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Independence Day
Reviewed by Kenn McCracken, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Roland Emmerich (Director)
Genre:   Science Fiction / Apocalypse-Related Action
Released:   1996
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

Surely you've heard the reviews of Independence Day (ID4). If you haven't, they go something like this:

Great effects… blah blah blah… silly story and melodramatic performances… blah blah blah… Ed Wood didn't know how good he had it… blah blah blah…
How do movie critics do it? As many films as they pan each week, it's a wonder the mortality rate in the industry isn't on par with a Friday the 13th sequel body count.

The truth is that the movie is a little on the broad scale, as most science fiction movies are. The action sequences are huge and visually stunning, the acting is over the top in line with a plot that deals with potential Armageddon, and the writing is a little more than fantastical.

Welcome to the world of Hollywood. If you don't like it, read a book.

Critiques of the film aside, this is exactly the sort of movie for which home theaters were designed. Huge aerial battles, bone-shaking sound design, perfectly blended effects, and a manipulative but adrenaline-pumping plot about the end of the world as we know it. This is why we have DVD.

Independence Day is also a perfect example of what the DVD medium represents in potential. The technology allows for not only a sharper video and audio image, with more data storage space for both, but also extra features, initially ignored by the studios. While too many DVD releases echo their video counterparts with a strict playing of the film and perhaps a theatrical trailer, this one has a complete second disc full of supplemental material, making it a great buy for even the casual fan.

The film itself was mastered for home video in THX, providing the ultimate in audio and visual quality in today's potential. With a good home theater set-up ?- or even a not-so-great one, such as mine -- the experience is immersive. Very few DVDs have taken the movie-watching experience this deep, and it's stunning to behold.

There are also an additional nine minutes recut into the film (though the option is provided to view the original cut). Frankly, these nine minutes weren't essential to the film, and aren't missed on another viewing, though hardcore fans might appreciate the extra footage. There's also the alternate scene featuring Randy Quaid's suicide run on the mothership - in a biplane. While the scene was discarded because having a biplane keeping up with squads of modern-day military fighters was too much, it is a nice look at an alternate idea.

There are also three featurettes included, totaling an extra eighty minutes of material. The making-of special is a great watch, although the "mockumentary" is too often self-indulgent, and the HBO "Behind the Scenes" hosted by Jeff Goldblum is bland, at best. Additionally, the film can be viewed with one of two commentaries, either by director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, or special effects wizards Volker Engel and Doug Smith. The latter is easily the stronger of the two, although having so many illusions revealed hurts later viewings of the film.

No, ID4 is not a future classic, nor will it be remembered as a milestone in filmmaking. It is, however, a fun romp in the speculative fiction playground, and an absolute must for DVD aficionados. If you allow it, the spectacular production will swallow you and leave you wanting more.

- Comics editor Kenn McCracken spends his spare time using his puny earth laptop to interface with the computers of alien civilizations possessing vastly superior technology.

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