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Independence Day
Five Star Collection

review by Zach B.



Rated: PG-13

Studio: Fox

Running Time: 153 Minutes

Starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein

Written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Retail Price: $34.99

Features: Theatrical Version, Special Edition Version,Commentary with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, Commentary by Special Effects Supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith, "Creating Reality" 30 Minute Documentary on the Making of ID4, "ID4 Invasion" mockumentary, "HBO First Look" featurette, Alternate Biplane Ending, Storyboards, Concept Art, Production Stills, Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Collectible Booklet, DVD-ROM: "Get Off My Planet" game, link to ID4 online game with free month of internet access, Live online event

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Surround English, Dolby Surround French, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search, 2 Disc Set, THX Certified

Simply put, "Independence Day" was the whole big, hyped summer movie of 1996. It really seems like it was last week, but at the time of writing this, it was four years ago when the film was released into theaters and went on to gross over 300 million dollars in the United States. I myself personally remember the long lines at the theater waiting to see the movie, as well as the major TV hype, the theatrical teasers and the whole "Sneak Preview The Day Before" showing. If I recall correctly, the movie brought in a little under 90 million dollars in about five days.

"Independence Day" is a pure popcorn movie. Yes, it is something critics and nitpickers are going to bash, but I myself found it to be really entertaining. Yet when you come down to it, it's just a whole big blockbuster film that isn't going to win awards for the story department. The plot is basic and really predictable and the characters are clichéd to death. Still, it's a fun ride with some earnest performances, and made Will Smith the whole "King of July 4th weekend" (Men In Black was sucessful, but Wild Wild Crap err West bombed).

The movie begins when giant, alien spaceships start appearing in major cities/countries all over the world. The aliens strike a few days before July 4th, Independence Day. However, the lucky survivors of the huge alien explosions and whatnot somehow come and are banded together to figure out a way to fight off the aliens and save the world. You have your central hero, Steven Miller (Will Smith), your computer nerd (Jeff Goldblum), the hardworking, nice and forceful president (Bill Pullman), his wife (Mary McDonnell), Goldblum's stereotypical Jewish father (Hirsch), the Army general guy thingy (Loggia) and a few more.

The movie boasts some really nice special effects and computer graphics, which did pretty much wow audiences around the time of release. As I said, this movie is nothing too original, but gets the job done of entertaining the audience.

"ID4" has also been one of the most anticipated DVD releases since the format came out, and this two disc set, though basically a port of the special edition laserdisc, has some really nice features, including a special edition cut, an alternate ending, storyboards and more.

"Independence Day" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (both versions of the movie), and the result is a really nice transfer with much clarity. Detail is some of the best I have seen, and the colors used capture a lot of the film's tone with much accuracy. Colors do not bleed at all, and images remain strong and provides a nice, vibrant punch.

The film is powered by a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Not to say this track isn't bad or anything, I found it to be a little disappointing. I felt a more range of sounds could have been used, and the fact sounds could have sounded a bit louder and stronger. Still, the planes swooping, the White House blowing to bits and the climatic battle scene sound really nice, and that you feel like you are there. The beautiful musical score by David Arnold uses the channels really well. A fine mix, with English and French Dolby Surround tracks included as well with English and Spanish subtitles.

Though this is basically a port of the laserdisc, the supplementary content on the two discs are nothing revolutionary, but really nice and good to see... and hear.

Thanks to our friend seamless branching, we can expierence two cuts of the movie. One is the standard Theatrical Cut while the other is the Special Edition. The Special Edition is nice, basically adding in a few scenes as well as extending others. It basically builds on the plot and characters just a little bit more, but in all honesty, it's not really necessary and doesn't do much for the movie.

Lifted right from the laserdisc is the Commentary with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. They discuss the making of the film, and seem pretty relaxed. There is some pauses now and then between them, and even make references to the laserdisc format, but do offer a decent amount of information on the making of the movie. Not the greatest commentary ever, but I still think it is worth a listen.

The Commentary with Special Effects Supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith only is for the Special Edition portion of the movie, and is a good commentary. It offers a wealth of information on the film's special effects, so if you are into that kind of thing or are curious about it, this commentary is for you.

Three different featurettes (though one is listed as a documentary) are included: Creating Reality, in my opinion, is the best of the three and has some nice information on making the movie, and lasts a hearty half hour. The mockmumentary ID4 Invasion is presented in a pretty redundant and stupid fashion and goes on for 22 minutes, while the HBO First Look, which lasts 33 minutes and is hosted by Jeff Goldblum, is also a little stupid but features some fluff interviews and behind the scenes footage.

The Original Biplane Ending Sequence to the film is presented with commentary, and I must say, I am glad they didn't use this ending. I agree with Emmerich's choice to not have it, and how it did look pretty stupid to have a biplane in the climatic sequence. I could see what he was going for, but it didn't work out. I say you watch it and decide for yourself.

For you DVD-ROM users, there is the game "Get Off My Planet" and a DVD-ROM link to the ID4 Online Game which gives you a free month of play. There will also be a Live Event too.

Rounding off the disc is a great amount Storyboards, Original Artwork and Production Stills, plus Three Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots. (There is also an easter egg, which I'll leave to you to find out).

It's not the greatest movie in the world, but it sure is an enjoyable one. Fox has given one of the most anticipated DVDs are nice treatmentm with a great transfer and good extras. I was expecting a little more with the sound, but it's still great to hear. If you enjoyed the movie (I know some of you aren't all critics!), this is a great addition to your collection.

(3.5/5, NOT included in final score)




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