Independence Day 4K Blu-ray Review

The 1996 blockbuster featuring Will Smith returns in a fresh 4K version, but how does ID4 fare nearly 30 years later? Read on for our verdict.

Published
Updated
Producer / Publisher: Disney
4 minutes & 48 seconds read time
TweakTown's Rating: 86%
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The Bottom Line

Independence Day remains a true sci-fi classic, and this 4K remaster shows off its qualities like never before.

Pros

  • + A beautifully remastered 4K transfer
  • + One new documentary joins legacy bonus features on the Blu-ray disc

Cons

  • - No contemporary audio commentaries
  • - A triple layer 4K disc would have let the video breathe a little more

Should you buy it?

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Independence Day 4K Blu-ray Review 99

January 1996's Super Bowl XXX broke the record at the time for the most-watched sporting event ever on U.S. television, but post-game conversations were dominated less by the (expected) thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys and more by a 30 second TV spot for a little unpublicized film called Independence Day (stylized as 'ID4'). Climaxing with the now iconic image of the White House exploding into a fireball, the film quickly became the most eagerly anticipated of that summer's blockbusters, which included heavy hitters such as The Rock, Mission Impossible and Star Trek: First Contact. When the film hit U.S. cinemas on July 2, 1996, just in time for the titular event, it set off a firestorm that became a cultural event that captured the attention of the world.

Independence Day 4K Blu-ray Review 01

When an unknown and apparently technically superior alien race enters the earth's atmosphere at strategic locations around the world, their nefarious intentions are revealed when a pre-emptive attack decimates cities around the world. F-16 Navy Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), and U.S. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) quickly emerge as central figures in mankind's defense before there's nothing left to fight for.

Made for a relatively conservative budget of $75 million (Twister released at the same time cost $92 million), the film's clever marketing campaign raised immense audience anticipation, which was ultimately reflected in box office totals which exceeded $800 million worldwide and briefly made it the highest grossing film of all time (before Titanic stole that mantel the following year).

Independence Day has always been a prized slice of cinematic ham, a throwback to the Cold War channeling B movie schlocks of the 1950s updated for modern sensibilities. It never promised high art but did guarantee a roller coaster ride of a cinema trip, which it delivered in spades. Despite the massive advances in CG effects in the intervening years, there's something very special and engaging about Independence Day - not just because of its visual effects (which are still great, partially because of their reliance on old school models) but because of its cracking pace, its relatable setting and cast of engaging, likable characters. Sure, you can point to the paper-thin plot or any number of deficiencies critics have long since identified, but there's no denying the charm and pull the film continues to have all these years later.

Video transfer

Independence Day is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with H.265 compression and finished with a base HDR-10 pass.

Dating back to its initial home video releases on LaserDisc and VHS in 1997, Independence Day has always fared rather decently, offering quality transfers that pushed the envelope for what each format could offer at the time. But there's no doubt that all previous versions pale in comparison to this most recent 4K transfer, which has been stunningly restored from the original camera negative.

The image is sharp and detailed, with nary a hint of film artifacts. Authored at a time when triple-layer discs were not often employed, there is a small price paid from encoding two versions of the film on a double-layer disc, with the image frequently being on the cusp of devolving into a pixelated mess, but thankfully never quite does. The textures are superb, with fine detail replete in every frame. Film grain is often visible but never interferes.

Independence Day enjoys a really superb 4K debut, which is unlikely to be exceeded on physical media.

Independence Day 4K Blu-ray Review 02

Audio transfer

Independence Day is presented in DTS:X Audio.

Taking the very good six-channel DTS-HD mix used on the previous Blu-ray and diverting some effects to the height surrounds makes for a pretty effective strategy, especially as the original track was already completely over the top and bombastic in every conceivable way.

Matching the film's overall lack of subtlety, audio mixers swing for the fence with a supremely active soundtrack that mostly manages not to descend into a complete wall of sound, even though centerpiece destruction sequences feature deep, deep bass, which will consistently test even the most active subwoofers. There's very frequent use of the split surrounds, supporting the general ambiance and perfectly matching the on-screen mayhem. David Arnold's score is as over the top and jingoistic as it's always been, but it retains a lot of power, and it's mixed appropriately.

Independence Day is a film tailor-made to be experienced as loud as possible, with as many speakers as you can find.

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Bonus materials

The front cover bills this latest version as a '20th-anniversary edition', which was timed to coincide with the 2016 theatrical release of Independence Day: Resurgence. It might as well be called the 'ultimate edition', as it's unlikely to see another issue on physical media. If that proves to be the case, it's not necessarily a bad thing, as this set says almost everything there is to be said about the film. Let's jump in.

The sole new extra is the 30-minute Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward documentary, comprising new interviews with the key cast from the set of Independence Day: Resurgence. While Will Smith's absence is regrettable (as it is from that film as well), a number of the veteran crew offer their recollections, intercut with behind-the-scenes vision culled from a variety of sources (much of which is replicated from the other included documentaries). It's a bit puffy at times, but it's nonetheless nice to see any kind of contemporary thoughts on the film, including the once cutting-edge visual effects.

Returning is an Audio Commentary from Director-Producer duo Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, recycled from the 1998 laserdisc. It's interesting to hear them describe the film as a love letter to the films they grew up with, such as Star Wars, but with so much time having passed, I would have loved to hear a more recent effort. An additional Audio Commentary provided by visual effects artists Volker Engel and Doug Smith recorded for the 2000 DVD is a bit more technical in nature and goes into significant detail over the creation of the film's effects at the dawn of the digital age. The ID4 Datastream Trivia Track is exclusively available for the theatrical version and offers cute anecdotes and behind-the-scenes nuggets in a subtitle stream while the film plays.

Next up, we have the Original Theatrical Ending, which sees Russell Casse save the day not in an F-16 fighter, but his bi-plane(!), three made-for-TV specials Creating Reality, ID4 Invasion and The Making of ID4, the latter of which is hosted by Jeff Goldblum and Monitor Earth Broadcasts (Video Playback Newscasts) which preserves the in-universe newscasts that can be seen in the film, in extended form.

Finally, we have several Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots, as well as an underwhelming and somewhat bizarre Gag Reel that offers few laughs.

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Photo of product for sale

The Movie

85%

Video Quality

86%

Audio Quality

88%

Extras

84%

Overall

86%

The Bottom Line

Independence Day remains a true sci-fi classic, and this 4K remaster shows off its qualities like never before.

TweakTown award
86%

Independence Day 4K Blu-ray

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Ben joined the TweakTown team in 2008 and has since reviewed 100s of movies. Ben is based in Australia and has covered entertainment news and reviews since 2002. A student of film, Ben brings a wide understanding of the medium to the latest happenings in entertainment circles and the latest blockbuster theatrical reviews.

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