- The Washington Times
Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The definitive popcorn-munching, extraterrestrial invasion movie returns to Blu-ray just in time for its new sequel and to also celebrate its place in pop-culture cinema history over the past two decades.

Independence Day: 20th Anniversary Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $19.99, 154 minutes) — The disc contains two versions of the film, the original theatrical cut and a special edition extended-cut offering an extra 9 minutes that ultimately requires over a 2.5-hour commitment to watching aliens abuse Earth and its citizens.

To touch upon the well-known plot, humanity’s survival against a hostile group of aliens with overwhelming technological might will depend upon a cocky fighter pilot (Will Smith); a washed-up, crop-dusting alcoholic (Randy Quaid); a heartbroken, scientifically brilliant cable satellite technician (Jeff Goldblum); and a determined U.S. president (Bill Pullman).

SEE ALSO: Blu-ray review: ‘Top Gun: 30th Anniversary Limited Edition Steelbook’

Director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin’s roller-coaster ride of a film offered a disaster motif that Irwin Allen would admire and a group of extraterrestrials that H.G. Wells would surely love to meet.

I’m pleased to report that the new 4K restoration of the film (2:40:1 aspect ratio) looks fantastic, easily topping the 2008 release.

Details pop from the screen, including the color variations in Mr. Pullman’s hair, the age spots on Robert Loggia’s forehead and the minutia of the alien ship’s interior and hull.

The alien autopsy scene — complete with saline droplets oozing from its exposed orifice, the gelatinous innards of its exoskeleton and translucent skin texture of its body — are so clear, it will cause squeamish folks to turn away.

Most important, the action scenes really explode off the screen with barely any perceivable film grain (even in the darker scenes).

Specifically, the Academy Award-winning special effects during air combat between fighter jets and alien fighters, alien attack ships entering earth’s atmosphere and the destruction of multiple world landmarks, including the White House, will require repeat viewing to carefully scrutinize the slick specifics.

Both discs in the set offer a variety of extras, most all of which are culled from the previous 2008, Blu-ray and 2000 DVD releases.

Let’s start with what’s new, a 30-minute retrospective “Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward” with some of the cast (Vivian Fox, Judd Hirsh, Mr. Goldblum and Mr. Pullman) and key production personnel (Mr. Emmerich and Mr. Devlin to name a few) reflecting on the enormous success of the movie.

It briefly touches on the film’s origins, key scenes, initial audience reaction (insanely positive), set memories, alien puppets, use of the many effects models, blowing up the White House and a plug for the new movie “Independence Day: Resurgence.”

Next, fans get two, vintage optional commentary tracks on both the theatrical and extended cut; one with Mr. Emmerich and Mr. Devlin and the other with visual effects supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith discussing the special effects.

For those short on time and new to the film, I would stick with the filmmakers’ commentary on the extended cut to not only appreciate Mr. Emmerich’s giddy enthusiasm but a well-rounded look at the production.

Next, viewers can turn on, rarely used these days on Blu-ray, a pop-up trivia track (theatrical version only) displaying slightly hard-to-read text nuggets at select points during the movie covering all facets of the production with plenty of focus on characters and special effects.

Additionally, disc two not only contains the new retrospective but also offers an additional hour’s worth of vintage production featurettes and cast interviews.

The studio even adds a whopping 73 minutes of fake news coverage of the alien invasion featuring real local news talent, the “McLaughlin Group” and “Entertainment Tonight” reporters.

Blu-ray owners looking for the definitive and mega-affordable edition of “Independence Day” will truly appreciate this latest, extras-packed release. However, and worth noting, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will be releasing the 4K UHD version of the film in June, so early adopters of the latest digital disc technology might want to wait.

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