Independence Day

Special Edition

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Action/Science Fiction Audio Commentary-Roland Emmerich (Director) and Dean Devlin (Producer)
Audio Commentary-Visual Effects personnel Volker Engel and Douglas Smith
Deleted Scene-Original Ending
Featurette-Creating Reality (29:22)
Featurette-The ID4 Invasion (21:58)
Featurette-The Making of ID4 (28:31)
Gallery-Alien Ships
Gallery-Conceptual Artwork
Gallery-Production Photographs
Gallery-Sets and Props
Gallery-Storyboard Sequences
Menu Audio and Animation
Seamless Branching-Theatrical Version & Special Edition of the film
Teaser Trailers (3)
Television Spots (8)
Theatrical Trailer (1)
Year Released 1996
Running Time
138:52 minutes (Theatrical Version)
147:16 minutes (Special Edition)
(not 114:10 as stated on the packaging)
RSDL/Flipper Disc 1 Theatrical Version - RSDL (60:44)
Disc 1 Special Edition -  RSDL (65:35)
Disc 2 - Dual Layer
Cast & Crew
Start Up Film Version Selection, then Menu
Region 2,4 Director Roland Emmerich
20th Century Fox
Fox Home Entertainment
Starring Will Smith
Bill Pullman
Jeff Goldblum
Mary McDonnell
Judd Hirsch
Margaret Colin
Randy Quaid
Robert Loggia
James Rebhorn
Harvey Fierstein
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music David Arnold

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 1 (Dolby Digital 2.0, 96 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 2 (Dolby Digital 2.0, 96 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles Czech
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    In the pre-Christmas rush, the DVD distributors in Region 4 are obviously expecting a huge increase in the number of DVD players that will be sold, as they have planned an unprecedented number of releases in November and December. Obviously planning on plenty of DVDs being placed under the Christmas trees around Region 4 this year, not only are there plenty of DVDs slated for release, but some of the titles are big-name efforts - the sort of DVDs that will encourage people to go out and buy a player because the DVD is available. Amongst the feast of those DVDs, which naturally we will be attempting to review in toto to make your Christmas buying easier, comes one of the most eagerly awaited Region 4 releases - the oft-maligned but thoroughly entertaining Independence Day.

    Certainly this is one film that I have been awaiting for some time in Region 4, in fact since the very first Fox Home Entertainment release in Region 4, which included a little slip showing this as a future release. It may have taken a while to get here, but it is finally out there to indulge in. My love affair with this film dates back to the very early days of its theatrical release in Australia when I hurried off to grab it on the big screen. One view was not enough and several more followed - and I am not a person to go to see a movie often, let alone the same movie more than once. In fact, over the years the only films that have copped even a single repeat viewing on their initial theatrical release, apart from that trilogy, are Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Down Periscope and Independence Day. Over the past four years, it is the only film that I have seen theatrically, on (shudder) VHS tape, on Laserdisc and on DVD. I care not about the plot holes, the supposed celebration of Americanism and all the other barbs thrown at the film: I just reckon that it is one of the most outright entertaining films that I have ever seen, and that is precisely why I watch films - to be entertained. I often describe the film as the best John Wayne film that he never made, because it simply is a direct descendent of those great matinee films that were a long way short on substance, but were definitely the best way of spending a Saturday afternoon. I often wonder whether those who complain long and loud about the so-called American propaganda have not completely missed the point of the film?

    The story here is very simple indeed: what if one day we woke up and found out in the most in your face way that we are not alone in the Universe and the other residents don't care for us too much? Forget everything else, that is what the film is all about. What would happen if we did wake up to find aliens knocking on our door and telling us to rather unpolitely to go and die?

    The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have discovered a radio message from space, and have found out that we are not alone in the Universe. In fact one rather large spacecraft is headed our way in the most belligerent fashion. Naturally, the US military soon find out too, and our worst nightmare (and our most fundamental question) is answered, and so it is that the major cities of the world find themselves under the dark shadow of very large spacecraft whose sole job it is to destroy those cities and systematically move on and destroy the whole of human civilization. After the initial and overwhelmingly unsuccessful military operations against the belligerent aliens, it is left to a rag-tag collection of military personnel and civilians to find a way to rid the world of the source of its possible annihilation. Naturally this overwhelmingly outnumbered and totally under-armed group manage to do the impossible and save the day.

