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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Aliens > Independence Day (1996/Blu-ray) + I, Robot (2004/Blu-ray/20th Century Fox)

Independence Day (1996/Blu-ray) + I, Robot (2004/Blu-ray/20th Century Fox)

 

Picture: B+     Sound: B+/A-     Extras: B     Films: B

 

 

The last combination anyone expected would be a blockbuster when Will Smith had his earliest success in music and TV was Science Fiction and Action.  The combination, along with his personality and hard work, have proved to be a big winner over and over again to the point that he is now the #1 box office star worldwide.  As his surprise monster hit version of I Am Legend heads for Blu-ray and HD-DVD (one of the final blockbusters in the latter format), Fox has issued excellent Blu-ray editions of his two best such films he has made to date: Independence Day (1996) and I, Robot (2004) that were the breakthrough films that set him up as far as I am concerned.

 

We have previously looked at each film on low def DVD, as these links will attest:

 

Independence Day (Region 2 PAL DTS DVD)

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/2790/Independence+Day+(Region+2/DTS)

 

I, Robot (Widescreen DVD)

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/1689/I,+Robot+(Widescreen)

 

I, Robot – All Access Edition (DVD Set)

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/2237/I,+Robot+-+All+Access+Collector

 

 

It is great to say that the films hold up very well years later.  Roland Emmerich was still co-producing with Dean Devlin when they made Independence Day, a fun populist alien invasion film that could not be made post-9/11 and that event does take some of the fun out of it.  However, the film’s energy and relentless ambition to entertain makes it as watchable as ever.  The choice of limiting digital effects also helps it hold up and reminds us how good the model work really was here.  Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Mary McDonnell, Robert Loggia, Margaret Colin, Vivica A. Fox and so many more make this one of the best-cast such films too.  Sure, there is plenty of dumb moments and lapses of logic that have existed since day one of its release, but that is typical of Emmerich’s better films.  When he loses sight of such things, we get disasters like the Godzilla remake and awful 10,000 B.C. instead of enjoyable romps like The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow or Stargate, all three already on Blu-ray and reviewed elsewhere on this site.

 

Smith has become a better actor since, as he proved in Ali and at first, I, Robot could have been a disaster, but Alex Proyas held it together very well and it continues to be a much better film than many tend to give it credit for being.  Sure, it is not the book as only the book could be the book, but Smith and Proyas realized he had outgrown the comedy-only mode and found a way to increase a sense of tension and realism, especially post-9/11 and the result is a film we around here still (out of enjoying the film so much) still refer to as ‘I, Bjork’ as the Chris Cunningham design for one of her videos directed by the talent (once considered for designing the child in  A.I. when it was still only Stanley Kubrick’s project; see Cunningham’s work in his own DVD reviewed elsewhere on this site) and works as a good action thriller without pretension.

 

Needless to say these are two of the most anticipated Blu-ray back catalog titles fans have been expecting and since we have said everything else we could about these films in our previous reviews and stick by what is stated, we can move on to the performance.

 

 

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 27 MBPS on Day and AVC @ 25 MBPS on Robot (both are 50GB Blu-rays) look better than they ever have outside of 35mm film prints or the 70mm Blow-up that was issued on Day in its time.  Two of the most enduring of Super 35mm shoots, Day has to contend with some grain from some processing work, while Robot has some digital that is sometimes not as good as the majority that holds up and that costs both films in the performance department somewhat.  However, these are minor problems and the picture playback is all in all terrific.  The ever capable Karl Walter Lindenlaub (D.V.K.) and Simon Duggan (on Robot) did top rate jobs lensing the respective films as Director of Photography and you cannot see these on enough of a big screen.  Day has many big shots that more than justified its 70mm blow-up and you can see that here in many big shots throughout that most films of any kind do not even know how to create.  Both have more than their share of demo moments for any HD system.

 

Both also have DTS HD 5.1 MA (Master Audio) Lossless DTS soundtracks and each also include D-BOX enhancement for those who have that system.  Day has been a favorite sound demo for years going back to the demo-level 12” DTS-only LaserDisc that was one do the best-sounding performers in that formats long run.  When Fox did not add DTS on their DVDs, fans bought DTS DVD imports like the one we reviewed to have the soundmix with the same punch.  Though it has dated slightly, the sound is better than ever here, with great character and so many demo moments that it is a sonic must-have for any serious collection.  The diehard LaserDisc fans can upgrade now.  David Arnold’s score is not bad and seems like it is from another era.  Robot is even more dynamic with a more complex sound design to match its more complex narrative.  Marco Beltrami’s score is one of his best to date and the sound design on this film has been underappreciated for a while.  This Blu-ray will change that for good.

 

As for extras, Day has had a bunch of DVD editions and the Blu-ray offers a hilarious audio commentary by Emmerich & Devlin, another with Special Effects Supervisors Volker Engel & Doug Smith, a trivia track, Alien Scavenger Hunt game, theatrical teaser and final trailers.  Robot has fun with the advanced menus of Blu-ray by color coding the extras into four sections: Red Button, Green Button, Yellow Button and Blue Button repeating the extras from the All Access DVD Set noted above.

 

Needless to say these are key titles to issue on Blu-ray and Fox delivers.  Expect them to be popular and hard to get, so if you have Blu-ray, you’ll want to get them as soon as possible!

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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