Independence Day: 20th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Independence Day 4K Blu-rayI’m spending the time before the upcoming holiday weekend to write about the aptly titled Independence Day, now some 20 years old and counting.  Fox provided us with a regular Blu-ray version of this 20th Anniversary releases, which Aaron Neuwirth reviewed enthusiastically over here, but today I’m coming at you with the best presentation this film has ever seen on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format.  However, I digress for the moment as I want to spend the next few paragraphs talking about what the 1996 science-fiction action flick meant to me.  It is my belief that Independence Day accomplished three major things things, if not more.  First, it ushered in the era of what all now know of as the obligatory, annual large-scale disaster films that plague the summer box office.  Second, it became a star vehicle for Will Smith and opened doors to him in Hollywood I’m sure he never imagined despite the bright, rising star he already was.  And finally, Independence Day set the bar for all sci-fi action movies to follow with its then groundbreaking effects.

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I hate to sound like an echo, but much like Aaron Neuwirth said over here, and I have to humbly agree, Independence Day has stood the test of time some 20 years later much like another sci-fi action flick that totally rocked my world in the early 90’s.  Of course I’m talking about Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  Sure the effects are very outdated compared to today’s movies, unless you’re talking about the horribly misguided X-Men: Apocalypse (sorry I could not resist), but let’s face it.  I was only 22-years-old when this movie came out and I remember coming out of the theater with a friend of mine who turned to me and said I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.  I asked him what that was.  He said he wanted to be a Hollywood film editor because of what he just saw.  Now I don’t know if it is irony or not, but somehow fate would have me graduating college and going off editing various video projects and I’m not sure whatever became of him career-wise.  However, I sure know it wasn’t film editing, but I digress.  I need to stay on topic here.

I honestly don’t think I visited Independence Day since the early days of Blu-ray and Blockbuster Video’s mailing service.  Do you remember those glory days?  Depending upon your tier of plan with Blockbuster you could have up to 1-3 discs out at a time with them, and Blu-ray was an included format, albeit a scarce one back around circa 2008.  They would mail you out a Blu-ray movie in an envelope, you would wipe off all the smudges, food and whatnot from the disc before putting it in your Blu-ray player of choice and hope to God it played and later you would return it at a date of your choosing back in the U.S. mail so they could send what was next, if available, in your request queue.  Gawd!  That was a long sentence and I miss those days, don’t you?

Independence Day was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich and stars a well-known cast consisting of Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  The movie centers around people, military, scientists and everyday citizens alike, coming together to thwart off a large-scale attack from aliens hellbent on vehemently destroying all of mankind.  And oh yeah!  The entire premise of the story takes place circa and on July 4th, hence our “Independence Day” in the United States.  It is rumored that Emmerich went this angle of a large-scale attack rather than all of the alien films of the time where they just hide among us.  Smart man, huh?  Very!

The greatest thing about Independence Day for me besides the F-U-N-factor has always been the various tribes of people coming together and uniting to trump the bad, evil aliens.  Sure the concept is nothing new and it’s basically the new Avengers formula, but there’s just something raw, intimate and honest about the various characters and their intersecting story lines that inhabit Independence Day.  I can’t put my finger on it, it’s like a “Modern Day Delilah,” but they all just work for me and every character is like a piece in a puzzle, they all fit together and are essential in the end.  That’s what makes Independence Day a winner for me each and every viewing I have with it.  I would also be lying if I didn’t get choked up every time I have to see that scene between the President and his wife in the hospital.  Ugh!

So this 4K UHD Blu-ray release of Independence Day not only features a remastered presentation, but it also includes an 8-minute longer cut of the film too.  Quite honestly, I watched the longer cut and I really couldn’t tell you what differs, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least leave you with these cold, hard facts before we start talking about the UHD disc’s vitals, that is how the movie looks and sounds in the new glorious 4K UHD Blu-ray format.  Let’s get those rockets ignited and ready to blast off!  Commence with the countdown!

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The below video score and relative comments are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation of Independence Day, which has been remastered for this release.  The video score and comments for the included regular Blu-ray presentation of the film can be found here.  So needless to say, this is a hard one to score.  Everyone is raving about it among my peers in the industry, but it’s like Ghostbusters, meaning it’s an old film (and very grainy at times).  With that being said, it’s not as eye-popping as say The Martian or Sicario on the new UHD format.  However, that’s not a bad thing either.  It just is what it is (and I hate that saying).  On the flip side, much of the explosions look a lot better than the even more fake looking ones of the most recent UHD release of Mad Max: Fury Road.  So it’s a bag of mixed nuts and I’ll do my best to praise and nitpick below where it deserves.

