Roland Emmerich’s borderline-iconic 90s blockbuster, replete with images of large spaceships hovering ominously over the planet Earth, remains – on repeated viewings – very much a film of two halves.
The first segment, the build up to yet another alien invasion of Earth, simply hasn’t been bettered on the big screen since. Say what you like about Emmerich’s inability to end his films: he sure can start them. The imposing arrival of the alien ships, the devastation of the White House and the sheer spectacle of the first chunk of Independence Day remain compelling blockbuster cinema.
The second half, where Will Smith gets married and then goes off and saves the world with a computer virus, is the silly nonsense it always was, and leaves you with the sad feeling that the pitch for the film was all about the first half, and little about how to actually end the thing. The evidence is on screen for a good hour.
Independence Day is, then, what it always was: a jingoistic, tub-thumping blockbuster that trades spectacle for legible story, and grand effects for any hope of a decent final act. It was a passable trade off in 1996, and it’s hard not to still have a little time for it, warts and all, today.
And it has to be said, it looks blistering in 1080p. It perhaps shows the occasional sign of a film that’s twelve years old (yikes!), and the enhanced picture shows up how some special effects work has moved on, but it’s hard to be churlish when the film simply hasn’t looked better since it first appeared on the big screen.
The audio isn’t quite top notch, though: we were expecting a slightly more expansive and involving sound mix than the one we get. Sure, there’s a lot of punch when the action kicks in, but we’ve heard surround sound mixes that really do envelop you, and this isn’t really one of them.
The extras are quite good, even if they are mainly holdovers from the DVD release. Roland Emmerich and long-term collaborator Dean Devlin deliver a decent enough commentary track, although the second visual effects track is an easy one to pass. You can also check out trailers for the film, and an assortment of other Fox releases.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition is an Alien Scavenger Hunt game that we quickly got very bored of, a bookmarks feature, and a trivia track that’s of some, but not much, interest. Plus you can, er, search by keyword. Not sure why you’d want to do that, though.
In all, Independence Day isn’t quite the reference disc you may have expected, but it’s undoubtedly a good workout for a home cinema rig. The film still has its moments, and the extras – while quite dry – are passable enough. It still struggles to warrant a £25 asking price, though.