(movie review portion originally written in 6/2000)
I'll always remember the time I saw "Independence Day" in a local theater that was playing the film 24 hours a day during the first week. I expected to be the only person in the 7am showing, but was greeted with a sold-out crowd who was completely engergized for the film. And I think that "ID4" really is one of those films that delivers solid entertainment. It's not perfect, but I think the combination of engaging characters and really solid effects work makes the film really one of the best "event" pictures of the last few years.
The film's plot is relatively simple, but director Roland Emmerich and writer/producer Dean Devlin are able to give a wider scope than simply, "aliens have arrived". The writing itself in terms of characters could have been a little bit better in some instances to boost them beyond stereotypical roles, but the film does manage to do a fine job of keeping such a large cast together. In case you are one of the few who has not seen this picture at this point (I'd be suprised if there are any...), "Independence Day" revolves around a band of nasty alien creatures who arrive in major ships that proceed to hover over many of the major cities across the world.
The non-alien element revolves around a band of lead characters, played by captain Steven Hiller(Will Smith), a wacko crop duster(Randy Quaid), the president(Bill Pullman) and a nerdy genius played by Jeff Goldbum. There are also a legion of supporting characters, although they are hardly developed.
Once the film gets going though, it's hard not to be engaged at the more intense sequences, which involve mass destruction of cities and some spectacular airborne fight sequences. As I've said before, the characters are not terribly well developed, but they're likable and entertaining. To put it simply, they're a group we can root for. Smith is very good as usual, and he carries much of the movie with ease.
"Independence Day" is a fun movie, and it knows that it isn't anything more than what it is; I think it has a good sense of humor and although there are some slow moments during the middle section, the majority of the film moves along with a rapid clip. I really liked the film now and although I still see little problems, I still think it's a lot of fun. I still like it more than "Armageddon".
VIDEO: "Independence Day" is presented by Fox in the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (1080P/AVC) on Blu-Ray. The presentation quality isn't without some issues, but it must be said that I've still never seen the film look this good since I saw it theatrically over ten years ago. Sharpness and detail are terrific overall, but vary throughout the picture - many scenes look crystal clear, some look just fine and a few here-and-there look somewhat soft.
The presentation did show some minor-to-moderate grain at times, but no edge enhancement was seen and only some light noise on occasion. There were a few minor print flaws (some very infrequent specks and marks) seen in a handful of scenes and some banding was also seen in a few brief moments. The film's visual effects generally do stand up fairly well for a film done in 1996. However, an unintentional issue with the DVD is that some of the film's weaker visual effects look even more primitive due to the clarity and image depth of the Blu-Ray presentation. Colors - from laser fire to the glow of monitors at the bases and everything in-between - look brighter and more vibrant here than ever before on home video. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural. This presentation wasn't without some concerns, but it is quite an improvement over the prior DVD releases.
SOUND: The film is presented on Blu-Ray with DTS HD Master Lossless Audio. 1996 offered two films that still are considered to be among the best when it comes to audio - "Twister" and "Independence Day". When it comes to sound, "Independence Day" offers a awesome, outstanding experience - this is an extremely fierce, intense soundtrack that will really shake a room with some very considerable force. Once the film really gets going, there is extremely agressive surround use, and battles envelop the viewer in impressive fashion. There are some sequences that really offer some unbelievable bass - if you have neighbors, this is not a soundtrack that they will appreciate you playing.
There are a few sequences of distruction in the film that really almost shocked me as to how impressive an experience that the sound was able to create. The score also has a rich, strong presence and comes through clearly. Dialogue is clear and is never overpowered by the chaos going on.
EXTRAS: Commentary One: Originally recorded for the laserdisc special edition, this commentary by director Roland Emmerich and producer/writer Dean Devlin is not an outstanding commentary track, but it certainly is more enjoyable than their commentary for "Stargate". They both go back and forth in a relaxed discussion of each scene, either chatting about the technical aspects of putting some of the action sequences together, or what it was like to work with the actors. Occasionally, they also have a fairly fun story to tell about what happened during filming.
Yet, their commentary has a few spaces where they just point out who the actors are, or what's going on on-screen, which tends to get a little dull when they get into this discussion style. There are some pauses of silence as well, including one where Emmerich admits he was "just listening to his own movie." It's one of those commentaries that has its highs and lows, and is probably worth a listen, although I'm not sure that many will come back to it for more than one listen.
Commentary Two: This is a newly recorded commentary with visual effects supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith. Although the first commentary provides a good general overview of the movie, this commentary ends up being more interesting because the two supervisors are able to not only go into pretty unbelievable detail about even how the smallest visual effect was able to be accomplished, but also occasionally provide their viewpoint on the film in general.
This track is only available on the special edition cut, and it's really a very good commentary track. I've really enjoyed listening to the visual effects teams on DVDs like this and recently, "Cliffhanger". They really point out how each visual effect was accomplished and point out some effects that I'd previously not even noticed. It really is a good way to take viewers behind-the-scenes of effects work. There are a few small pauses in this track, but they aren't distracting.
Neither commentary is newly recorded - they were available on the prior DVD edition(s).
We also get trailers for the film, as well as other Fox titles.
Exclusive to the Blu-Ray edition of the film is a rather nifty "keyword" feature, which takes what seems like literally every event, actor, etc and compiles them into a list. Click one of the options to go to that moment. Yes, it's a glorified/enhanced chapter selection, but it's still nifty. There is also a bookmark feature, which allows viewers to be able to jump to their favorite points.
We also get an interactive "Alien Scavenger Hunt" game that can be played along with the flick, as well as a new fact trivia track. For those who actually do have a D-Box, the Blu-Ray edition of the film is D-Box enhanced.
Final Thoughts: "Independence Day" remains one of those movies that defines "popcorn flick" and still manages to be enjoyable, mindless fun years later. The Blu-Ray edition offers excellent audio/video quality that improves upon the DVD editions. Unfortunately, some of the extras from the DVD releases were not carried over for this Blu-Ray edition. Still, this is an excellent release and the presentation quality makes this a recommendation for Blu-Ray owners considering an upgrade over the prior DVD releases.
The Film B