20 years ago, a hot day in July, and a crowded movie theater; a 6 year old me was able to experience his very first trip to the cinemas. This was an experience that would truly set the stage for my love of film and I’d return to this film many, many, many times as I grew up. It is still one of my favorite guilty pleasures of all time; an unforgettable mix of what was once state of the art action and an all star cast creating possibly the biggest spectacle of the 1990’s. And now with a sequel coming out this year, 20 years after the original this sci-fi invasion epic has once again been injected into the worlds consciousness and I could not be happier. With this new 20th Anniversary Blu-ray release and multiple trailers for the new sequel, Independence Day has just looked directly at us all and shouted, “Hello boys, I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!”
The Movie – 5/5
Alright full disclosure here: I absolutely love Independence Day! There is no better option when it comes to picking a quintessential summer blockbuster film. To me it’s a film that defines the 90’s and essentially created the format we’ve either learned to love or completely loathe when it comes to summer popcorn flicks. Is this movie by any means perfect? Absolutely not. Too many characters? Check. Stereotyping run rampant? Of course. Schlocky storytelling combined with cheesy dialogue? Of course. Convenient intersection of multiple plot lines? You got it. Over abundance of visual effects? Tons. Mass destruction of major cities? I mean, has the initial destruction sequence even been topped yet? Total jumps in logic? Yup. Way too long? You know it. Fun? Oh hell yeah!
The story here is very simple; aliens have come to earth, they are pissed, and they want to exterminate the human race. Why? Well who really knows? It’s explained to us in an awkward yet memorable scene involving telepathy that our planet is just the next one in a long line of planets that these aliens strip of resources and exterminate the populations of. That’s it. This version comes with the theatrical cut and an even longer extended edition of the film. I’ve seen this film way too many times so any time these scenes popped up they felt totally out of place and kind of ruin the pacing of the film. Mostly these scenes are added to minimally increase the depth of supporting characters but mostly come off as the failed attempts at comedy Emmerich has become known for in a lot of his films. You won’t be missing anything sticking to the theatrical cut.
Independence Day centers on the three males leads; Captain Steven Hiller, President Thomas Whitmore, and satellite repairman David Levinson portrayed by Will Smith, Bill Pulman, and Jeff Goldblum respectively. Smith’s Hiller is a US Air Force pilot with dreams of making it to NASA while Pulman’s President Whitmore, also a former fighter pilot, is trying to get the country back on his side after some bad policies or decisions or something, who cares. Most of the film is carried on the shoulders of Goldblum’s David Levinson an underachiever much smarter than most of his peers and consumed with saving the world one recyclable at a time. Goldblum is quirky as he usually is but more toned down than his other big role at the time in Jurassic Park.
Fun Fact: The line “must go faster, must go faster” is ripped right from Jurassic Park and used by Jeff Goldblum in this movie as well.
Our three leads are not alone though as we get an abundance of supporting characters that all fill some sort of archetype. A drunken crop duster who claims he’s been abducted previously (Randy Quaid), a single mother who’s a stripper (Vivica A. Fox), an elderly bumbling Jewish man (Judd Hirsch), a middle aged bumbling Jewish man who’s possibly gay (Harvey Fierstein), a Secretary of Defense who wants to nuke everything (James Rebhorn), a zany scientist who’s been secretly studying the aliens (Brent Spiner), most importantly though a sick child. I’m just kidding he doesn’t matter at all, but he is played by a young Giuseppe Andrews of Cabin Fever and Detroit Rock City fame so that’s something. It’s at this point I’ve just decided to stop listing characters because it will just keep going and going. All of these characters fit some sort of specific role that keeps the movie moving and are supposed to make us feel something. Some to make us laugh, some to make us cry, and others to fill out all the pilots they need for the action sequences. We get tragic heroes, redemption arcs, rekindled love, lost friends, lost loved ones, and any other trope you can think off. It follows the template Emmerich will drive into the ground in his later works and makes me wonder if Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin actually believe humans are as black and white as they write them.
We need this massive group of characters to fill out what truly matters in Independence Day and those are the action set pieces throughout. This is where the film truly shines and we get some genuinely exciting sequences. Cities become leveled worse than a DC Comics movie, we get multiple dog fights filled with what seems like hundreds of pilots on both sides, some outer space action, and loads more! Where a lot of people will have a problem is that even with the dire situation at hand and millions of people dead the movie never takes itself very seriously at all and is littered with humor throughout. Will Smith dragging an alien body across the desert ranting about how his weekend off is ruined will always been a classic scene. Most of the comedy works and if you aren’t jaded you will find some serious charm sprinkled throughout the movie. I still get chills every time Pullman’s President Whitmore rallies the world together with that unforgettable speech that defines the film.
