Independence Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. As Blu-rays go, this one was satisfactory but never particularly stellar.
Sharpness was generally good, as most scenes exhibited positive clarity. However, I didn’t think the visuals ever looked tremendously concise, and more than a few moderately soft shots appeared. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering emerged, and edge haloes were absent. The print itself looked fairly clean. A few small specks popped up, but nothing significant marred the image.
Colors appeared reasonably good. The film’s natural palette showed fairly nice clarity, though they could be a little flat at times. Blacks were acceptably deep and dark, while shadows seemed decent. Some low-light shots were a bit muddy, but they didn’t cause notable problems. Ultimately, I thought enough of the presentation looked good enough for a “B-“, but I wasn’t especially impressed by the transfer.
At least the audio fared better. 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 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 did the picture and audio of the Blu-ray compare to those of the prior DVD releases? I thought the lossless mix was a bit stronger than the Dolby Digital material on the Blu-ray’s predecessors. This track seemed a little smoother and more dynamic. While the DD mix was strong, the DTS-HD version packed a smidgen more punch.
While I have more than a few complaints about the Blu-ray’s visuals, it still surpasses what I saw on the old DVDs. Those looked fine for the format but the Blu-ray boasted greater clarity and precision. It still had room for improvement, but it was stronger than its DVD predecessors.
When we examine the extras, we find pieces that mix components from the prior DVDs and Blu-ray exclusives. Two audio commentaries appear. 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 the 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 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 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.)
Exclusive to the Blu-ray, we can play an Alien Scavenger Hunt Game as we watch the movie. This requires you to locate 12 different items as the film runs. When each one appears, use your remote to pinpoint and “capture” each one. If you get all 12 by the flick’s conclusion, you can check out a special video clip.
Which is a lot of work for not very much reward. I must admit I’m rarely wild about interactive Blu-ray elements, and this little treasure hunt is too much of a pain in the butt to be worth the effort. It’s a cute idea but not a strong extra.
The disc rebounds with the ID4 Datastream Trivia Track. This subtitle commentary 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.
Finally, the disc includes some trailers. We find four ads for ID4 itself (one teaser, three theatrical) as well as some clips under “Fox on Blu-ray”. That area includes promos for Alien Vs. Predator, The Fly (1986), Planet of the Apes (2001), I, Robot, Predator and X-Men: The Last Stand.
(Note that while the DVDs included both the theatrical and extended versions of the film, the Blu-ray only gives us the 144-minute theatrical cut. Given the fact Blu-ray offers much greater storage capacity than DVD, why would Fox choose to drop that option? I have no idea.)
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. The Blu-ray boasts terrific audio, but picture quality is somewhat lackluster, and the disc includes a generally mediocre set of supplements. This is the best presentation of the film itself I’ve seen on home video, but it’s not the slam-dunk I’d like.
To rate this film, visit the original review of INDEPENDENCE DAY