It may have seen over five different releases on DVD, but 1997 blockbuster Men in Black made its first (and hopefully only) debut on the Blu-ray format just weeks prior to the next Will Smith blockbuster Hancock slid into theaters. While Hancock underperformed when compared to some of his other big hits, Men in Black was one of Will Smith’s most successful films to date, both from a critical and box office stand point. While a third installment of the series would be overkill at this point, the series, the first movie especially, has gone down as a pair of classic sci-fi films that remain entertaining to this day.
After a Men in Black agent retires, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) must find a replacement partner. He sets his sights on James Edwards (Will Smith), who just the night before had run down an alien on foot, something not easy for a human to do. After passing all of the “entrance” tests, James is given a world of information about an alien civilization living on Earth and given some time to think over his decision on whether to enter this organization or not. Although he ultimately decides to join, and is henceforth known only as Agent J, what he didn’t realize was that Earth and the human civilization was facing impending doom and that his time as an MIB agent may be short lived.
Though I’d seen the film multiple times since its 1997 release, it’d been years since I’d seen it and I’m not even sure if I even watched the DVD version that my brother owned. It’s kind of funny how easily I got into the film again even after all of these years and it honestly felt like an old favorite—and one that didn’t disappoint. I was genuinely surprised not only by how well it held up both in terms of writing and characters, but also the CGI and puppetry/makeup used in the film. That Oscar it won for Best Makeup was definitely well-earned…there is some truly unbelievable “real” looking things in this film.
While the film is under a hundred minutes in length, I honestly thought it was the absolute perfect summer film to sit down with and waste an hour and a half with. Will Smith’s characters are always a delight to watch, no matter the venue, and the inclusion of Tommy Lee Jones really made it all that much better. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the sequel so I can’t comment too much on that and whether it was as enjoyable as the first, but the two really had a nice chemistry with one another here that just clicked from the start. Not to mention the inclusion of Linda Fiorentino’s character, who played the damsel in distress role without the “damsel” part, made for a nice rounding out of core characters.
Then of course there is Edgar (Vincent D’Onofrio). I never thought much of his role as a kid, but now that I’m a bit older and can recognize when actors are just dialing it in or giving a genuinely good performance…I was really quite impressed by what D’Onofrio brought to the film. I always thought of his characters goofy, but the consistency of his performance in the film is to be admired. Edgar definitely stood out to me more than merely the “Scary bug man” that I knew him as as a kid.
As previously mentioned the special effects all hold up quite good as well. The end giant-bug form of Edgar looks a bit over-glossy in nature, but considering its over eleven years old already, the fact this film doesn’t look like a joke is a true testament to the hard work that went into it. It may not have the highest rating on IMDb, but the trio of Oscar nominations it received, along with the dozen other awards, are definitely warranted for this film.
Overall Men in Black not only manages to hold up when placed next to other films of its genre today, but also remains to be just really damn entertaining. I could watch this movie repeatedly and never tire of it; it may not have much substance, but when you’re looking for a breezy, action/comedy, Men in Black really just hits the spot. Highly Recommended.
Men In Black arrives on Blu-ray via way of Sony Home Entertainment. The disc itself arrives in standard Blu-ray packaging and an insert telling you to keep your player up-to-date, along with a few Blu-ray exclusive extras (nothing really impressive, unfortunately). Menus for the release are fairly basic in nature, but are simple and easy to navigate.
The AVC encoded 1.85:1 transfer looks fantastic on Blu-ray, but really…that kind of goes without saying on this format. You have to try really hard to screw up a 1080p transfer (or just not try at all), so chances are you’re going to find a Blu-ray release to house its fair share of “wow” moments. Men in Black comes with plenty of “wow” moments courtesy of the creatures used in the film, which look absolutely wonderful in high-definition. The only low point on the transfer I noticed was the exterior New York daytime shots, which really lacked detail and were overly soft at times. Other than that, the sets that were lit properly or night sequences look pretty damn good.