    Actually, I find more to the plot here than obviously many do, as I don't find it completely lacking and there are actually some barely disguised underlying messages to it - and there is plenty of attitude on display as the humans kick some alien butt. Whilst the Special Edition version of the film may introduce some footage that does not do an awful lot to improve the story, and even the theatrical version could have a few bits excised to make the whole film tighter, at the end of the day this is by no means the worst plot that I have ever had to suffer. The film squarely places itself in that group of matinee films that you can kick back and enjoy whilst putting the brain in neutral, and the assembled cast is well chosen to aid that result. Whilst none of the cast are unknowns, there is certainly a dearth of real A-grade talent here. Still, Bill Pullman does a good job as ex-fighter jock President Thomas Whitmore, whilst Will Smith hits the nail on the head with his portrayal of the USMC Captain Steve Hiller. Jeff Goldblum plays his role to perfection, and the rest of the cast are no less successful in their respective roles.

    Roland Emmerich makes no bones about the fact that he was trying to make a popcorn movie, and he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. This is really the quintessential popcorn movie and obviously the movie-going public felt so too since this made a truckload of money at the box office. However, the real star here is the special effects, of which there are apparently over 400. Using just about every technique known to filmmakers, as well as adding a few new ones, the digital eye of DVD certainly looks upon most with favour. It does have to be said though that a few times, some of the effects just did not look to be right from a perspective point of view - for instance, I have always felt that the alien Attackers featured in the attack on Area 51 were just a tad too large to be in perspective. A 65 foot wide Attacker should not be totally dwarfing a C-130 Hercules transport for instance.

    This is the only film that I have ever seen more than once on Laserdisc, and I was always knocked out by it, apart from one aspect: the firestorms as the death rays devour the cities always looked to me to be very blocky on Laserdisc. No such problems here and this DVD clearly demonstrates that this was a film that was made for the format. Stunning visuals, demonstration sound, kick-ass matinee film. What more could you want? Just enjoy the ride - they do not get any better than this.

Transfer Quality


    Well, it took a long time coming but was the wait worth it? You betcha it was! This is a wonderful package in just about every way.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The description of the video transfer is actually short and very sweet: nice and sharp throughout without a hint of edge enhancement, gorgeous detail throughout (just check out the spaceships as they detach from the mother ship and compare it to your VHS tape!), very good shadow detail throughout, very clear transfer throughout and only a few odd instances where grain may be an issue - and a very mild issue at that. There was no real issue with low level noise in the transfer at all. But for those few odd, and very minor, issues this would be a reference quality transfer.

    This a gorgeously vibrant transfer throughout and it really shines, with a very nice colour palette that is just about spot-on in saturation throughout. The tendency is to a nice rich tone throughout, and this really has a gorgeous consistency to it. There is no hint of oversaturation at all, and there is no problem with colour bleed here either. Indeed, as far as the colours go, there is nothing here that I can find fault with.

    In the entire two and one half hour length of the Special Edition of the film, there are only four points that I felt needed a comment. At 7:20 there is the pan shot of the orbiting satellite approaching the mother ship which shows a distinct lack of focus. Is this an MPEG artefact? Possibly not, as it has to be said that my VHS tape demonstrates the same lack of focus in the same shot, as does the Laserdisc if I recall, so this may well be an inherent fault in the source material (it is also present on the Region 1 DVD version). At 7:45 there is some rather distinct shimmer in the green bushes as we pan down towards the chess game between Julius and David. At 116:30 there is some wobble in the image that appears to be more than just the effects wobble that occurred immediately prior to the section. That is the extent of the film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. At 14:09 there is a rather noticeable black mark down the right hand side of the picture for about half-a-second, which is possibly inherent damage in this resurrected piece of footage (this is one of the additional scenes included in the Special Edition of the film) as it is also present in the Region 1 transfer. Other than that, there were a few dirt marks here and there but nothing at all intrusive. That was the extent of the film artefacts in the transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change coming at 60:44 in the theatrical version of the film and 65:35 in the Special Edition version of the film. This is just a little too noticeable for my liking as it is accompanied by a drop-out of the engine noise from Air Force One. I can't help but feel a better positioning for the layer change would have been about twenty seconds earlier when the trailer door is closed, as this would have been a less noticeable place to have the pause since there was minimal sound at that point.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three soundtracks on this DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and two English Audio Commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Apart from listening to the entire 5.1 soundtrack twice (two versions of the film, remember!), I sampled the two audio commentaries quite extensively.