  • Encoding: HEVC / H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2160p)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Clarity/Detail: I was not a huge fan of the original Independence Day Blu-ray release in 2008.   It was flat and not three-dimensional in anyway.  Even worse, the effects very much looked their age.  So here we are and it’s 2016, the year we get a remastered look at the classic sci-fi film that’s now 20-something years old.  Can you believe it?  Time certainly flies by so make sure you enjoy every minute of it.  Thankfully Fox allows you to do just that with this 4K transfer.  Sure it’s grainy at times and there are plenty of fake and flat looking shots, but a closer look reveals a film that never looked better rich with detail, layers and explosions that actually don’t look God awful on 4K Blu-ray.  Who can ask for anything more, right?  I could compare it to two recent releases.  You know how everyone is praising the recent release of Ghostbusters on 4K Blu-ray?  Well, I own that one and it’s a grainy mess, but that’s the beauty of it all.  The grain is intact and detail still manages to shine through.  The same thing rings true here.  Another comparison I can make to this UHD release is the X-Files Blu-ray box set of last year, which I reviewed here.  Wide and establishing shots in that remastered box set are very soft, 2D and grainy, but the main gist of the action and closeup sequences is hearty in detail and textures.  Again, the same rings true here and I can’t ding this for that simply because during the time which this one was made, these effects and action sequences were second to none.  You picking up what I’m dropping here?  Good!
  • Depth: Because of the thin veneer of grain throughout and the way certain shots are played out flat due to the effects of the time, I can’t lie to you and say this one has the Blu-ray pop of the majority of action transfers we see in the second decade of this century because it’s simply not true.  Certainly, onscreen characters do pop against their environments giving them a level of dimensionality, but it’s not as noticeable as say the Sicario UHD disc I popped in last night.
  • Black Levels: One can say the black levels are relatively strong here, but that’s not to say it’s entirely true for the presentation’s whole run-time.  It wasn’t as deep and inky as I have become accustomed to the past week with the UHD Blu-ray movies I have viewed, but again this is a 20-year-old movie, and dang it if it doesn’t hold up well with no visible signs of crush and just the right amount of darkness to key scenes where it’s a necessity.
  • Color Reproduction: Besides the many explosions and the orange and white parachute scene there’s not a lot of vibrant colors in this one.  When there’s color it’s punchy, but for the most part they are a natural, Earthy palette.   Besides the explosions, some of the greatest use of color here in my opinion were the bright blue skies and dark clouds at times.
  • Flesh Tones: Skin tones all appear natural throughout with no signs of any orange, red or yellow hues.  Every one looks spot on natural here, except the aliens of course.  Haha.
  • Noise/Artifacts: Besides the thin layer of grain and some ugly, wide establishing shots, there’s really nothing to write off as nasty here.  I did not see any white specks, noise, banding problems or anything else that would hinder your enjoyment of this sci-fi classic that set the standards and bar for so many more to follow.  You have to love that and I think the purists will eat this one up.

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Like I mentioned up above in the video section, the below audio score and comments are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation of Independence Day.  The audio score and associated comments for the included regular Blu-ray presentation of the film can be found here.

  • Audio Format(s): English DTS:X (defaults to DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
  • Dynamics: Since I’m kind of borrowing from Aaron Neuwirth’s original Blu-ray review I have to agree with him when he exclaimed “Fox has gone all out to make sure you can experience Independence Day as if you were watching it in a theater.”  Like the Def Leppard song, “Let’s Get Rocked,” you definitely get rocked in your living room here.  The dynamics are all over the place here and you’re almost forgetful of the fact that you’re watching a 20-year-old movie.  They really did a great job remastering this sci-fi, action classic.   The film’s score is the first thing that grabs me here as it completely engulfs you whole and fills your living room space (provided that’s where you’re watching it of course…haha).  The height channel (in Dolby Atmos) excels in this presentation quite remarkably if you think about the fact that a good chunk of Independence Day takes place in the skies and what happens up there.  Well, I think you can put two-and-two together.  Aerial dogfights, takeoffs, flybys, etc. all render quite splendidly here in this setup.  You can practically feel like you’re taking off or the weight of the invading alien spaceships, but I digress…moving on…
  • Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel not only carries the action with the many explosions and fireworks, but also does a lot of the heavy lifting in bringing out the aggressive nature of the predicament at hand.  After all, we’re being invaded by aliens!  You better believe there’s going to be a lot of emphasis being expelled from the sub woofer channel.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: While the majority of dialogue and other elements are reserved for the front, the surround channels are where Independence Day on 4K UHD Blu-ray really excels from the many blasts and planes zinging by you to the score that infects and alien ships that come at you from behind out of nowhere.  You have to get the big picture here.  This is one of the most nostalgic summer popcorn films ever.  You better believe it’s designed to put you in the middle of the action here.  They didn’t spend all this time remastering this for their health, you know (my girlfriend hates when I mutter those two words)?
  • Dialogue Reproduction: For the most part, much of the spoken dialogue is always loud and clear.  I could nitpick here in a few scenes, but I won’t.  I had no problems understanding any of the words and that’s all that truly matters, right?