Audio for this set arrives in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that will fill the room with plenty of surround and subwoofer chatter. The moment that Agent J arrives at MIB headquarters and is in the big room with the giant, whirring industrial fan will cause your whole room to shake, as will the use of the noisy cricket. The neurolizer has a nice shockwave effect that disperses throughout the channels every time it’s used (which you may not notice just watching the movie on TV, but when the whole room becomes filled with the discharge noise, you begin to realize just how often they fired that thing in this movie). Alternate French and Portuguese TrueHD 5.1 tracks are included as well, as are Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Korean, Thai, Arabic, Bahasa and Dutch subtitles are included for the main film, with French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Korean, Thai and Dutch subtitles accompanying the special features.
Moving onto the Blu-ray extras we first have the “Intergalactic Pursuit: The MIB Multi-Player Trivia Game”, which is actually quite an enjoyable little game to play around with. The questions are nicely mixed up as well, so should you be in a situation with a party that wants to play it multiple times, you won’t get too much repetition. Although I think you’d be better served playing other party games than something stuffed on a Blu-ray disc for a specific movie (the movies good, but not “Hey let’s play a Men in Black only trivia game!” good).
The other Blu-ray extras include a Alien Subtitle track which is kind of neat, but nothing that will really hold your interest for long. The other is a “Ask Frank the Pug!” interactive game which is the Blu-ray version of a magic eight ball, only a lot less humorous. In essence it’s just a menu system that has Frank answering “yes” or “no” to your questions.
The rest of the extras all return from the previous DVD editions of the film and we start off with a pair of commentaries. The first is with director Barry Sonnenfeld and actor Tommy Lee Jones, complete with “Telestrator” bonus. I’m assuming the Telestrator was on the DVD release as it’s not touted as a Blu-ray exclusive but…holy crap there is some serious issues with it on the Blu-ray release. It’s essentially some MST3K-style silhouettes that occasionally move back and forth and I’m assuming it’s a PS3 issue, but occasionally the characters will move and get caught in some repetitive loop. It’s incredibly weird. It also moves quite jittery, like it has some kind of low-frame rate. A cool extra, but kind of useless and presented rather shoddily on the disc; the commentary itself is nice, however, with Jones often prodding Sonnenfeld to talk about stuff, although all Sonnenfeld ends up talking about is the technical work ILM did on the film. “We removed wires here” and “they added this effect here.” I guess this was fascinating back when it was originally recorded, but nowadays it’s all old hat. The technical commentary with Sonnenfeld, Rick Backer and the ILM team is almost overkill when paired with first track, as it’s more of the same technobabble…but if that’s what you’re into learning about, then I guess it’s worth listening to.
Next up are the rest of the extras. Five deleted/extended scenes (4:21) don’t add a whole lot to the film, while a lengthy making-of “Metamorphosis of MIB” (23:12) takes us behind-the-scenes on the making of the film. It’s the usual talking heads with discussion on the sets, CGI work, etc., done on the film, but fun to watch if you enjoyed the film. An additional featurette (6:38) is included as well, which is a much shorter and much fluffier look at the making of the film.
The rest of the extras on the disc are mostly things you can flip through, like a scene editing workshop where you can put together your own version of the film and compare it to the final product, some more looks at the visual effects used in the film with commentary by Sonnenfeld, character animation studies, storyboard comparisons and galleries. Also included is Will Smith’s music video and the original theatrical and teaser trailers.
While there isn’t a whole lot to “watch” on this disc in terms of extras, there’s a lot to “do” with it. Plenty of interactive pieces and galleries to flip through, so there’s no shortage of time you can waste on the extras area, even if you aren’t just kicking back and watching some talking heads.
The bonus “Blu-ray” extras alone aren’t really worth upgrading the set for, especially if you already own one of the original two-disc editions released for the film. Still, if you’re in the market for a copy of Men in Black this is definitely the “ultimate” choice. For now, anyway; I’m sure Sony will release some two-pack on Blu-ray with even more extras down the line. Recommended.
Men in Black is now available on Blu-ray.