just don't blend very cleanly. This really isn't a fault of the transfer so much as the technology of the time, but the added clarity of this new scan makes the effects shots more noticeable. When a CGI or green screen backdrop was used, the scene became notably flatter. Granted, there isn't really anything that can be done about that issue considering the age of the film. It is still an incredibly good looking transfer and offers a number of benefits over the previous release that I wasn't expecting to experience. This release has me very curious to see what FOX could do with their other deep catalogue releases, especially as more titles are announced for UHD Blu-ray.
The audio for 'Independence Day' also makes a big leap forward with what sounds like a new English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. The specs on the packaging indicate a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track but no 7.1 mix was found on this disc. That said, I still noted a clear improvement between this release and the audio track issued for the 2008 disc. While dialogue is still crisp, clear and easy to hear - which is good because of the number of inspirational speeches in this movie - it's the background and atmospheric effects that win the day. While most of the track keeps to the pleasing midranges without too many tonal dips or spikes, this audio track punches up the LFE quota whenever David Arnold's score foreshadows something ominous or whenever the big bad alien mother ship or the strike ships move around or open a door. Hearing those lower register tones kick in really helped pull you into the scene and provide a nicely immersive presentation. The previous audio mix was always pretty good but doing a side-by-side comparison, it's easier to hear the differences now. The channels feel a little more balanced now and primary sound effects like explosions or cries of panic from the numerous background cast members sound more natural before where in the 2008 mix they could sound a bit tinny and would unnaturally fade away. Levels are incredibly well balanced allowing you to set your volume levels and forget them. Imaging is also very impressive, as once the main action gets going there is a constant sense of direction and dimensionality to the track. Supposedly the UHD Blu-ray disc will get a full DTSX upgrade so we'll have to wait a little bit longer to hear this film in all its glory
Audio Commentary: This is a vintage audio commentary track from Director and Co-writer Roland Emmerich and Producer Co-writer Dean Devlin, the pair regularly refer to this release as a "Laserdisc" which put a big smile on my face. They cover a ton of relevant information about the film and also go into a lot of depth about the cut scenes for the extended edition. If you want to learn a lot about this film, this audio commentary is still the best way to go.
Audio Commentary: Visual Effects Supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith talk about all of the effects work that went into bringing this film together. Just hearing them talk about it in detail is more than enough justification for their Oscar win.
ID4 Data Stream Trivia Track: This is a just a bunch of cool little factoids about the film or the science presented in the film. Some can be a bit lengthy and difficult to read, but they're still kinda cool - available only for the Theatrical Version of the film.
'Independence Day Resurgence' Trailer: (HD 2:07)
Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward: (HD 30:40) This new documentary is pretty great where everyone takes a look back at what worked so well about the first film and made it so fun and what they hope to bring to the next film coming to theaters.
Monitor Earth Broadcasts: (SD 51:08) This is a collection of all of the news broadcasts that were created for the film and only briefly scene in the film.
Creating Reality: (SD 29:19) A really cool look back at what went into all of the visual effects of the film from practical models on wires to the then state-of-the-art digital effects.
The Making of ID4: (SD 28:29) This is another vintage making of feature hosted by Jeff Goldblum, made to look like it was done in the 50s. Some decent material here but nothing earth shattering.
ID4 Invasion: (HD 21:57) A fake news show that uses unused clips and outtakes from the early portions of the film.
Combat Review: (HD 9:04) If you wanted to look at all of the destruction and explosions - this is the extra feature for you!
Original Theatrical Ending: (SD 4:16) Dean Devlin provides a commentary for this alternate ending which was a wide thing to change because it's a bit too silly.
Gag Reel: (SD 2:05) Some funny moments but pretty standard cut up stuff that's pretty common and feel a bit staged.
Gallery: (HD) A collection of stills, production design sketches, and storyboards outlining the various major aspects of certain scenes and sequences.
Teaser Trailers: (SD 5:09) A collection of brief teasers for the film.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:30)
TV Spots: (SD 3:57) Much like the teaser trailers, these brief TV spots were really effective at getting the word out about the film.
Sometimes it's a great idea to jump back into nostalgia. I've had a Love/Hate relationship with 'Independence Day.' I loved it in theaters, hated it on home video, but thanks to the first Blu-ray release and now this new 4K restored version ahead of the UHD Blu-ray, 'Independence Day' is back to being fun again. It's been a blast taking a look at this movie again for the first time in at least five years and it has left me excited to see the upcoming sequel. Fox has knocked it out of the park with a stellar A/V presentation that can only possibly be topped by the UHD Blu-ray release and they've loaded this 2-disc set with some fun new and archive extra features to keep you busy for hours. If you don't own 'Independence Day' on Blu-ray, this release is a no-brainer. If you already own it, the new transfer along with all of the bonus features and two cuts of the film make it an easy release to call Highly Recommended.