Independence Day was re-released to Blu-ray only weeks prior to the UHD version's debut. Fox's 1080p presentation really nailed down the image quality. It was practically perfect, leaving precious little room to complain or, seemingly, improve. While the 2160p UHD is more a refinement of an already excellent image rather than a total reworking, the results are clearly very strong. The UHD captures the same basic essence as the 1080p Blu-ray. Grain structure is refined and even, yielding a gorgeous cinematic texturing. Details are deeply informative and very well textured. From standard faces and clothes to more refined details, like dust and fine scratches on the biplane, there's no mistaking the transfer's ability to reveal every inch of detail in a naturally opportunistic manner. Color balance is terrific across the film's varied filters, regardless of time of day, interior or exterior, low light or high sun. It is, at-a-glance, the mirror image of the 1080p transfer in terms of overall excellence.
It's the direct A-B comparisons where things begin to get more interesting. The UHD is certainly more refined, yielding finer, if not only extremely so, details. Take a look at the President in bed around the 5:20 mark. Skin texturing is more apparent on the UHD; the Blu-ray lacks the finesse and finer points of definition on the face, favoring a markedly smoother appearance. The image is also significantly lighter; there's a rather severe orange push on the Blu-ray, where the UHD is much cooler, evident in everything: skin, the T-shirt, the upholstery on the bed's headboard. Skip ahead a minute or so to where the President is eating breakfast. The yellow rug is punchier on the Blu-ray, whereas the UHD favors a more neutral look about it. Another great spot to compare both color and detail -- the former in particular -- comes about halfway through the movie at the 1:13:20 mark. Will Smith, wearing a green military tank top, stands behind a bright orange parachute and in front of a clear and bright blue sky. First, the increase in material detail is plainly obvious, on the parachute in particular but also on Smith's shirt and skin. On the UHD, the colors are significantly more saturated. The orange is bolder, as is the sky, both by a wide and immediately noticeable margin. Whether one or the other is technically "correct" is up for debate, but there's no mistaking that the UHD's HDR-influenced vibrance, combined with the increase in detail, is striking. Such contrasts hold throughout the movie.
Both versions look terrific. Are Blu-ray owners missing out? Yes. In a noticeable way that makes the Blu-ray look "bad" on its own? No way. The UHD is certainly a step up in terms of detail and clarity and raw cinematic texturing. Colors may be altered, but they're much more refined in places and punchier where they count. The UHD comes out on top.
Uh, wow. Fox's previous Blu-ray releases of Independence Day, both the above referenced re-release and, of course, the original from 2008, contained fantastic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtracks, but this...this takes the experience to a brand new level. The UHD release contains a "premium" DTS:X sound experience that, for as good as the older tracks were, absolutely destroys the 5.1 mixes in terms of definition, aggression, and immersion alike. The DTS:X soundtrack adds not only an additional two channels to the rear but also multiple overheads as well, and Fox's release takes full and obvious advantage. This review is based an 11.1 setup, which includes four overheard channels to the more traditional 7.1 mix. One could argue that the track is simply too aggressive, and it does border on the extreme at times, particularly at reference volume. But it's a blast. The opening title letters fly back into the rear with amazing weight and pull through the listening area. Music is powerful and room filling, utilizing every speaker that's not an overhead channel to full advantage. The surrounds are arguably a bit too aggressive at times in delivering music, but the satisfaction level is off the charts. The end result is a tremendously potent and immersive experience that really works with a movie of this style and scale.
Of course, that also holds true for action. This is currently the track that should be selling sound systems with height channels. Showrooms: take notice. Russell Casse's biplane, as he's dusting the wrong field, zips overhead with incredible lifelike detail and maneuvering. Anyone who's been to an airshow and remembers the sound of prop planes buzzing at low altitude overhead will experience that here. It's one of the best overhead effects this reviewer has yet heard. And the party is only getting started. The alien ships arrive in Earth's atmosphere with an amazingly potent rumble and weight, a slow, heavy push into the skies that's worthy of their mammoth size. The "welcome wagon" helicopter hefts through the stage, back to front, with lifelike definition. An AWACS plane is destroyed and fire rushes through the stage, front to back and overheard, too, with a gust of intensity rarely experienced in a home (or theater, for that matter) soundtrack. Air Force One taxis and takes off, chased by a ball of fire, with enough power in the engines to lift the plane and escape, with so much attention to detail, mixed with raw power, that one practically wants earplugs. Fighter jets zip around with precise imaging and action-matching directionality. The alien fighters, with their unique sound signatures, likewise zoom through the stage with impressive positioning. The dog fights practically place the listener in the cockpits.
The alien attack -- when the big guns first open up and destroy several major cities -- is resiliently deep, punishing, immersive, and rattles and rocks the soundstage to its core. The blasts themselves are ridiculously deep and dense, but it's the destruction that follows that really puts the system through its paces. Cars flip over -- and through, including above -- the stage. Great balls of fire, practically on a Biblical scale, power through with striking intensity and room filling placement. Of all the great bits in the soundtrack, that first attack is the most impressive given its scale, longevity in runtime, and absolute full-on use of the entire soundstage, top channels included. Of course, the track doesn't forget about the little stuff, at least little in comparison. A bullet ricochets with startling movement around, and above, the stage when the heroes are testing their ability to lower the alien shields to start the third act. Overhead speakers emit voice communications in command centers with realistic room filling delivery. The TV offices where David Levinson works spring to life in a few scenes, featuring a cluster of background noise that superbly defines the location. The track is truly something special. Add in perfectly clear and prioritized dialogue, and this is arguably the most entertaining soundtrack ever to make its way into a home theater.
4K Bluray details
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (33.41Mbps)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
French: DTS 5.1
German: DTS 5.1
Italian: DTS 5.1
English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
4K Ultra HD
Three-disc set (1 BD-66, 2 BD-50)
4K Blu-ray: Region free
2K Blu-ray: Region A (B, C untested)