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In addition to the new restoration for both the theatrical (2:25:30) and extended cuts (2:33:33) of the film on the Blu-ray and UHD discs, this UHD set has a new thirty minute doc, two audio commentaries, a slew of past released supplemental material and the theatrical presentation in Digital HD (redeemable for either iTunes HD or UltraViolet).  There are three discs contained in this UHD package  and I have taken the time to break out what you’ll find on each of the discs down below.  Here we go.  We’re ready to blast off!

  • UHD 4K Blu-ray Disc:
    • Theatrical and Extended Cut versions of the film
    • Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (Theatrical and Extended Cuts)
    • Commentary by Oscar-Winning Special Effects Supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith
    • ID4 Datastream Trivia Track (Theatrical Version) – These are basically pop-up facts that appear onscreen throughout the film.
  • Blu-ray Disc 1:
    • ID4 Datastream Trivia Track (Theatrical Version) – These are basically pop-up facts that appear onscreen throughout the film.
    • Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (Theatrical and Extended Cuts)
    • Audio Commentary by Oscar-Winning Special Effects Supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith
    • Independence Day: Resurgence Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:30) – It sucks, but this sequel is now a reality so you might as well embrace it, huh?  Yeah!
  • Blu-ray Disc 2:
    • Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward (HD, 30:40) – This new documentary was filmed on the set of less than desirable sequel out now and basically takes a look back at the legacy of Independence Day.  Because Will Smith is not involved in the sequel, don’t expect to see him “live” in this one, but do expect plenty of archive moments and interviews.
    • Original Theatrical Ending (SD, 4:16) – Here you have Randy Quaid in the film’s original ending complete with commentary.
    • Creating Reality (SD, 29:19) – Believe it or not here’s a look at how the film built a level of realism around this story.
    • ID4 Invasion Mock-umentary (SD, 21:57) – Here we have a pseudo news piece focused on the events transpiring in the film.  Yawn.
    • The Making of ID4 (SD, 28:29) – Jeff Goldblum goes into the various aspects of production in this  behind-the-scenes, making-of doc.
    • Combat Review (Random Destruction Clips) (HD, 9:04) – Here’s a quick video recap of all the chaos and destruction that takes place within the film.
    • Monitor Earth Broadcasts (SD, 51:08) – Emmerich and Devlin had news footage written and filmed around the world to help add a realistic value to the actual movie. You can find a bunch of it here.
    • Teaser Trailers (SD) – I think you know what’s up here.  Why it’s the teaser trailers for a little known film called Independence Day.
    • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:30)
    • Gag Reel (SD, 2:05)
    • TV Spots (SD)
    • Gallery (HD)

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I know I’m going to catch a lot of flack for this, but as a long time endearing fan of the film I really only see this as a viable purchase if you’re like me and don’t own it on any of the previously released Blu-ray editions, including the one just released several weeks back.  There’s just not enough WOW-factor in it for me visually speaking for me to tell you stop everything you’re doing and run out and buy this now in 4K UHD Blu-ray.  Sure it looks fantastic for a movie of this age, but the regular Blu-ray edition (remastered one of course) will also suffice.  Unless you live, breathe and eat Independence Day, I don’t feel this upgrade to 4K UHD is worth the twenty odd extra bucks.  Have your say, but that’s just my two cents.  Anyway, Happy Independence Day 2016!



Independence Day 4K Blu-ray Cover


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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