Twentieth Anniversary Edition Steelbook
Twenty years on, and a bunch of Emmerich-fronted disaster epics later, and we return to the defining entry in the summer blockbuster filmmaker’s oeuvre, the 1996 hit Independence Day.Few other directors have so frequently – and thoroughly – decimated both national and international landmarks as Roland Emmerich, whose passion for destruction hit an early high here, although subsequent efforts to freeze (The Day After Tomorrow) and flood (2012) the world have not been without their respective disaster porn merits. ID4 caught the world by surprise though, arguably delivering disaster spectacle and alien invasion like never seen before, and enthralling audiences for a fast-paced, action-packed, and suitably epic but not overlong two-and-a-half hours. The ensemble cast also work the material – smoothing over the plot-holes with warm wit – with Will Smith’s cocky pilot competing with Jeff Goldblum’s hyperactive scientist for the best lines whilst Bill Pullman brought some memorable speeches and gravitas as a young president. Indeed, given the near-universal popularity, and rampant success – at the time, hitting the #2 spot in biggest box office earners of all time – it’s somewhat surprising that it’s taken two whole decades to get a sequel off the ground.Of course the film is not without its flaws, earning the accolade of being something of a ‘classic’ largely in sentiment only, and in its representation of a change in epic grandstanding sci-fi blockbusters, which saw a resurgence in the genre that inadvertently gives the sequel’s title (Independence Day: Resurgence) some irony. Viewed with a nostalgic rather than critical eye, however, and the undeniably cheesy 90s romp is blazing fun; worth watching alone for an on-fire Goldblum and a young Will Smith back in the days when he was still fresh from the Fresh Prince, enjoying the success of Bad Boys, and more than happy to play just one (albeit scene-stealing) part of a bigger ensemble piece (we’ll have to see how Suicide Squad turns out in this respect). Whilst not necessarily superior, the extended cut – technically called the Special Edition – is arguably an even fresher and fuller watch for familiar fans, providing some nice added character beats beneath the effects furore. Either way, you’d be cynical not to celebrate the glorious summer blockbuster that is Independence Day.
Picture QualityOn the eve of its Ultra HD Blu-ray bow, Independence Day is re-released on regular Blu-ray complete with a 4K-remastered 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation which, albeit potentially for only a short period, promotes the film in the best condition it’s looked in 20 years.
Undoubtedly due to all the hard work done to prep the title for its imminent Ultra HD Blu-ray, Independence Day has simply never looked better
Detail is excellent, picking up on every element of the still-impressive-despite-its-age epic alien invasion flick, showcasing every nuance the director has to offer, from the weaves of the clothing to the skin textures and set flourishes, with only a noticeable – albeit expected – drop-off for the decades-old effects work. The look is also wholly organic, largely thanks to a natural sheen of grain which pervades the piece and further highlights the impressive restoration work done to prep this for its 4K debut, which thankfully involved – from the looks of it – very little detail-and-grain-destroying scrubbing. The colour scheme is excellently rendered, picking up on the tones on offer, and only marginally faltering when it comes to black levels, although it’s the slightest niggle when compared to the work done to bring this back to life in such a stellar fashion. Nigh on reference standard, this is easily a demo quality upgrade.
Sound QualityWhilst the video will likely impress at every level, the audio can’t help but prove disappointing, in spite of the fact that – taken apart from the controversies – it’s actually a pretty decent original track that’s included (the same one from the prior Blu-ray release).
Far from what’s actually available (DTS:X on the Ultra HD Blu-ray release), the audio track isn’t even what the packaging says
The reality is that the original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track – taken apart from all of the furore – is actually a pretty impressive job. It’s hard to fathom why we couldn’t get the same DTS:X track which the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray release will be sporting, as that’s almost like offering up a video presentation which isn’t taken from the 4K remaster which they used for the UHD – i.e. an outright insult – and it’s even harder to understand why the packaging says 7.1 (perhaps a holdover from the original intention to supply a DTS:X track, as 7.1 would be the natural core) but, as 8-year-old tracks go, it’s amidst the best of the best.
Likely celebrated at the time as being a demo-and-reference-quality track through and through, it’s hard to feel justified in proclaiming any less now, as – on its own merits – it does a stellar job, disseminating effects, large and small, with surprising precision and undeniable punch; offering clear and coherent dialogue coverage across the piece; and delivering a strong and effective score underpinning the whole affair. It’s almost impossible to fault, but it still loses a point for the sheer frustration of the surrounding debacle.
Steelbook ExtrasIndependence Day is re-released in fine form when it comes to the rest of the package, with not only a wealth of material (yes, admittedly, mostly previously released in one form or another) spilling out over 2 discs, but also a decent enough steelbook release to provide the icing on the cake. It’s the seamlessly branched optional Extended Cut which arguably gives the cake that extra layer, though.
The first disc boasts both of the previous release’s Audio Commentaries as well as the original trivia track, with only a Trailer for the upcoming sequel (and the presence of both the Theatrical and Extended Cut) separating this in terms of previously-available material. The second disc offers up a new retrospective Documentary, the half-hour Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward, which has the cast and crew reflecting on the production, the effects, the memorable scenes, and the way forward towards a sequel. We also get the Original Theatrical Ending, a 4 minute alternative which puts a slightly different spin on the ending that the film finished up with, and a 2 minute Gag Reel. A number of other holdovers from the prior DVD releases make the port too, including a half-hour piece on the work done to bring the concept art to life; a 20-minute look at the faux news reels created for the movie to give the invasion a more authentic feel; and an archival half-hour Making-of hosted by Goldblum himself; as well as a collection of key setpiece sequences (of things blowing up); a collection of faux news clips; an extensive Gallery; and some Trailers and TV spots.
Aside from both the Theatrical and Extended Cuts, as well as both new extras and all of the plentiful extras already available on prior releases, the film also gets a decent Steelbook package to round out the re-release
The steelbook may be matte, with with no embossing or debossing, but it looks pretty smart nonetheless, with a well-designed signature picture on the front and a Will Smith-centric back image. The choice of title and wording is dubious at best - I'm not sure fans really wanted ID4 or 'Twentieth Anniversary Edition' written across the cover, but it's subtle enough and not too cluttered, leaving the end result a solid if not spectacular Steelbook release.
Blu-ray VerdictID4 hits UK Blu-ray with an impressive 4K-remastered dual-cut 2-disc feature-packed release.
Celebrating its twentieth anniversary in style, with an excellent Blu-ray release on the eve of its curiously anticipated sequel, Independence Day has certainly never looked better, even if we have to wait for the 4K release to see if not only that can be bested, but also if the sound - now 8 years old - can be trumped by the DTS:X track which was clumsily excluded from this release. Barring that mistake, this - particularly in its nice Zavvi-exclusive Steelbook form - remains a great re-release.
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