On July 2nd, in the not too distant future, an object of enormous size is located on or around Earth's moon. As time passes & information increases, it's identity is realized. For millennia, man has asked the question, "are we alone in the Universe?" and herein lies the answer! Giant "Mother ships" 15 miles in diameter have entered Earth's atmosphere & are converging on Earth's largest cities. Around the globe, the reactions are mixed. Jubilation is met with cautious concern, as there has been no message from the "Visitors" one way or the other, friend or foe. Since their arrival, satellite communications around the planet have been interrupted. To the casual observer, it seems as though the "Mother ships" presence may be affecting the ability of the satellites to transmit their data. However, one man is not so sure. As he analyzes the satellite transmissions, he realizes that the aliens are transmitting a frequency within our frequency in an attempt to coordinate what can only be a preemptive strike on a planet unaware. In a flash, the attack begins & the aliens systematically destroy all of the Planets' seats of power. The military is called into action but to no avail. All of our weapons are mere toys in comparison to the advanced weaponry/defensive systems, the aliens bring to bear! Earth must make a collective stand if she is to survive the onslaught of death & destruction this alien race has brought. July 2nd, they arrived, July 3rd, they attacked, July 4th, we fight back! Independence Day is an awesome action packed effects laden film that does not disappoint!
In a word…thunderous! The audio platform used for the feature is presented in both Dolby 5.1 & Dolby Surround 2.0. Both presentations are incredible with the 5.1 being the more active of the two, naturally. It's really hard to put into words the awesome nature of the disc's audio content. If you are in an apartment living above someone, be warned, this is "lease-breaking" bass! The center is crystalline & well balanced. The surrounds & sub are in a constant state of use with only a few elements of the feature using one or the other, as opposed to both continuously.
Roland Emmerich & Dean Devlin provide a screen specific commentary (at times) along with a host of background information regarding the development of the film in relation to casting, scripting, model usage, character development, special effects et al. You can count on them to get carried away with any given topic & linger on it for a considerable period of time. Namely, when they find a scene that they are particularly proud of (aboard Air Force One-Judd Hirsch/Jeff Goldblum interaction). Additionally, they are quite proud of the overall tone of the film & are very happy to share all of the trials & success they had in making ID4. Emmerich's accent can get pretty thick in some places so you will have to listen closely. I did enjoy their commentary & found it to be both enlightening & informative. The only nitpick I have is that you cannot switch between the audio commentary's without going back to the main menu to access the separate audio channel.
Special Effects Commentary
Academy Award winning SFX team of Volker Engel & Doug Smith provide an extremely "techie" commentary on the abundant Special Effects found in ID4. Given the exhaustive documentaries & making of features on the disc, their info is really a rehash of other segments on the disc. No less interesting, but if you view disc two's information before you listen to the SFX commentary, a definite feeling of Déjà vu sets in!
The video on the disc is an incredibly mistake free crystalline print that really shines in every area. Given the extensive use of CGI & compositing there are a few areas where the special effects footage contains the smallest of shimmering in the image but other than that this disc is easily reference quality! The colors are rich & vibrant & the blacks are deep & true. You will have to look very hard to find any errors in this transfer. Fox really outdid themselves with the anamorphic widescreen transfer for this disc. If you are going to provide the best treatment for a Special Edition of any kind, this is the way to do it! Additionally, the disc features both the Theatrical version of the film & a previously unreleased, Special Edition version of the film that boasts 9 minutes of restored footage. The additional 9 minutes is pretty unremarkable with the exception of the scene with Brent Spiner & Jeff Goldblum in the captured attacker!
There are so many extras provided for ID4 Special Edition, a second disc is included that is literally chock full of extras! The extras consist of:
Contained within the "Featured Specimens" segment of the special features, creating reality contains a prologue which consists of news briefs on the alien invasion giving you a sense of "being there" with moment to moment updates on the approach of the Alien vessels & the subsequent human drama that ensues.
Creating an Alien World
This segment deals with the storyboards, Matte paintings & finished shots. There were well over 200 storyboards generated for this film & they are presented in great detail in this portion of the segment. From the simple to the elaborate designs used to create the "alien reality", this segment has everything.
For me, this was the coolest portion. From Pyrotechnics to the 65-foot "Attacker" that was created, this covers all the miniatures used to create the illusion of mass destruction & Alien invasion. In addition to displaying, these items, they showed them in various stages of construction & where needed, destruction. Tremendously involved & engaging, Miniature Reality was extremely informative. Additionally, the effects team was met with a challenge to "destroy" entire cities. This session shows that not all the best effects are computer generated. Apparently models of the cities were set at 90-degree angles & blown up from the bottom. Providing the illusion of the "rolling fireball" for a fraction of the cost it would have been had it been done via CGI! Really neat stuff!
The White House
The name says it all. One of the pivotal scenes in the film surrounds the "destruction of the White House". It heralds the Aliens true intent of destroying all life on Earth. Obviously, the "Real" White House was unavailable for use at the time of filming so; an elaborate miniature model was constructed. Herein, they describe the process involved in creating the model & it's subsequent destruction. The attention to detail, and absolute, overall, great look are incredible. Detailed herein are the materials used to create the White house (plaster) & the time & effort it took to create & destroy it!
