Just in time for the Fourth of July Fox has released Independence Day (ID4) on 4K Ultra HD. The set includes both the original theatrical release and the extended cut of the film as well as a lot on nice extras ported over from earlier releases and a new half-hour documentary on the film.
Like the best disaster movies (a genre that this film comfortably fits in) this story follows the lives of several individuals and their families. We get to know various people including a genius-level scientist who lacks motivation and therefore has a menial job (Jeff Goldbum), a crazy pilot who claims to have been the victim of an alien abduction years ago (Randy Quaid), a hot-shot Air Force pilot (Will Smith) and the President of the United States (Bill Pullman) and see how they react when aliens arrive on Earth on July 2nd. They don't do anything at first, just park their miles-wide spacecraft over the major capitals of the Earth. After waiting a day however, they start attacking. The various military organizations strike back, or try to, but the invaders have impenetrable invisible shields around their craft... they can shoot us, but we can't shoot them. Things look entirely hopeless as much of the world's military might is quickly destroyed, but our plucky group of heroes comes up with one last plan that may allow us to beat back the invaders and reclaim our planet: on July, 4th, Independence Day.
I've always been a little surprised that Independence Day received the reaction that it did and has lasted as long as it has. A blockbuster at the time, its star has never really faded despite some of the rather silly aspects that are sprinkled through the film. When watching movies, I'm usually able to intellectually realize that a plot point doesn't make sense, but still suspend my disbelief and enjoy the spectacle. (Hey, it's my superpower.) I was able to do that through this film too, but it was more trying than usual. It's was easy to ignore the fact that the aliens were targeting political entities rather than military ones (hoping to destroy the chain of command so that a unified defense would be hard to mount, I rationalized) but I'll admit the ending, involving an Apple computer linking to the alien's computer system was a bit hard to swallow. I'm really surprised that audiences, as a whole, embraced the film and were able to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
And what a spectacle it is. Filled with explosions, air battles, more explosions, secret military bases with Top Secret artifacts, and still more explosions, the film is quite a ride and one worth going on. Just make sure you don't think about it too much.
?The Ultra HD Disc:
This two-disc set includes the movie on both 4K UHD as well as two standard Blu-ray discs, the second of which is devoted to extras. The 4K UDH disc and the first BR disc both contain two versions of the movie, the original theatrical release and the extended cut that runs nine minutes longer. (The 4K defaults to the original version of the film... the extended cut can be accessed through the Set-up Menu.)
This movie was filmed in 35mm recently scanned in at 4K, and that digital file was used for to create the master for this Ultra HD disc. The 2.40:1 image looks spectacular, the best the movie has ever looked... but that exposes the limits of the technology used to create the special effects. The level of detail is excellent and the colors are great, both surpassing the 2008 HD release of the film. The problem comes when they mate special effects shots to real life images. The effects aren't seamless and it never looks like the people are actually with the effects, more like they are in front of a back projection. This isn't a flaw with the encoding or scan of the film, rather it's just a limitation of what they could do at the time. If I were to screen this movie for friends, there's no doubt that I'd reach for the 4K disc. Just be aware that the movie might not look as impressive as you remember it looking 20 year ago.
ID4 comes with a DTS:X that is just amazing. Immersive and impressive, this mix will bring a smile to the most jaded audiophile. Room fills with directional sound during the action scenes, you can hear chunks of debris landing behind you in some of the explosions, but the more sedate scenes are also sonically active with audio cues coming from all corners. I really couldn't find a fault with the audio mix. It's simply excellent.
The 4K disc contains a couple of commentary tracks the first by Roland Emmerich (director/co-writer) and Dean Devlin (producer/co-writer). This has been on several other releases, and I've remember listening to it years ago and it's very informative and interesting. The second commentary track features VFX Supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith. There's also an optional trivia track on the theatrical version.
The Blu-ray discs included those bonuses mentioned above as well as a trailer for the sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, as well as a new documentary, Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward. This new featurette runs a tad over half an hour and is a nice look back at the film. They've also ported over the copious extras from earlier releases too, including:
Original Theatrical Ending
The Making of ID4
Combat Review (Random Destruction Clips)
Monitor Earth Broadcasts (Video Playback Newscasts)
Overall, it's a nicely packed set.
A fun summer flick, Independence Day looks the best it ever has on home video and sounds absolutely phenomenal. If you have the ability to suspend your disbelief, this movie comes highly recommended.