Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I blog about one of my favourite movies. I'm doing Independence Day for a second time, but this time out, I'm doing it's 15-minute longer Special Edition. This is in my notes at June 11, 2016.
When I did Independence Day in this column for my 200th entry, I lamented that the special edition wasn't included on the Blu-Ray, as the it was referenced quite a bit in the running commentary. Well, it's 2016, and they just released a brand new "20th Anniversary Edition" of Independence Day which finally included that special edition, along with all the other previous bonus features on all the previous DVDs. And, since the long awaited sequel Independence Day: Resurgence is coming out this year, there's a couple new bonus features to plug that.
Let's just take a moment to talk about Independence Day: Resurgence. As I write this, it comes out in a little more than 2 weeks. I fully predict it'll be this year's Jurassic World...just a fun, indulgent, 1990s nostalgia trip. And, like the original 20 years ago, I'll probably go see it on my birthday.
[Addendum: April 8, 2017: turns out my prediction was wrong. Independence Day: Resurgence turned out to be a really bland rehash, spending too much time trying to set up a potential new franchise. It was lame, you guys. And now, back to my original review.]
But anyway, the Independence Day: Special Edition. It's got about 10 extra minutes of footage...mostly dialogue scenes...character-building stuff. I remember hearing whispers about an extended edition way back in 1996, when the film was still in theatres. Bill Pullman was asked about his favourite part, and he said, "Oh, there's a couple of deleted scenes that'll make for a really great Laserdisc edition." Indeed, back then, Laserdisc was still the home media format of choice for cinephiles, and the special edition first appeared on Laserdisc in the late 1990s. I first saw it on DVD, and the extra scenes do provide some nice character moments.
Probably the biggest addition is there's more interaction with Russel Case -- the drunken former pilot played by Randy Quaid -- and his children. We see the oldest son, Miguel, really ashamed of his father, even telling him at one point, "You're not my father. You're just the man who married my mother." Really adds a little more poignancy to Miguel's final scene, where he says he's proud of his father for making the ultimate sacrifice. You may remember a scene from the theatrical edition where Russel's other son gets carsick and throws up. Turns out he wasn't just carsick. In these expanded scenes, we see that he actually has an illness of some kind, and the situation with the aliens has made his medication tough to come by, so he's taking a turn for the worse. That subplot comes to a head when Will Smith delivers the alien to Area 51. As all the doctors start tending to the alien, Russel interrupts the scene and DEMANDS that one of the doctors look after his son. It's a good start to Russel's turnaround and ultimate redemption.
We get a few more good scenes with Jeff Goldblum's David Levinson. There's a little more of him at work, tracing the source of the alien signal, thus further establishing his almost intuitive knowledge of how the alien systems work. That all comes to a head when Dr. Okun gives him a tour of their capture alien craft from the 1950s. Dr. Okun points to a display panel and says he can't identify its gibberish. Levinson takes a good hard look at it, identifies the pattern, and tells Okun what it is. "Boy, you're really starting to make us look bad," says Okun.
The special edition is a lot of fun, as it helps to flesh out some of the characters a little more. But, if like most people, you're only here for the monuments blowing up, then you can stick with the theatrical version.