    Overall, there is not much of a problem with the dialogue, which comes up very well in the soundtrack and is easy to understand. The few odd places where dialogue was a little difficult to follow are the same as on the VHS tape and the Laserdisc and so therefore must be inherent problems in the source material. There did not seem to be any problem with audio sync in the transfer.

    The music comes from David Arnold and in keeping with the big, bold, style of the film, this is a suitably big and over-the-top effort that is best remembered for the theme music that plays during the end credits. Certainly not in the league of something that John Williams would have composed for this sort of film, but after blowing the budget on the effects, they probably could not afford the master!

    What is your favourite demonstration DVD as far as sound is concerned? Well, you may just have a new one to throw at your non-converted mates. This is one dynamic soundtrack with oodles of surround channel use and bass channel use. I doubt whether any real opportunity to let the bass channel loose here was missed and this could cause serious structural damage if cranked up more than just a bit! It is more than a little impressive when you have the on-screen props rattling away and you get the same from your own household effects! Not that everything here is bold and big, as some of the surround channel use, especially out of the rears, is really quite subtle (or at least as subtle as Roland Emmerich gets). About the only time that the slightest restraint is applied to the soundtrack is during one or two of the firestorms when the bass channel was eased just a very little in the mix, as otherwise it would have overloaded just about everything. Some of the front to rear effects are brilliant, and amongst the best I have heard recently. Stirring, stunning stuff that has certainly placed this DVD in the pile to amaze the friends with. No complaints from me here at all. Mind you, what would this sound like in DTS sound?

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Special Edition it says and Special Edition it is. It is not often in the past that Fox have gone overboard with the extras, but this is the first of a succession of DVDs coming (Fight Club and The Abyss amongst them) that are getting the full blown packages similar to those in Region 1. All the extras are contained on the second DVD, which is also a Dual Layer disc. There is little on the Region 1 release that we have not got here.


    Superb stuff indeed, with some stunning audio and animation. The only qualm at all with them is the menu to select the film version demonstrates a little bit of pixelization in the body of the spaceship, and the extra features menu as it segues from the ramp coming down to the entry into the launch bay for the Attacker briefly goes to a black screen. Other than that, these 16x9 enhanced menus are amongst the very best yet seen on Region 4 DVD.

Audio Commentary - Roland Emmerich (Director) and Dean Devlin (Producer)

    Not exactly the greatest that I have ever heard with plenty of silence involved. There is a big glitch near the start of the commentary, about 6 minutes in. At that point, the commentary suddenly goes silent then restarts with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin introducing themselves and saying "and here is the Twentieth Century Fox logo" - the actual scene on-screen at the time is in the White House! The glitch seems to rectify itself at around 6:40, when everything starts going back to being about what is on screen. They do add some nice trivia about the movie at times though, so this is not a total waste of time, but it could have been a lot better I think. It would also have helped if whichever one of them was hitting the pencil against the table early on did not do it - the tick tick tick going on in the background is a little annoying. It would seem that this commentary is only available for the theatrical version of the film.

Audio Commentary - Visual Effects personnel Volker Engel and Douglas Smith

    This seems to be a lot more interesting than the other commentary, with a lot more information about the film than the other. It also seems to be free of any problems. I am hardly going to rave over it, but a nice enough inclusion in the package. It would seem that this commentary is only available for the Special Edition version of the film.

Deleted Scene - Original Ending (4:18)

    Presented with audio commentary from Dean Devlin, this is shown essentially in two parts - the first is the portion of the film where the segue starts into the deleted setup for the ending and then the actual ending. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Whilst it was certainly a comic ending to the film, it is perhaps not in keeping with the overall tone of the film. Still, glad to have seen it and have a laugh.

Featurette - Creating Reality (29:22)

    All three featurettes are contained in the section of the extras menu item entitled Featured Specimens and are accessed through a nicely animated move into The Freak Show. This broadly speaking details how certain of the scenes were created, being split into the following chapters:     Apart from suffering somewhat from some aliasing, there is not too much to complain about here from a technical point of view. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound that definitely is surround encoded as there is action out of the rear channels. An interesting look, albeit a short one for such a film, into how things were created. Just be aware though that all three featurettes to some extent repeat themselves and you will see some stuff more than once.

Featurette - The ID4 Invasion (21:58)

    The initial nine minutes of this are presented in a mockumentary style, before becoming pretty much your basic behind-the-scenes look at the film. What sets this apart though is the interview material with some of the people from the UFO brigade, for want of a better description, and a very interesting piece of video footage taken from Shuttle mission STS-48. Would you like to explain what that object was? I have seen some compelling footage in my time, but to see an object head in towards the Earth's atmosphere and then proceed to do a better than ninety degree right turn, increase speed enormously and head off into space certainly raises some questions. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. An interesting enough effort.

