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February 22, 2008
Independence Day Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
29/8/19965/3/2008FoxRoland Emmerich
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1PGWill Smith

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That's not a storm brewing there!
The year 1996 saw several big action movie releases including Twister, Mission Impossible, The Rock and Eraser, but they all paled in comparison to Independence Day at the box office. With a sensational marketing campaign that saw fake News Bulletins create panic amongst TV viewers (hell, it sucked my now mother-in-law in!), the movie managed to gross a whopping $US816 million worldwide - and it remains the 18th highest grossing movie of all time! To see Fox release the movie on Blu-Ray so early in the formats life is a major coup for the format and, should HD-DVD not have been scrapped only this week, it surely would have been another massive boost for the Blu-Ray format in the war with Toshiba's format. It's release may now be a moot point when it comes to the format war, but it's a release that will generate a lot of interest.

In case you're one of the few people that haven't seen the movie here's the story... Independence Day is the ultimate encounter when powerful aliens launch an invasion against the human race. The spectacle begins when massive spaceships appear. Wonder turns to terror as the ships blast destructive beams of fire down on cities all over the planet. Now the world's only hope lies with determined survivors, uniting for one last strike against the invaders - before it's the end of mankind.

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Will Smith and Harry Connick Jr.
More then a decade after the movies original release and it doesn't quite hold up as well as I expected. Sure it's a great popcorn flick, with plenty of action and some brilliant special effects for the day - which manage to hold up remarkably well in the 1080p Blu-Ray transfer - but the movie just doesn't seem to resonate as well today. That's not saying it's a bad film, not at all, but perhaps with the passing of time, and even myself growing out of my teenage 'popcorn' flick years.

If there is one unfortunate thing to report it's that unlike Fox's own AVP, or even Independence Day on DVD, this movie has not been created with any form of seamless branching meaning we are left with only the Theatrical release, and not the Extended edition. To be honest though the Extended Edition added little to the overall storyline, but it would have been nice so we don't have to keep the old DVD versions.

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That's not a human plane!
Encoded in AVC MPEG-4 in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and at 1080p Independence Day looks better on Blu-Ray then we have ever seen the movie. The image, for the most part, is razor sharp with impressive detail levels. Colours are rich, from the brilliant red explosions, to the darkest blacks in the skies and stars above, to the natural flesh tones throughout. There were a couple of scenes that seemed to be a little burrier then others, perhaps due to the filming process, or the visual effects but they were infrequent.

One thing that is certain is that the source print to create this high-def transfer seems to be cleaner then that used for the DVD release which we have here as well, and while we're not sure if Fox have done a major restoration, they have certainly heavily reduced the frequency of dirt and marks seen on the DVD version. Given the age of the movie this is one of the most impressive transfers we've seen on Blu-Ray to date. Fox haven't let us down.

As with most other Fox Blu-Ray releases the audio on this disc is provided in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Yet again we are stuck with the 1.5Mbps core track due to the PS3's inability to convert the track to PCM, or output the bit stream track to a receiver. With the original DVD release providing a 768kbps DTS track we were keen to see if there would be much difference, and there certainly is. The clarity of the audio is very high and there is frequent use of both the surround channels as well as the sub-woofer. Dialogue is clear at all times, and the frequent explosions will have your room shaking. This is certainly an impressive audio experience.

Unfortunately besides the English track there are no other audio options on the disc. Subtitles are also quite limited with only four languages besides English on the disc.

Independence Day was a monster hit in the cinemas and it has been released in a pretty impressive 2-disc Special Edition on DVD. Unfortunately while the commentaries have been ported over to this release, the documentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes are all missing. To make up for that though there disc does include a Blu-Ray exclusive Java game as well as a great trivia track to keep you hooked for a while longer.

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The supporting cast is fantastic.
Commentary with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin: Not one of the best commentaries we've ever heard but if you love the movie you may want to listen to this power duo talk one of the biggest movies of all time.

Commentary with Visual Effects personnel Volker Engel and Douglas Smith: As such an effects laden movie this was actually quite an interesting commentary track with plenty details about how the various visual effects were put together for the movie as well as the overall production. Worth a listen if that topic floats your boat.

ID4 Datastream Trivia Track: Now this is a great pop-up trivia track. Not only does it provide details about the production of the movie but it also has a bit of fun along the way. It even manages to point out that aliens, for one reason or another, seem to like to use anal probes!

Alien Scavenger Hunt Game: This is a Java enabled Blu-Ray exclusive extra. As you watch the movie you have to find 8 different items and mark them with a crosshair. Get them all right and you'll unlock a bonus. To be honest I haven't had the patience to watch the entire movie again to complete this task as I didn't realise what it was until I'd watched the movie twice on Blu-Ray, so it may be worthwhile turning this on prior to watching the movie, or at least on the second run-through.

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One of the most iconic movie scenes ever.
Independence Day Trailers (7:54/HD): Four trailers for the movie all presented in 1080p High Definition with AVC encoding.

Fantastic Four Trailer (2:29/HD): A 1080p HD trailer for Fantastic Four, which is also available on Blu-Ray now through Fox.

Keyword Search: Thanks to the power of Java this disc provides hundreds of keywords from the movie - locations, actors - which will then jump you directly to the scene in which it, or they are involved. Very impressive.

Bookmarks: Thanks, again, to Java you can now add your own bookmarks for the movie so you can return to your favourite scenes easily.

Independence Day is one of the greatest 'popcorn' flicks of all time. Turn your brain off an sit back and enjoy the ride. If you try to analyse the plot, pick plot holes, look for any meaningful themes then you'll be disappointed, but I guess most people reading this review would already know that. Should you upgrade from the DVD version? Most certainly. The video and audio, with the right equipment, is light years ahead of those previous releases with the only major disappointment being the omission of the extended version of the film, or even the deleted scenes viewable seperately. Expect Independence Day on Blu-Ray to be released in early March.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.