Independence Day was an unqualified box office smash everywhere in the world. How well does it hold up two decades later? It's fine as a nostalgia piece, but ID4 was never a very good movie to begin with. Too dumb to really be categorized as sci-fi, it was really just a space alien-oriented disaster movie. Lots of stuff blows up in what was once state-of-the-art special effects sequences. Anyone with a hankering for the good ol' days of analog effects will have a blast revisiting the film. Many of the set pieces, including the famous destruction of the White House, hold up remarkably well.
But those special effects are about all that holds up. ID4's alien invasion plot starts off ominously enough, but soon devolves into one action spectacle after the next. The ensemble cast, led by Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Will Smith, isn't given much to work with. The dialogue is a bunch of speechifying, rah-rah cheerleading. I wonder what today's young viewers will think upon discovering this mid-'90s relic. Again, it's not that the technical aspects aren't still relatively impressive (they're actually somewhat of a mixed bag, but outside of a few scattered shots there's nothing laughable). It's that the storytelling by director Roland Emmerich is listless and uninspired. It's clear he and producer Dean Devlin knew they couldn't miss with all the effects stuff, so they cynically packed their movie full of perfunctory comic relief (Judd Hirsch's banter with Goldblum is particularly tiresome) and superficial characters.
The new 20th Century Fox Blu-ray offers a seriously impressive new transfer that freshens up the 20-year-old imagery. I'll admit I don't remember the last time I saw Independence Day, so I have idea how this looks compared to the original Blu-ray edition or previous DVD editions. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless mix is solid without being exceptional (surround activity is rather limited). Some of the dialogue is mixed very low; you crank it up during the quieter scenes only to have your speakers blown out (well, not quite) during raucous action scenes.
What's new in terms of special features on this "20th Anniversary Edition?" On the second disc of the two-disc set is a new 30-minute 'making of,' "A Legacy Surging Forward." The rest of the features have been ported over from previous editions.
The presence of a sterling transfer and the extended cut should be enough for fans of Independence Day to add this edition to their collections. The movie itself hardly holds up as the "event" is once was, but for those feeling nostalgic this is the ticket.