This film has been met with mixed but mostly rave reviews (Maltin only gives it 2.5 stars) since it was released. I loved it. It wasn’t just the spaceships and groundbreaking effects but the well-rounded cast that makes this film a future classic for me. Goldblume’s quirky nerd works perfectly here (more than it did in Jurassic Park), Quaid is a simple joy, Will Smith showed that he has grown out of the “Fresh Prince” stereotype, and anyone who thought Judd Hirsh wasn’t anything more than Taxi’s Alex must have been awed by his performance. This is a visually appealing film with a touch of cheese to wrap it all up.
David Levinson (Goldblume) has discovered a hidden message in Earth’s satellite system from a fleet of newly arrived city-sized flying saucers. With the help of his Dad (Hirsch) and ex-wife he gets this information to the President just in time for him to escape Washington before the aliens’ true intentions are revealed: Invasion.
At the fabled area 51 the group studies the bodies and aircraft of the same aliens that crashed at Roswell in the 1950’s. David invents a virus that, when uploaded to the mother ship, will disable the craft’s shields and enable them to be destroyed by a ragtag air force which includes loony Quaid.
The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which is huge in its scope. When the cities are destroyed you will swear there is debris flying all around you. The dogfights feature craft sweeping around you every which way. Even with all of this loud destruction, which will superdrive your sub, the dialogue is almost always easy to distinguish. Some minor dialogue is buried during the Lincoln Tunnel sequence.
There are two commentary tracks included. The main track features producers Rolland Emerich and Dean Devlin. The track offers many behind the scenes tidbits and more background than you could ask for. The only trouble is they do often stray from what is currently on screen. Several members of the Effects team take on the second commentary track. This track is best used at the heavy effects parts of the film as they will break down the entire process for each of these shots. I found it too tedious to listen during the entire film.
The video is a very fine THX certified transfer presented in the original theatrical release aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This film absolutely shines on the DVD. I owned the laser disc and was a bit disappointed at the unnatural look of the color and particularly the blacks. Those problems have been handled admirably in this release. I was very pleased with the effects heavy shots inside the mother ship. There is tremendous detail and crystal clarity with almost no visual noise. The fast moving dogfights are rendered true with no digital breakdown as I’ve found in earlier discs with so much movement. There is a wonderful variety of locations from the Salt flats to massive interiors and the transfer contains all of the subtleties of each with stunning detail.
There are plenty of extras in this 2-disc set. The most impressive is within the film itself… you can watch 2 versions of the film. You can select either the original theatrical release or a new edit that reincorporates several scenes that were cut back into the film. For me these edits explain some of what I thought were plot holes in the original. You may also view these scenes on their own on disc 2. These scenes are also marked in the booklet so you know what was new
There are a few documentaries… Jeff Goldblume hosts an HBO special, “ID4 Invasion” treats the events of the film as a news event while showing some of the film’s creation, and “Creating Reality” shows the magic behind the film in great detail.
There are tons of trailers and TV spots and hidden newscasts if you know how to find them. ID4 contains about the largest still gallery I’ve ever seen on DVD, storyboards, and the standard text-based fare.
And, of course, my favorite feature is the original bi-plane ending of the film. An earlier screening left members of the audience laughing so it was reshot. I liked it and it goes a lot further in rounding out Quaid’s character and his sacrifice makes more sense here. Don’t miss it.
ID4 was the basic mix of the 1950’s invasion films and today’s best CGI technology. Sure, the story has holes. Anyone who has tried to connect to the internet will appreciate the absurdness of linking a laptop with an alien system to transfer the virus. For those who are skeptical that this film can make the transition from silver screen to TV screen you’re in for a treat. As for the DVD itself, I think Will Smith said it best, “I gotta get me one of these.” “Checkmate”.