Surely you've heard the reviews of Independence Day (ID4). If you haven't,
they go something like this:
blah blah blah
silly story and melodramatic performances
blah blah blah
Ed Wood didn't know how good he had it
How do movie critics do it? As many films as they pan each week, it's a wonder
the mortality rate in the industry isn't on par with a Friday the 13th sequel
The truth is that the movie is a little on the broad scale, as most science
fiction movies are. The action sequences are huge and visually stunning, the
acting is over the top in line with a plot that deals with potential Armageddon,
and the writing is a little more than fantastical.
Welcome to the world of Hollywood. If you don't like it, read a book.
Critiques of the film aside, this is exactly the sort of movie for which home
theaters were designed. Huge aerial battles, bone-shaking sound design, perfectly
blended effects, and a manipulative but adrenaline-pumping plot about the end
of the world as we know it. This is why we have DVD.
Independence Day is also a perfect example of what the DVD medium represents
in potential. The technology allows for not only a sharper video and audio image,
with more data storage space for both, but also extra features, initially ignored
by the studios. While too many DVD releases echo their video counterparts with
a strict playing of the film and perhaps a theatrical trailer, this one has
a complete second disc full of supplemental material, making it a great buy
for even the casual fan.
The film itself was mastered for home video in THX, providing the ultimate
in audio and visual quality in today's potential. With a good home theater set-up
?- or even a not-so-great one, such as mine -- the experience is immersive.
Very few DVDs have taken the movie-watching experience this deep, and it's stunning
There are also an additional nine minutes recut into the film (though the
option is provided to view the original cut). Frankly, these nine minutes weren't
essential to the film, and aren't missed on another viewing, though hardcore
fans might appreciate the extra footage. There's also the alternate scene featuring
Randy Quaid's suicide run on the mothership - in a biplane. While the scene
was discarded because having a biplane keeping up with squads of modern-day
military fighters was too much, it is a nice look at an alternate idea.
There are also three featurettes included, totaling an extra eighty minutes
of material. The making-of special is a great watch, although the "mockumentary"
is too often self-indulgent, and the HBO "Behind the Scenes" hosted
by Jeff Goldblum is bland, at best. Additionally, the film can be viewed with
one of two commentaries, either by director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean
Devlin, or special effects wizards Volker Engel and Doug Smith. The latter is
easily the stronger of the two, although having so many illusions revealed hurts
later viewings of the film.
No, ID4 is not a future classic, nor will it be remembered as a milestone
in filmmaking. It is, however, a fun romp in the speculative fiction playground,
and an absolute must for DVD aficionados. If you allow it, the spectacular production
will swallow you and leave you wanting more.