Independence Day is as masterful as it is terrible. For every moment of exhilarating heart pumping action there is some melodrama that slows things down, for every comedic moment that lands there’s a cheesy line of dialogue with a bad musical sting that makes you roll your eyes, for any moment of heartbreak there’s a guaranteed complete tonal shift coming in the next scene, but the moments of triumph take precedent over everything. When that classic Independence Day score kicks in and you know the day is saved you can’t help but smile. The characters are enjoyable, the action was top of its game at the time, and the plot is simple enough to stay coherent but filled with enough moving pieces to make this movie the spectacle it truly is. You may love it, you may hate it but Independence Day most definitely deserves at least a chance to clutch its slimy tentacles around your heart like it did to me 20 years ago.
The Picture – 4/5
There has been some discussion with just how Independence Day would look on this newly remastered version, even to the point of fear of how bad some of the effects may turn out on this new remaster and especially the upcoming 4K UHD release in June. Well there are definitely some bad moments of green screen trauma that I did laugh out loud at, but thankfully they are minimal. For the most part the film looks absolutely stunning. The picture is sharp with colors bursting off the screen, explosions and carnage look detailed, and even with the amount of outdated CGI in the film, there are still plenty of practical and miniature effects work that will always look awesome!
A couple key scenes worried me, including the initial destruction sequence. This is where the new remaster can really show the age of Independence Day. The consistency of what looks great and what doesn’t can be distracting in this sequence, but the shots that shine still look really good. I also worried how the two major dogfights would turn out and I’m happy to say that these still look fairly awesome besides some shoddy composite work that peeks through here and there. I’m really not sure how much better this can look on the new 4K UHD version coming later this year, but hey I’ve yet to be impressed or sold on that movement anyway. Save your wallets, people!
The Sound – 5/5
Independence Day has always sounded incredible and now being presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 it sounds holy shit levels of great. Last week I recommended Krampus as a way to show off your sound system in a more subtle way but if you want to be all big and bad you need to pop this new Independence Day release into your Blu-ray tray and prepare to be blown away. Explosions will rattle your home as the sounds of cities being devastated tickle your ears. Unique sounds of the alien enemy and their ships come off as iconic as Star Wars and Star Trek as far as I’m concerned. A memorable yet slightly generic score by David Arnold accompanies the entire film, swelling and stinging in all the right places. It’s a powerful sounding movie that is sure to please any home theater enthusiast as much as anything released today.
The Features & Packaging – 4.5/5
Luckily for fans, Twentieth Century Fox has insured that this is the final word on Independence Day by packing this release with special features. We have not one but TWO commentary tracks by Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Writer/Producer Dean Devlin for the theatrical and extended cuts plus a third commentary track featuring Special Effects Supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith. Plus exclusive to the theatrical cut an ID4 Datastream Trivia Track! All of this is just on the first disc!
We have a second disc here dedicated solely to special features. The main feature here being the all-new documentary, Independence Day: A Legacy Moving Forward. While this is clearly produced during the filming of Independence Day: Resurgence it does shed some light on the making of the original film with cast interviews and some behind the scenes footage of a few of the bigger effects sequences in the film. Inevitably though this feature does turn into an advertisement for the new movie, with interviews with that cast as well. Don’t fear though as this release has plenty more to offer with plenty of legacy featurettes including two more making ofs; “Creating Reality” and “The Making of ID4”. “Combat Review” gives us a highlight reel of the destruction sequences from the film, while “Monitor Earth Broadcasts” lets us check out the raw unedited news footage created for use in the film. Finally we have the “ID4 Invasion” a pretty lame mockumentary style news special that takes place during the initial arrival of the alien spacecraft. Also included is a gag reel, stills gallery, tv spots, trailers galore, and the hilarious ending from the original theatrical cut that was too comedic even for Emmerich as he states in multiple interviews.
Overall its an absolutely packed release that comes with some great new artwork on the front of the slipcover and sleeve. There is also an ultimate Attacker Edition of this available as well that comes with a comic book and a statue of one of the alien attack fighters. It’s around $50 on Amazon now and dropping a little everyday so if you’re interested in truly going all the way I’d wait for the Gold Box Deal of the Day in about 4 months.
The Technical Stuff:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 1.0
2 Region A Blu-ray Discs
D-Box Motion Code
The Verdict – 5/5
I wholeheartedly recommend this release to anyone who is a fan of the film and anyone excited for the upcoming sequel. It has as many special features as you could ask for, beautiful new remastered versions of both cuts of the film, some great artwork on the cover, and absolutely phenomenal sound quality. Twentieth Century Fox has guaranteed that this film will not going quietly into the night, it will not vanish without a fight, it’s going to live on, it’s going to survive and generations from now will still get to celebrate Independence Day! And if you’re not down with that well then in the words of my generation, UP YOUUUUUUUURS!