Motion Control Effects
The motion control effects deal with all the motion you see on camera. Obviously, there were no real flying saucers the effects team could use so, they employ a stationary model & "move" a camera around it until the desired effect is achieved. They describe & demonstrate the process in this segment.
Creating a "Real" Alien
Patrick Tatopolus, one of the production designers on the film, goes into great detail on the making of an alien. He demonstrates, full body puppets, stunt limbs & all the bits & pieces that go into making a living breathing alien warrior with host! This includes a lot of behind-the-scenes footage coupled with postproduction elements to demonstrate the effect as it was shown theatrically. Incredibly, this only lasts a few minutes 5-10 at the most but it seems a whole lot longer!
Here's the real meat & potatoes of the film, the effects! In digital reality, compositing is explained & demonstrated as well as CGI, Texture mapping, & wire frame construction. Very involved & very technical but altogether really informative & enjoyable. Just to give an idea of the scope of the film's special effects here are some stats: 3,978 F 18 Hornets 1,550 Smoke Trails 52, 278 Pieces of Debris 3,931 Attacker vessels 22,014 Light balls 92 Alien shields 1,549 missiles & 45 Dogfights. All assembled electronically & put to incredible use in the film! As with all of the other features on the disc, this segment gives before, after & post production elements. In total, this segment is 30 minutes in length however, it feels a lot longer. The main contributors are Emmerich & Devlin, Tatopoulos, & Tricia Ashford just to name a few. Incredible amount of information!
There are 5 teaser trailers included, the theatrical trailer, 5 15-second trailers & 5 30-second trailers. Also included is the super bowl trailer, admonishing the viewer to enjoy, the game for it may be our last! Out of the bunch, the theatrical trailer is the best of the lot.
This ending is the original ending for the film. It tested less than favorably & was exchanged for the ending that was theatrically released. It carries, the voice-over of Devlin & Emmerich as they identify, tempo changes that this ending would have brought about. The audio is not finished & some of the effects shots are not completed but you get the overall picture, the Bi-Plane ending was to provide.
The "invasion" consists of the news segments, breakthroughs as the Aliens descend upon Earth's cities. All done to create, the movie's sense of dread & foreboding! These elements are followed by interviews with the cast & crew, film clips & behind the scenes footage. Of note, the US Military acted as an advisor to the film's military elements however when, all references to Area 51 were not removed from the film, the Military refused to support or endorse the film! Funny! After this, it gets hairy! Interviews are given by UFO "experts" from around the globe, including a former General Director of the KGB! All dealing with the "plausibility" of a real ID4! Strange people with entirely too much time on their hands! In total, this portion is roughly 1 hour in length.
Making of ID4
Hosted by Jeff Goldblum, this "mockumentary" was originally broadcast on HBO when ID4 was in its theatrical release. Quite funny in moments, it's strictly a one-time view. Subsequent viewings may bring about stomach pains & nausea! It consists of cast & crew interviews as well as an in-depth tour of the "Area ID4" facility. Cute but only marginally entertaining.
For those interested in a link to the ID4 site, that along with an ID4 game is included. A demo for the game is present on the DVD portion of the disc. If it looks anything at all like the demo, it's not even worth checking out. Pretty lame, IMHO.
ID4 has many detractors; I however am not one of them. I loved Deep blue Sea, Armageddon, Deep Impact & ID4! They are popcorn films to be sure but they are incredibly entertaining & mindless fun! ID4 borrows from just about every SCI-FI film ever made most notably the 80's miniseries "v" & "V The Final Battle" & pays homage to possibly the greatest Sci-Fi film ever by having it shown on TV in the movie (The Day the Earth Stood Still). Independence Day is one of those films that you either loved or hated. For me that choice was clear. I suspended belief & looked to enjoy a fanciful & very flawed adventure into the questionable future! The acting is great! Judd Hirsch, Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, Robert Loggia. You name it! As big & off the wall as ID4 is, so is there acting! But, wonderfully so! ID4 is not not high drama, nor is it a thought provoking doomsday message. It is a great ball of fun that works on every level. Including "infecting" the aliens with one of our Earth made computer viruses! Remember, suspend belief & you'll have a great time! One last note, there is a hidden feature that will provide at least an hour more of information. On the second disc if you highlight the LED light on the PC, you will notice a message on the screen identifying "Access- Data Enter" if you use your remote & type in #7 & #4, or if you have a +10 button-hit that 07 times & then strike #4, you will be transported inside the Alien Attacker where you can select from three different segments #1 Sonic Separator which allows you to listen to the different audio layers of the film. #2 Combat Review, which allows you to jump to any combat scene in the film without having to watch the movie in it's entirety, or skip around chapter to chapter for that much & #3 Monitor Earth's broadcasts which picks one of the fake newscasts at random & plays it in length for you. In all, these elements add up to about an hour of additional materials!