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Blu-ray Review: Independence Day

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Independence Day is unquestionably dumb. It makes no sense, its characters are barely deeper than a plastic wading pool, and there’s not an original idea to be found anywhere. In the end, so what? This is also unquestionably fun, and the special effects are a marvel to behold. It gives audience what they want, and that’s all you can ask for.

Even though they would destroy Godzilla a few years later, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich can blow things up with the best of them. The alien assault depicted in ID4 is epic. Landmarks go down in a pile of flames and debris, cars flip, and scattered pedestrians flail about. The combination of miniatures, CG, and pyrotechnics hold up astonishingly well for a film 12 years old.

The pacing can slow after a perfectly paced first half hour. The impending sense of doom as the alien ships cover the city are handled with care. Tension is superb, and even though everyone knows what’s about to happen, the overall sense of awe is incredible.

Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are perfectly cast to give this one a true summer movie feel. Their banter plays on the ridiculousness of it all, taking away the edge from the thousands of nameless suckers being vaporized around them. Most of the other characters are instantly forgettable, and Randy Quaid pushes things past the breaking point.

The script is completely illogical. The infamous Mac compatible computer virus is a Hollywood classic. Their eventual destruction comes as a blatantly stupid move on the alien’s part, aiming their weak point (their giant cannon) at the ground even though they’re being assaulted in the air. Why not keep the hatch closed?

Aside from the logical fallacies that in a summer blockbuster are the status quo, the disappointment comes from the lack of information on the aliens. One line explains why they came to Earth. Their technology isn’t discussed in any real detail unless it concerns the final all-out assault directly, and their odd design is certainly unique, yet never fully explained. They’re ugly, ticked off, and they like stuff to explode. That’s all you need to know for ID4, and that’s much of the charm as well.

Fuzzy, soft, and overly grainy are the norm for this HD run of the film. It looks older than it is, and details are sparse. The resolution has made some things more distinct (like small flaws in the special effects), while the overall tone is too dull. Colors are strong, and explosions have plenty of bright reds to make them look spectacular. Black levels are likewise solid and impressive. Grain is overbearing in many shots though.

Aside from the mother ship going down and the initial reveal of the massive alien brigade at the start, the low end of this DTS-HD master is a disappointment. The bass that backs the explosions is meager, and at times hardly noticeable (the canyon chase especially). That said, the immense amount of surround work here is phenomenal. Large scale action scenes are filled with non-stop rear speaker audio. Cars flip from the front channels into the back, the flowing explosions likewise do the same, and debris is captured perfectly as it follows along.

Very little of the packed two-disc set Fox released on DVD has made it over to this Blu-ray. Note that the movie itself is the theatrical version, not the extended cut. Two commentaries begin the features menu, the first with Devlin and Emmerich. The second comes from two of the visual effects team, Volker Engel and Doug Smith.

A trivia track is a Blu-ray exclusive. Above par for the usual pop-up tracks, this one points out some of the more ridiculous plot points of the movie, including the computer virus and how a single plane could take down an entire ship. The interactive game has viewers trying to find specific objects as they watch the film, and is borderline stupid. Some trailers and a keyword search (to take you to specific points of the movie in case the chapter select wasn’t enough) are the only other pieces you’ll find.

Will Smith’s character is stationed at El Toro air base. Whether a coincidence or intentional, this is the same place the bomber was launched to nuke the aliens in the 1953 version of War of the Worlds. The ending is also an obvious homage with today’s technology attached.

About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can follow Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.