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Independence Day

Independence Day on DVD

Movie Disaster

By Jim Bray

"ID4," as the producers liked to call it, was the big blockbuster summer flick of 1996. Inspired by the Irwin Allen disaster movies of the 1970's, films like "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno," it begins with the virtual end of civilization as we know it at the hands of a race of extraterrestrials.

The aliens show up in a massive mother ship that disgorges an armada of smaller (only about fifteen miles wide) saucers that take up position over major Earth cities. Computer guy Jeff Goldblum is the only person to have figured out that these visitors aren't there for any good purpose, however, and he races to Washington DC to warn the president (Bill Pullman) of mankind's impending doom.

The Pres and his entourage manage to escape in Air Force One, just as the aliens unleash their terrifying power. Unfortunately, most of the populace isn't so lucky and Washington, New York, Los Angeles, and various other major cities around the world, are struck down in virtually one blow of the aliens super weaponry.

This leaves the survivors to pick up the pieces of humanity and mount a counter offensive against the invaders which, given the overwhelming power of the aliens, is easier said than done.

The first hour of "Independence Day," to the point just after the aliens' attack, is pretty darn good. It sets up the story well, introduces the characters and their situations, and uses some great special effects to show the alien ships' arrival over the cities - and, of course, the zapping of said urban areas.

Then the movie, unfortunately, goes into the tank - and the last hour and a half is so predictable, hackneyed, silly, etcetera, that it almost destroys the enjoyment you have of the first hour.

Still, this is a popcorn movie at best; just make sure you eat the popcorn during the first hour, so you can catch up on your rest during the remainder of the show.

The DVD is another of Fox's wonderful two disc special editions, which means it's a spectacular package.

Disc One is "The Feature," and features two versions of the film: the original theatrical one and the "special edition" that includes an extra nine minutes of footage. Both versions of the film are in widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 and they look and sound great.

The disc also includes a pair of running commentaries, one by the writer/producer/director team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich (though I didn't hear any apologies from them for the incredible weakness of the film's second half) and one by special effects supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith.

Disk Two is where most of the bonus material resides, and there's plenty of it. There's a half hour documentary on "the making of" the film (called "Creating Reality") and another feature called "ID4 Invasion," which is a 22 minute "mockumentary" about alien invasion.

There's also a Jeff Goldblum-hosted HBO documentary (an "HBO First Look"), the original ending, storyboard, production art and still photos, trailers, TV commercials, etc. They even throw in a DVD ROM game "Get Off My Planet" and a link to a free month of online gaming.

It's plenty of stuff and movie students (and ID4 buffs, if there are any) are sure to enjoy the package.

Independence Day, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
153 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum
Written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, directed by Roland Emmerich


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Updated May 13, 2006