Featurette - The Making of ID4 (28:31)

    Pretty much your bog standard Making-Of featurette that includes a lot of duplicated material from the previous two featurettes, presented in a semi-investigative style by Jeff Goldblum. Does not add a whole lot more to the experience than that already covered by the other two efforts, but for completists is worthy of inclusion. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Gallery - Alien Ships

    The alien ships gallery comprise 89 design sketches and detailed drawings (again unannotated) that pretty much chart the course of the development of the design for the mother ship, the destroyers and the attackers.

Gallery - Conceptual Artwork

    The conceptual artwork gallery comprise 15 sketches and detailed drawings (again unannotated) that show how some of the overall design elements for the film were developed.

Gallery - Production Photographs

    The galleries and the various trailers are accessed through the extra features menu item entitled Data Console. The production photographs contains 313 (yes, I counted them but might have missed a couple - you try pushing the skip button for about forty minutes whilst recording numbers and see how many you miss!!) and this is a heck of a marathon to get through. Every last one of them has no annotation and most are presented full frame, with just a few being partial frame. Whilst the quantity is certainly huge, I am not so sure about the quality, but a thorough document of the film it is!

Gallery - Sets and Props

    The sets and props gallery comprise 47 sketches and detailed drawings (still unannotated) that show how some of the overall detailed elements for the film were developed.

Gallery - Storyboard Sequences (3)

    The story board sequences detail three specific scenes in the film: Welcome Wagon, Destruction (of the cities) and the original ending. These comprise 16, 59 and 17 separate storyboards respectively. These storyboards look just a tad too "finished" to me and I am suspecting that they have been redrawn for the package - but I am probably wrong.

Seamless Branching

    The seamless branching seems to work well, with no noticeable glitches as far as I can see.

Teaser Trailers (3) (5:09)

    Perhaps it is just me, but I thought the concept of a teaser trailer is a short, sharp piece that is designed to pique interest in a film. These three efforts are basically full blown trailers, lasting a total of 5:09. Two are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and one in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, all not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The second of the 1.78:1 trailers is a little on the dark side, but that is the only problem with the three as far as I can see.

Television Spots (8) (4:02)

    This little collection comprises:     These are all interesting variations on the same theme, apart from the Apple Computer advert, which is distinctly different. Considering the Super Bowl advert was five months before the film opened, you can get some idea of how long the film took to make, as well as the amount of promotion that went into it.

Theatrical Trailer (1) (2:32)

    And we finish off with the obligatory theatrical trailer, your basic two and one half minute summation of the film. I think we all saw enough of the local version of it back in 1996 so know pretty well what it looks like! Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 release misses out on:     There are also a number of little differences between the Region 4 and Region 1 release. For instance, on the extras disc, the animation into the Attacker launch bay is accompanied by dialogue from the film, which is absent on the Region 4 release. The lead-in title sequence on the Region 1 release is also longer and starts further away than that on the Region 4 release. The slight glitch in the segueing of the animation in the menu is absent from the Region 1 release. However, I would doubt that any of the differences between the two versions could be considered to be vital, unless you are a DVD-ROM content freak. I would consider the two releases to be pretty much identical with no one version standing out as better than the other, although the Region 1 release does not have the commentary glitch if I remember correctly. The Region 1 version is however slightly less sharp, as to be expected from an NTSC transfer, although it does not have the slight shimmer problem of the Region 4 version indicated above.


    If you want to get carried away with raving about the perceived celebration of America here, then you should definitely avoid this DVD as you have missed the whole point of the whole film in my opinion. If however you enjoy pure entertainment, especially matinee or popcorn films then this is as good as they come. Independence Day is a great, entertaining, big budget B-gradish popcorn film on a fine DVD and should be a strong seller in the pre-Christmas rush. If you have the Region 1 version, then don't bother changing, but if you have not yet indulged in this film, then the Region 4 will suit most people admirably. The packaging is a modified transparent Amaray case with the second DVD held on a flap attached to the middle of the case. This means two DVDs are held in the space of a normal Amaray case, which helps those of us with storage space problems for our collections. However, I would have preferred an Amaray equivalent of the dual Alpha case used by Fox in Region 1. Thankfully it seems better than the dual DVD cases used by Roadshow Home Entertainment and Avenue One DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
28th October 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL