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Roland Emmerich
Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Vivica A. Fox, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia
Writing Credits:
Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich

July 2nd, they arrive. July 3rd, they attack. July 4th is Independence Day.

One of the biggest box office hits of all time delivers the ultimate encounter when mysterious and powerful aliens launch an all-out invasion against the human race.

The spectacle begins when massive spaceships appear in Earth's skies. But wonder turns to terror as the ships blast destructive beams of fire down on cities all over the planet. Now the world's only hope lies with a determined band of survivors, uniting for one last strike against the invaders -- before it's the end of mankind.

Box Office:
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$50.200 million on 2282 screens.
Domestic Gross
$306.124 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 153 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/11/2004

• Both Special Edition - with 9 Minutes of Restored Footage Ė and Original Theatrical Versions
• Audio Commentary with Director Roland Emmerich and Producer Dean Devlin
• Audio Commentary with Visual Effects Supervisors Volker Engel and
• Doug Smith
• Inside Look


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Independence Day: Limited Edition (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 18, 2004)

One of the most hyped movies in recent memory, Independence Day received a massive amount of attention based almost entirely on a masterful ad campaign. For the most part, audiences felt pleased with what they saw once ID4 hit screens in July 1996. The movie got lukewarm reviews but the general public reception seemed positive and it cleaned up at the box office. When all was said and done, ID4 earned a whopping $306 million in the US, which means it currently ranks 17th on the all-time top grossers list.

As is so often the case, however, backlash set in, and somehow the general opinion of ID4 seems to have become negative over the years. Perhaps this is just the nature of the "event movie". They generate so much excitement that once you get beyond the initial adrenaline, the piece seems less compelling as a whole.

It also loses something in the translation to home video, as big "in your face" movies like ID4 benefit from the large screen treatment. That said, I liked ID4 theatrically and I continue to enjoy it at home. While the film clearly has a number of flaws, it delivers the thrills and excitement it promises and does so in a rousing manner.

I refuse to even call ID4 a "guilty pleasure" because I experience absolutely no feelings of guilt over the fact that I enjoy it. Why should I - because it's not exactly intellectually stimulating? So what? While it seems unlikely anyone ever spent long evenings discussing the philosophical implications of the film, it does what it sets out to do: it provides an action-packed roller coaster ride of a movie that entertained me almost constantly from beginning to end.

ID4 never set out to be more than a well made "popcorn movie", and that's what it achieves. It gets all of the important parts right. The effects are terrific and seem quite convincing; even in the rapid-fire world of movie technology, they hold up extremely well a few years down the road. The action sequences are uniformly thrilling and adrenaline pumping, and I've always been amazed how much tension the film builds considering how predictable it is. For example, the previews gave away much of the destruction, but I still found the wait for this to happen and the anticipation to build delightfully excruciating tension.

ID4 is helped by a solid cast; that factor alone is largely why it's the best movie from the team of director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin. Actors in "effects movies" don't get much credit, but I think they make a huge difference; if Godzilla boasted a cast as fine as that of ID4, I think the films would be on a par, but since the former's actors were largely quite weak, the movie works much less well. Although none of ID4's cast provides the best performances of their careers, all are uniformly fine, and the simple presence of such solid actors as Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid and Bill Pullman elevates the piece to a level higher than it otherwise could have reached.

Independence Day doesn't stand up well to close scrutiny Ė the computer virus scene remains silly - but most films in the genre feature lots of flaw. Even the much beloved Terminator 2 can be ripped apart with ease. That's not the point. Granted, some movies are so stupid that you can't help but dissect them negatively, but that only happens when they're dull; the action can be brainless as long as it's exciting and fun. ID4 fits the latter case in spades.

Note that this DVD includes two separate cuts of Independence Day. From a menu at the start of the disc, you can choose between the original 144-minute and 30-second theatrical release or a 153-minute and 20-second "special edition" version that restores nine different deleted scenes. There's little difference between the two, although the SE adds some nice character exposition. I probably prefer the longer cut, but it's not the "slam dunk" choice akin to the extended version of The Abyss.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+

Independence Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although not without a few concerns, the overall quality of the picture seemed strong.

Sharpness usually looked quite good, with an image that appeared crisp and detailed most of the time. Some slight softness interfered with a few wide shots, but I didn't think this was a significant issue. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but some light edge enhancement seemed present through much of the film. The print itself looked fairly clean. Occasional specks popped up, but nothing significant marred the image.

Colors appeared bright and bold throughout the film, with no evidence of bleeding or distortion. The film featured a natural palette that seemed concise and firm. Black levels seemed deep and dark, and shadow detail generally was fine, although one or two "day for night" scenes looked slightly overly opaque. Independence Day didn't offer a picture that's "reference quality", but it presented a solid visual presentation nonetheless.

Although I once regarded the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Independence Day to be the absolute best demonstration material I owned back in my laserdisc days, thatís no longer the case; itís been easily surpassed by more than a few other mixes. Nonetheless, the track still sounded pretty good.

The soundfield remained involving and rich. Each of the five speakers offered a lot of discrete audio from start to finish. Much of this came from the many action scenes - the various air battles really screamed, and the scene in which the aliens destroyed various US buildings rattled my neighbors with its deafening roar - but I also liked some smaller touches. For example, examine the segment in which Jasmine leaves the strip club's stage and goes back to the dressing room. When she gets back there, the track displayed a well-conveyed ambient sound of the music that plays in the main area of the club. Little touches like those helped make this a nice mix.

The audio quality also seemed very good. Much of the dialogue clearly was dubbed, but little of it came across as obvious. For the most part, speech sounded warm and natural, though at times some dialogue appeared slightly edgy. The music was rich and bright, and effects were always clear and realistic, with some good bass tossed in to the mix. I noticed a bit of clipping from my subwoofer at times, but the low-end usually came across as firm and tight. The audio of ID4 didn't floor me like it used to, but it still seemed pretty terrific.

How do the picture and audio of this 2004 ďlimited editionĒ of Independence Day compare to those of the original DVD from 2000? Both are identical. Really, this new disc offers almost no changes from the old one. Other that the addition of a promo for The Day After Tomorrow, itís literally the same thing; even the menus and sound bites show no differences.

Almost all of the limited editionís supplements also appeared on the old DVD. Two audio commentaries appear on the disc. The first originally popped up on a 1998 laserdisc and it presents remarks from director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. This track has been much criticized for being dull and featuring plenty of dead spots, and both of those assessments are partially correct. Emmerich especially can spend too much time detailing the monotonous specifics of effects shots, and as the film progresses, some pretty significant gaps appear between statements.

Nonetheless, I found the commentary to offer a mildly interesting discussion of the film, mostly due to information from Devlin. By no stretch of the imagination is it a great Ė or even very good - track, but I think it offers enough of worth to earn a listen, especially during the first third or so of the movie. The chat includes notes about changes between the theatrical and extended versions of the film, various story issues and character development, and trivia like other folks considered for the cast. Overall, this remains a pretty mediocre commentary, but it does provide some decent information about the movie.

The second commentary comes from visual effects supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith, both of whom also chat together in a running, screen-specific piece. Unsurprisingly, this piece sticks almost exclusively to matters related to the special effects. Due to this, I found it to be fairly dry. Both participants are fairly personable, but I couldn't help but drift off every once in a while as I listened to them. More than a few dead spots occur, and that adds to the pieceís slowness. The statements provide some decent information, but the track just doesn't do a lot for me. It's worth a listen if you maintain an interest in effects work, but don't expect to be wildly entertained. (If you want to hit just the highlights, skip straight to the final fighter battle scene, as that portion of the commentary includes the most interesting material.)

For the sole new feature in this limited edition, we find an Inside Look at The Day After Tomorrow, the new flick from Emmerich and Devlin. In this two-minute and five-second featurette, we hear from actors Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal plus we see some film clips and quick shots from the set. Itís just a promotional tool that tells us virtually nothing about the flick.

Also connected to The Day After Tomorrow, purchasers of this DVD will get a free ticket for the new film. Or at least you can get part of a free ticket; itíll pay for $6.50, whichíll get you into a matinee for nothing. The coupon expires June 29, 2004.

What does this set lose in the extras department when compared with the original release? A lot. Everything on DVD Two of that set vanishes. We lose a few documentaries and many other behind the scenes materials. The old package wasnít great, but it did provide a pretty good roster of information.

Many folks dislike Independence Day and hold it up as an example of all that's wrong with big-budget, brainless action flicks. To those people I say this: relax! Take fun and exciting movies like this for what they are and save the brainpower for your next perusal of Dostoyevsky. ID4 provides a thoroughly thrilling and enjoyable experience, plot holes and logic problems be damned. Both picture and audio seem excellent and the set also includes a couple of sporadically useful but moderately frustrating audio commentaries.

I still like ID4 and I recommend it. The question becomes which version to get. If you already own any of the old releases, thereís no reason to buy the limited edition; it includes nothing useful you donít currently possess. If you donít have any version of ID4, Iíd push you toward the two-disc edition. It includes the same picture and audio quality with a bunch of pretty good supplements. Of course, if extras donít matter to you, just go with the cheapest one you can find.

To rate this film, visit the original review of INDEPENDENCE DAY