Blu Ray Review: Independence Day – 20th Anniversary Edition

Disaster master Roland Emmerich could never quite top 1996 epic Independence Day, and while he has found success with the likes of Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow, the enormously successful alien invasion flick has come to define the work of the now 60 year old Director. Now with a sequel forthcoming 20 years after the original completely smashed box offices and became embedded in Hollywood history, Independence Day has unsurprisingly been given a refresh with a 20th anniversary Blu Ray release, offering two versions of the film (the original theatrical version and an extended, remastered cut) and a massive stock of unreleased special features, recovered to bring new angles, perspectives, and retrospectives to the blockbuster.

One major highlight on the second disc is the almost hour-long playful mash-up of mock news reports from around the world starring the likes of Bill Pullman (who portrays the President in the film) and real local news talent including McLaughlin Group and Entertainment Tonight reporters. It’s a clever, humorous way to extend the global scope the film could barely work into it’s busy narrative, showing fake reports from locations like Japan and Russia that track most of the progress from the arrival of the aliens and the resulting ships to the mass panic and attack. There’s also some hilarious vox pop material with actors pretending to be members of the public making comments on the arrival (“I’m like a plant, I need to see the sun”), as well as unseen footage from Randy Quaid’s memorable character, Russell Casse, and even well known actors like Vincent Schiavelli popping up to play faux-scientists and doctors being interviewed. The best part: unreleased “interviews” with those random party-goers before they all get blown up on one of those downtown L.A rooftops in one of the film’s most recognisable scenes.

Also on the second disc, there’s an interesting new retrospective documentary on the film, better fleshed out than the others, and chunky vintage production featurettes, cast interviews, and gags.

Working backwards, on the first disc is where one will find both versions of the film, sharper and crispier visuals really hitting those impressive-for-its-age scenes but not doing much with the audio. Of course, the special effects still look dated, but the blu ray does a tremendous job at picking up the nuances of Emerich’s direction, resulting in the best looking version of Independence Day out there.

Optional commentary tracks are available for both versions of the film, but the time poor can also take a look at the shorter filmmakers’ commentary on the extended cut, where Emmerich is rather infectiously excited about the production. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the availability of a pop-up trivia track on the theatrical version – something rarely seen on home releases nowadays – where, at various points throughout the film, little text boxes pop up with all types of behind the scenes info on production, special effects, and character development.

For fans of Independence Day (there are a lot out there) this really is the definitive edition of the classic, packed with so many extras that it could even change your perspective on the blockbuster. It’s the best the film has looked to date, and while that may change when the Ultra HD becomes available (later in the year) the sheer amount of extras packed into this is undeniable. The package is available in Australia now through 20th Century Fox.

Independence Day: Resurgence will arrive in Australian cinemas on June 23rd 2016