Independence Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a strong transfer.
Sharpness was good, as the film usuall exhibited positive clarity. Some effects shots suffered from a little inevitable softness, but those moments seemed minor. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering emerged, and edge haloes were absent. The print itself looked clean, as I witnessed no specks, marks or other flaws.
Colors appeared fine. The film offered a fairly natural palette; it favored blues at times, but that wasn’t a dominant tint. Overall, the tones appeared well-rendered.
Blacks were deep and dark, while shadows seemed nice. Low-light shots gave us good clarity and delineation. All in all, I thought the image held up well over the last 20 years.
Although I once regarded the soundtrack of Independence Day to be the absolute best demonstration material I owned back in my laserdisc days, that’s no longer the case; it’s been surpassed by more than a few other mixes. Nonetheless, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track still sounded very 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 an involving 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 did the 2016 “20th Anniversary” Blu-ray compare to the original BD from 2008? Audio remained similar, but visuals showed improvements. The 2016 disc looked tighter, cleaner and better rendered across the board. The old Blu-ray was erratic, whereas this one worked much better.
Note that if you play the “Extended Cut” of the film, the audio becomes more limited audio for the added snippets. For a clear example of this, check out the scene with Jasmine in strip club that I mentioned earlier. As indicated, when she goes to the dressing room, the theatrical parts offer “dance floor ambience” in the left side and surround channels, but when we get extensions, these elements become closer to monaural.
Don’t take that as a terrible indictment of the audio for the extended scenes, as the contrast isn’t as obvious as it may seem. The added segments come for fairly quiet sequences, so it’s not like large-scale battles suddenly collapse in terms of auditory ambition.
Still, the more restricted soundscape does become obvious in the Extended Cut’s scenes. The lessened sonic ambition doesn’t turn into a significant distraction, though.
Well, except for one scene. The final extension takes place during the movie's finale, and it gives a little more of characters who reveal their fears. Because it fits inside a big combat sequence, the way the speakers "collapse" to almost mono seems jarring. That's the only moment where the audio really disrupts the movie's flow, though.
The “20th Anniversary” Blu-ray mixes extras from various releases and adds some new components. This BD includes both the 1996 theatrical cut (2:24:48) as well as a 1998 extended cut (2:33:33). The longer version includes 12 new or elongated scenes.
The vast majority of the extra material results from extensions, as nine of the 12 clips add to existing scenes. These tend toward minor moments that favor small character bits. In particular, we get a little more of Russell and his family, but other roles receive mild exposition as well.
For the three new sequences, all of them feature David. In the first, he tells his boss Marty a little more about the TV problems, and in the second, he and his dad Julius check out the Oval Office. Finally, scene three shows David and Dr. Okun in the old alien craft. All three offer moments of interest but none of them give us anything substantial.
Do I have a preference for one version over the other? Not really. I enjoy the added bits for the Extended Cut, but I can’t claim these improve the movie. Either way, the end result remains similar.
Two separate audio commentaries appear on Disc One. 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 find 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 – 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 find 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 piece’s 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.)
Disc One also includes a trivia track. The “Datastream” provides info about cast and crew, effects, set design, locations and other production topics, and facts connected to different concepts in the flick.
All of which is standard fare for a track of this sort, but “Datastream” implements the commentary better than most. It packs a lot of information, almost all of which is quite good. Many subtitle commentaries are pretty banal, but “Datastream” gives us a consistently informative, engaging piece.
Over on Disc Two, we launch with the 29-minute, 19-second Creating Reality. This program provides notes from Devlin, Emmerich, Engel, production designer Patrick Tatopulos, model shop supervisor Michael Joyce, visual effects production supervisor Bob Hurrie, miniature pyrotechnics mechanical effects supervisor Joseph Viskocil, motion control camera operator James Balsam, digital effects supervisor/producer Tricia Ashford, computer graphics supervisor Tara Handy Turner, unit digital animation supervisor Hartmut Engel, technical supervisor Rob Bredow, digital producer Joshua D. Rose, digital visual effects supervisor Andrea D’Amico, digital compositor Lawrence Littleton, and digital compositing supervisor Pablo Helman.
This becomes a very good primer on the methods used to construct all of the many effects in the movie, and it throws in a lot of nice touches. For instance, we get an informative walk-through from Tatopoulos of the various suits used to bring the aliens themselves to life. “Reality” combines comments with behind the scenes elements to give us a solid take on effects.
Next we find a 21-minute, 57-second show called The ID4 Invasion. In a twist, its first nine minutes or so go the War of the Worlds route and pretend that it's a special report about the aliens' arrival. During those portions, we see a lot of the "news" footage created for the film itself, and while the approach is hokey, it's also kind of fun, especially since we get unique appearances from some of the movie’s cast.
The remainder of “Invasion” features cast and crew. We get notes from Devlin, Emmerich, and actors Bill Pullman, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Margaret Colin, Harry Connick Jr., Vivica Fox, and Mary McDonnell.
We also hear from supposed experts about the nature of a possible alien visitation. In that vein, we find Captain Robert D. McKenzie (USN – retired), author Whitley Strieber, Institute for the Study of Contact with Non-Human Intelligence’s Michael Lindemann, aerospace engineer John F. Schuessler, Fund for UFO Research’s Don Berliner, writer/military intelligence James W. Canan, UFO Magazine Director of Research Don F. Ecker, UFONAUTS author Hans Holzer, SDI physicist Dr. Bruce MacCabee, former KGB General Director Oleg Kalugin, and Mutual UFO Network’s Dr. Robert M. Wood.
Make no mistake: “Invasion” exists for promotional reasons. That said, it’s better than average. The aforementioned War of the Worlds POV offers a twist, and other elements fare reasonably well. It never becomes great, but it’s interesting.
A 28-minute, 29-second show called The Making of Independence Day - goes down a similar path, though I don't like it as much as either of the prior two features. The conceit behind this one is that Jeff Goldblum "breaks in" to "Area ID4", where the cast and crew are being held; he's going to sneak in a get the scoop.
It's a cute idea, but the program itself lacks much substance and tends to repeat info from earlier pieces. In addition to Goldblum, we hear from Will Smith, McDonnell, Pullman, Devlin, Fox, Connick, Emmerich, Joyce, Colin, Volker Engel, Viskocil, Hurrie, Ashford, D’Amico, Littleton, Turner, Hartmut Engel, stunt coordinator Dan Bradley, associate producer Peter Winther, and computer graphics supervisor Joseph Francis.
Granted, I might be too hard on “Making” because it followed the other two; I may have enjoyed it more if I'd watched it first or second, but it seems redundant after the prior programs. Still, it’s passable and includes a moderate array of factoids.
By the way, the "Goldblum on a quest" theme falls apart pretty badly when he enters the compound and we find interviews with... Jeff Goldblum, looking very different than he does as host. They probably should have omitted those parts.
New to the 2016 Blu-ray, Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward fills 30 minutes, 40 seconds with material from Emmerich, Devlin, Goldblum, Fox, Volker Engel, Tatopoulis, Douglas Smith, co-production designer Oliver Scholl, and actors Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Bill Pullman, Jessie Usher, Liam Hemsworth, Joey King, and Maika Monroe. “Forward” chats about the movie’s roots and development as well as its release and success, general production memories/anecdotes, effects and creature design, and the sequel.
Clearly “Forward” exists largely to tout that aforementioned sequel, so don’t expect a lot of insights. Some of the material – especially about the effects – repeats from elsewhere, and much of the info stays superficial. It’s not a bad piece, but it’s lackluster.
If you listened to both audio commentaries, you already heard a lot about the original ending of Independence Day. Previously known as the “Biplane Ending” but now called the original theatrical ending, this four-minute, 16-second piece showed Randy Quaid's character in a different light. I'll leave the details out so it'll be fresh when you watch it, but suffice it to say that it was a very smart move to omit it; the current conclusion works much more effectively.
The scene features partial commentary from Dean Devlin. While his remarks are helpful, it seems unfortunate that we don't have the option to turn them off and listen to the clip with just its original audio. This isn't the end of the world, as the scene's sound can be heard, but it seems like a dopey choice.
Nonetheless, I enjoy being able to see the original ending to the movie. Seeing this clip also makes it more fun to watch the theatrical conclusion since it becomes clearer the way some parts would have fit with the planned ending. They connect to the changed scene but seem more incongruous when you know the way they were supposed to go.
Disc One opens with an ad for Independence Day: Resurgence. Disc Two provides the original film’s theatrical trailer as well as three teasers and eight TV spots.
A few domains reside under Gallery. “Production Photographs provides 312 frames of pictures. Some of these are posed stills, and a number of others show props or effects technicians doing their work. Most depict candid shots from the set, though, and although this section can be a chore to navigate due to the high number of stills, it nonetheless provides some good photos.
“Storyboard Sequences” offers the plans for three different scenes: "Welcome Wagon" (16 frames), "Destruction" (60 stills) and "Biplane Ending" (17 storyboards). I never have much enjoyed storyboards, but they're here for those who like them. “Conceptual Artwork” divides into "Alien Beings" (15 frames), "Alien Ships" (89 stills), and "Sets and Props" (47 shots). This section gives us a pretty good look at the planning behind the more fantastical elements of the movie.
Combat Review (9:04) lets us view 12 scenes of mayhem from the movie. This just becomes an unusual way to see snippets from the flick, and it seems pointless. “Random Destruction” uses the same segments but presents them without rhyme or reason.
Next comes Monitor Earth Broadcasts (51:08). This offers 22 TV pieces that show up during the film and lets us examine them in greater length/detail than seen in the movie. I like this supplement a lot.
We finish with a Gag Reel. It runs two minutes, five seconds and provides the usual array of silly moments. It’s pretty forgettable.
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. The Blu-ray offers strong picture and audio as well as a long list of supplements. This “20th Anniversary Edition” becomes easily the best Independence Day to date.
To rate this film, visit the original review of INDEPENDENCE DAY