Will Smith is an event movie kind of guy, and, while it’s become fashionable for cinema snobs to dismiss the actor’s impressive list of blockbuster credentials as little more than popcorn fodder, I’m always eager to see what the former Fresh Prince has to offer come Fourth of July. With highly entertaining and eye-popping spectacles like “Independence Day”, “I, Robot”, and “I Am Legend” already amongst the best-selling Blu-ray titles available, Smith stands ready to drop yet another bomb on BD enthusiasts with the highly anticipated Blu-ray release of the sci-fi/comedy smash hit, “Men in Black”.
Smith stars as James Edwards, an NYPD supercop whose dogged pursuit of an athletic extraterrestrial catches the eye of “Agent K” (Tommy Lee Jones). K urges his superiors at M.I.B. (Men in Black) – a secret organization that polices the aliens who secretly live among us - to bring Edwards into the fold. Edwards is understandably intrigued by the offer, and accepts the job, becoming “Agent J” (M.I.B. agents must sacrifice their identities and cut all ties to their former lives), and joins the team just as the Earth finds itself in the middle of an intergalactic war between the Bugs and the Arquillians.
The Bugs have sent an assassin to take out a high-ranking Arquillian and discover the location of a source of great power known as “the galaxy”. The Arquillians will do anything to prevent the Bugs from getting their filthy little pincers on it – even if that means destroying the Earth and everything on it.
A potent blend of comedy, sci-fi, and slam-bang action, Men in Black is the very definition of crowd-pleasing entertainment buoyed by fantastic chemistry between its two leads, a hilarious supporting turn by Vincent D’Onofrio as the Bug-in-a-flesh-suit, Edgar, and the most wonderfully weird and wacky assortment of space beasties you’ll see this side of a Tatooine Cantina. Oh, and if you can find a sexier undertaker than Linda Fiorentino's Laurel Weaver, I'll eat my Ray-Bans.
The thought of Men in Black on Blu-ray has had HD enthusiasts drooling since the day the title was announced. While the 1:85.1 transfer isn’t quite as perfect as many would have hoped, this is leaps and bounds better than its Superbit DVD predecessor, with incredible depth and detail, a bright and vivid color palette, and consistent blacks that are rich and true and virtually free of compression artifacts. There’s inherent grain, here, but, aside from this and an occasional softness in the image, Men in Black looks fantastic.
The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is equally fantastic, with brutal bass, immersive multi-channel effects, and crisp dialogue throughout. The mix isn’t quite reference quality stuff, but, for its age, the results are more than acceptable, and will provide a thorough 360 degree workout for your surround sound system.
Men in Black gets a well-stocked BD with a few new features exclusive to the format. Carryovers from previous DVD incarnations (and presented in 480p SD) extended scenes, the “Metamorphosis of Men in Black” featurette, the film’s original EPK, “Men in Black – Music Video”, and commentaries by both Jones and Sonnenfeld, as well as a technical commentary featuring Sonnenfeld, Make-up Artist Rick Baker and the Industrial, Light & Magic FX guys. There’s also the “Enhanced Telestrator Commentary” - an alternate version of the Jones/Sonnenfeld commentary featuring a MST3K style version of the two watching the film in the lower right corner whilst using a telestrator effect to highlight action on the film.
BD exclusive features include a pair of interactive games, the first of which - "Intergalactic Pursuit: The MIB Multi-Player Trivia Game” - is a trivia game that you can play with up to four other players. The questions all have to do with the film, however, and, while playing against the only other person I could find online (I played the game a week before the BD’s street date), I routinely found the same questions being asked over multiple games. Still, it’s a nicely implemented feature, and is particularly impressive in that it employs video and audio snippets rather than just text-based questions.
The other “game” isn’t really a game at all, but a rather curious feature called “Ask Frank the Pug!” in which you select a “topic” and then ask the canine random questions and hear his canned replies. It’s a lot like shaking a Magic 8-Ball, except the load times and general pointlessness of it all made it a brief diversion at best.
More Java enhanced madness ensues with multiple interactive “workshop” features which let you do everything from edit a scene to view the film’s creature’s metamorphosis from sketch to screen. While I found these features visually impressive, I had a few software glitches that made them more frustrating than fun, so I didn’t really delve too deeply into what they had to offer. Hopefully this will be addressed in the form of a patch in the future as the BD Live feature allows for such things (as well as the addition of more content, games, etc).
While some features are obviously better implemented than others, there’s still a lot on offer here and those more patient than I will probably find hours of fun to be had here.
While it’s not quite the reference quality disc I was hoping for, Men in Black’s transition to Blu-ray is still a rousing success. The video and audio presentation is top-notch, supplements are varied and plentiful, and the film is just an all around good time that’s made even better by Blu. Definitely worth the purchase!