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INDEPENDENCE DAY ($35) is the perfect crowd-pleasing popcorn movie- big, loud, overproduced with state of the art special effects that the audiences go gaga over. Now, usually Iím a sucker for this kind of movie, however when I saw INDEPENDENCE DAY in the movie theater, I wasnít all that thrilled. Sure, I loved the special effects, but I had trouble buying into some of what was up on the screen. Letís face it, the plot has gaping holes in logic that one could fly a city-sized spaceship through. I know I had a hard time swallowing that Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch could make their crucial drive from New York to Washington D.C. in less than six hours, during the middle of a national crisis, without encountering monumental traffic jams or closed highways.

Also, wasnít anyone besides Bill Gates and myself bothered by the fact that the alien spaceships were running on a Mac compatible OS? Finally, for a movie about alien invaders in huge spaceships, how come we only got to see a couple of little green men? My reservations about the movie aside, we now come to the Special Edition DVD of INDEPENDENCE DAY. For some reason watching INDEPENDENCE DAY on the small screen made me appreciate and even enjoy the movie a whole lot more than I did in the theater. Perhaps itís because the DVD looks and sounds so glorious that the movieís flaws suddenly became inconsequential to me. Or perhaps the longer version of the movie fleshes out the characters a bit more. I really donít know. Well, whatever the reason, INDEPENDENCE DAY is a whole lot of fun on DVD!

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot of INDEPENDENCE DAY, here is a brief synopsis: Giant alien spaceships begin appearing over the major cities of the world. No one is sure is the aliens are friend or foe. However, with the destruction of several major world cities, the message becomes brutally clear- the alien invaders intend to wipe mankind off the face of the planet. Of course, humanity doesnít intend to go without a fight. So we do fight back, with every weapon at our disposal. Unfortunately, the alien technology proves to be so far ahead of our own that the alien spaceships are impervious to even our nuclear weapons. So does mankind survive the alien onslaught? Well, the movie made a ton of cash, so what do you think?

INDEPENDENCE DAY doesnít have any characters that one would call the actual star of the film. Instead, INDEPENDENCE DAY features an ensemble cast that that tells several individual stories, until circumstances bring everyone together for mankindís climatic last stand against the alien invaders. Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith and Randy Quaid portray the filmís most memorable characters. For me, Bill Pullman is the oddest casting choice in the film; he comes off as being too uncharismatic to be believable as the President of The United States. The cast of INDEPENDENCE DAY also features Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Robert Loggia, Margaret Colin, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Adam Baldwin, Brent Spiner, James Duval, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr..

As I stated above 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a truly outstanding job with their DVD edition of INDEPENDENCE DAY. Thanks to the seamless branching capabilities of DVD, viewers are offered a choice of watching either the original theatrical version of INDEPENDENCE DAY, or the nine minute longer Special Edition. Both versions are presented in the filmís 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. Image quality on this DVD is absolutely phenomenal. There is a complete smoothness to the picture that makes the presentation seem more like film than video. Everything appears crisp and minutely detailed; again pushing the limits of NTSC reproduction. Colors are superbly rendered, especially during the nighttime alien attack. The cool green lighting off the alien weapon beautifully contrasts with the glowing yellow and orange fireballs of destruction. Flesh tones appear natural, as do most other hues. Although, there are instances in the film where the colors offer more vibrant saturation. Throughout the film color reproduction is flawless, without a trace of noise or bleeding anywhere. Blacks are a perfect pitch black, plus the picture boasts incredibly smooth contrast, as well as a startling level of shadow detail. The film element utilized for the transfer displays very little noticeable grain and is free from blemishes. INDEPENDENCE DAY runs 153 minutes and has been smartly authored, so that digital compression artifacts never make their presence known. 

As one might expect from a big budget sci-fi extravaganza, INDEPENDENCE DAY features a totally kick-ass Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Sound effects are especially impressive during the dogfight battles between American jets and the smaller alien spacecrafts. All of the discrete channels are highly active and tend to be aggressively deployed during the filmís special effects sequences (which are numerous). Even the quieter moments in the film tend to be enveloping, thanks to the subtler placement of ambient sounds and the solid integration of David Arnoldís involving musical score. Dialogue reproduction is quite good, with nothing ever getting drowned out by the sonic barrage running through the mix. Bass reproduction is truly earth shattering and will give your subwoofer a genuine workout. In fact, this soundtrack will shake your house to its foundation, so stow all breakables during the presentation. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

INDEPENDENCE DAY features really cool interactive menus that utilize full motion video, animation and sound as part of its interface. The menus provide the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as access to the supplementary material contained on disc one. Since most of disc oneís data storage is occupied with the rather lengthy film itself, the only supplements offers offered on the first DVD are two running audio commentaries. While director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlinís commentary track was originally produced for the Laserdisc set, most fans will find will the talk rewarding, even though it doesnít offer the level of detail some other audio tracks provide. I actually enjoyed the second track more, because it features effects supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith, who talk in great detail about the most import aspect of INDEPENDENCE DAY- namely the special effects. If you are wondering "howíd the do that?" then this is the commentary track for you. 

Disc two contains the bulk of the supplements, as well as a completely different interface for its interactive menus. Starting things off are three separate documentaries. First up is the 33-minute HBO First Look: The Making Of Independence Day, which is hosted by Jeff Goldblum. While it is basically a PR piece designed to get folks into the theaters, Goldblumís goofy presence makes it quite enjoyable. Second is the 22-minute ID4 Invasion, a "mockumentary" filled with bogus newscasts, film footage and a look behind-the-scenes. Creating Reality is the third and final documentary on the disc. Running 30-minutes Creating Reality takes an in depth look at the production filmís extensive special effects. The other highlight of disc two is the filmís original biplane ending that certainly has itís own charm, but really doesnít work in the context of the rest of the movie. Randy Quaidís performance is great in the original; fortunately he is able to recreate the best parts in final ending. Also included on the second disc, is an extensive still gallery comprised of conceptual artwork, production photographs and storyboards. Filling things out are theatrical trailers and various television spots for INDEPENDENCE DAY. INDEPENDENCE DAY is also DVD-ROM enabled, giving one access to an ID4 on-line game.

INDEPENDENCE DAY may not have been my greatest theatrical motion picture experience, but I totally enjoyed seeing the movie again on DVD. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has produced another winning DVD Special Edition set that I would recommend to anyone who liked the movie and to some of those who didnít. The marvelous DVD presentation certainly had me enjoying myself.


Independence Day - Special Edition



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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