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

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Jun 13, 2016
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Independence Day: 20th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Review)


Roland Emmerich

Release Date(s)

1996 (June 7, 2016)


Centropolis Entertainment (20th Century Fox)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B+

Independence Day: 20th Anniversary Edition (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)



What happens when a race of war-mongering aliens drops by Earth unannounced for some of your famous barbecue ribs one Fourth of July weekend? They lay waste to your planet’s biggest cities, that’s what. ID4 is one of those movies. You know... the big summer explosion epics. In fact, at the time it came out in 1996, there had been few films that even approached its scale and audacity.

The story is as simple as can be: Aliens show up in a “mothership” one-quarter the size of the Moon, and launch dozens of 13-mile wide flying saucers that glide over the biggest cities in the world and blast them into plasma. Humans get their tails thoroughly whipped, but they aren’t down for the count. After taking stock of who’s left alive, they decide to fight back, lead by a yuppie President of the United States (Bill Pullman), a scrappy fighter pilot and his stripper girlfriend (Will Smith and Vivica Fox), and an over-educated and underachieving cable TV technician and his dear old dad (Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch). Oh... and the final epic battle that takes place on Independence Day. You can probably guess how it turns out.

The story goes that producer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich, fresh off their successful run with Stargate, came up with the idea for this movie during a press junket, and wrote the script in three weeks. The film definitely plays like something that was written in three weeks, with such dialogue gems as, “I’m just a little anxious to get up there and whup E.T.’s ass!” There are many plot holes here. For example: If a spaceship one-quarter the size of the Moon suddenly pulled into Earth orbit, it would wreak havoc on the planet just from its gravity alone. And if said ship later exploded in Earth orbit, the chunks of falling debris would rival the size and damage potential of the asteroid in Armageddon. But you know what? None of that matters. The beauty of this film is that it knows exactly what it is, it doesn’t take itself seriously, and it doesn’t try to be anything more than a massive B-movie hype-fest. Sure, you can find plenty of faults with this flick, but after a while you simply stop counting them. You’ll be much too busy being entertained. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are damn funny in this. So just sit back and enjoy what is undeniably a perfect summer movie.

FILM RATINGS (Theatrical/Special Edition): B-/B+

Fox’s new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray includes both the 144-minute Theatrical version of the film, as well as the 153-minute Special Edition version. The SE version is definitely the better experience, but both look absolutely fantastic here. This is a full native 4K (2160p) scan of the original 35 mm film elements, presented in the proper 2.39:1 aspect ratio. There’s clearly been some digital remastering and clean-up, as well as a High Dynamic Range color timing pass. The result is gorgeous overall clarity, with highly-refined texturing and detail, vibrant and accurate color, excellent dynamic range with deep and detailed shadows, and a lovely light film grain texture. For a catalog title shot on film, I would say that this is even better looking than Sony’s recent Ghostbusters in 4K (see our review here) simply given the better condition of the film elements. There’s maybe just a little bit of a detail improvement in the 4K over the regular Blu-ray, but it’s not dramatic. Nevertheless, the enhanced color and contrast do make for a much more immersive and engrossing viewing experience.

Primary audio is available on the 4K Ultra HD disc in a highly aggressive English DTS:X mix. It’s an incredibly smooth, broad, and encompassing soundscape, with much more lively and active play in the surround and height channels than I was expecting. The F-18 fighters and Alien Attackers scream overhead, explosions blossom all around. Bass is muscular. This is one of the better audio mixes I’ve heard yet on Ultra HD, which is surprising given the film’s age. It gives modern blockbuster mixes a run for their money. Additional audio options include Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and French, German, and Italian DTS 5.1, with optional subtitles in English (for the deaf and hard of hearing), Spanish, French, Danish (Dansk), Dutch (Nederlands), Finnish (Suomi), German, Italian, Norwegian (Norsk), and Swedish (Svenska).

Extras on the actual 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc include the previous audio commentary with director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, the previous audio commentary with VFX supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith, and the ID4 Datastream Trivia Track (on the theatrical cut only). When you start viewing the film, you’re asked to choose which version you’d like to see.

The Blu-ray movie disc included in the package also boasts the Theatrical version, the Special Edition version (both with English DTS 5.1 audio), the two audio commentaries, the ID4 Datastream Trivia Track (theatrical cut only), and a trailer for the forthcoming sequel Independence Day: Resurgence.

Most of the extras in this package are included on the set’s third disc, which is a Blu-ray Bonus Disc. They start with the all-new Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward retrospective documentary (30:40 – HD). Clearly filmed during the making of Resurgence, this piece features interview clips with virtually everyone involved in the making of the original film save for Will Smith (who is not in the sequel). It also features a nice look back at the creation of many of the practical visual effects using miniatures and full-scale physical creatures. The disc includes nearly all of the legacy Blu-ray and DVD extras too, including the Original Theatrical Ending (4:16 – SD), the Gag Reel (2:05 – SD), the Creating Reality featurette (29:19 – SD), The ID4 Invasion featurette (21:57), The Making of ID4 featurette (28:29 – SD), a Combat Review (Random Destruction Clips) (9:04 – HD), the Monitor Earth Broadcasts (Video Playback Newscasts) footage (51:08 – SD), a Gallery of images (including Welcome Wagon Storyboards, Destruction Storyboards, Biplane Ending Storyboards, Alien Beings Conceptual Artwork, Alien Ships Conceptual Artwork, Sets and Props Conceptual Artwork, and Production Photographs – all upgraded to HD), 3 Teaser Trailers (5:09 – SD) Theatrical Trailer (2:30 – HD), and 8 TV Spots (3:57 – SD). Really, the only things missing are the Alien Scavenger Hunt game and D-Box enhancement (from the previous Blu-ray) and the DVD-ROM extras (the Get Off My Planet interactive game and web links) and some of Easter egg content (specifically the Audio Layer Demo and Disc Credits) from the original Five-Star Edition DVD. That’s it. Note that you also get a Digital HD code via a paper insert in the packaging. I’m told that this code gives you access to the Special Edition version of the film and the extras as well, including the new documentary.

[Editor’s Note: Given that nearly all 4K releases are multi-disc sets, with the extras often included on separate BD discs, our extras grades for these 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews will reflect the bonus content across all discs in the set.]

I have to say, I’m kind of shocked by how well Independence Day holds up twenty years later. It remains a highly entertaining piece of alien invasion/disaster cinema and I think the practical visual effects ground it in a kind of textured reality that’s helped the film age well. What’s more, this is a gorgeous 4K film scan and remastering that benefits greatly from High Dynamic Range. Given all that, plus all the legacy extras included here, the $29.99 price on Amazon is a relative bargain. If you like this film at all, Fox’s new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is well worth your time and money.

- Bill Hunt


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