Men in Black II (Blu-ray)

May 1, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Agent J (Will Smith) has risen in the ranks at the M.I.B., but with his success, the bar has been raised for potential partners. After all, he was trained by the agency’s finest agent and as such, he demands a little more from his new partners. But he has went through a chain of potentials and neutralized each one, including the latest victim, Agent T (Patrick Warburton). He needs a partner however, so he is assigned to work with Frank, the lovable Pug. The two start to look into an alien on alien murder, which turns out to be much more than it seems, with the fate of the entire planet at risk yet again. An evil creature named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) has returned to Earth, in search of an object known as the Light of Zarthon. Back in the 70s, the M.I.B. were asked to hide the Light, but as per their orders, they refused. But it seems as though one agent became personally involved and went against orders. That man was Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), which means J has to find him and bring him back to his former position. But when de-neuralization fails, K is forced to use clues he left himself to lead the way to the Light of Zarthon. But with Serleena kicking ass to possess the artifact, it will it be hard for the two to overcome the odds. Will K’s mind recall all the needed information, or is this the final mission for the Men in Black?

The men in black are back, as Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith return to the roles of Agents K and J, respectively. I always have doubts about popcorn movie sequels, as they’re usually bad, but Men in Black was fun, so I hoped the sequel could hold up. As it turns out, Men in Black II has a definite “been there, done that” texture, but it proves to be a fun, worthwhile picture. I don’t think it works as well as the original, but as far as sequels are concerned, this one is well crafted and should please fans. If nothing else, it has just the right blend of old and new elements, as several characters return, but a number of new ones also surface. So we have a strong bond with the original, but there’s enough new stuff to let it stand on its own, not something most sequels can accomplish. In addition to Jones and Lee, returning players include Rip Torn, Tony Shaloub, the lovable worms, and of course, Frank the Pug, while Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, and Rosario Dawson head up the newcomers. The storyline isn’t as sharp and the romance is forced, but as far as popcorn cinema fun, Men in Black II delivers. It has tons of cool, well crafted special effects and lots of hilarious moments.

The second time around as Agent J, Will Smith is just as obnoxious, over the top, and hilarious as before. I am by no means a fan of his music or acting on the whole, but I have to admit, Will Smith was a wise choice for his role here. His outlandish antics and lack of refined skills never hold him back, as the role seems written with his flaws in mind. So instead of working around them, Smith is able to amp them up a few more degrees and the result is a bad performance in most scenarios, but a good one for Men in Black. I still don’t often care for his efforts in other films, as his brash, amateur style is usually out of place, but his name generates mainstream audience interest, so I’m sure we’ll see him for some time to come. Other films with Smith include Independence Day, Enemy of the State, Bad Boys, Ali, Wild Wild West, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. The cast here also includes Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, Natural Born Killers), Lara Flynn Boyle (The Temp, Happiness), Johnny Knoxville (Big Trouble, Tv’s Jackass), Rosario Dawson (25th Hour, Josie and the {Pussycats), and Tony Shaloub (Galaxy Quest, Spy Kids).

Video: How does it look?

Unlike its predecessor, this is the first foray onto Blu-ray for Men in Black II. The 1.78:1 AVC HD image appears to be pretty cleaned up from the previous DVD release (the Superbit being the best of the bunch). Right out of the gate, the entire image seems to “feel” better. There’s more depth and detail, the colors seem a bit stronger and what errors persisted in the DVD version are, for the most part, gone. That said, the flesh tones seem a bit on the muted side and though it’s hard to classify the aliens as having “flesh tones”, there are times when things seem a bit on the dull side. That aside, this is a definite step up in regard to video quality from the previous version(s).

Audio: How does it sound?

I’d mentioned in my review of the original how if this were done properly, it would feature a new DTS HD Master Audio mix as opposed to the same old Dolby TrueHD mix used. Well this one is new to the format and does utilize a new DTS HD Master Audio mix that sounds very impressive. Surrounds are used extensively, there are clicks and whirrs and other things that I really can’t describe coming out of all channels. As usual, Danny Elfman’s score sounds amazing. There’s a fair amount of LFE that abound as well and though it’s not the most robust track I’ve heard, it certainly surprised me.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Men in Black II like its predecessor, has been released several times on standard DVD and it appears as all of the supplements from the previous version(s) have made the leap to HD. These are “presented” in HD, but none are new so while it looks better than the black bars on the sides, it’s really just a blown up version of what we’ve already seen. We start off with a commentary with director Barry Sonnenfeld who delivers a very informative commentary. Unlike some directors, he actually sounds enthralled to be a part of this track. It’s a good listen. As we might expect, there are a variety of featurettes that deal with the look and feel of the film and “Design in Motion: The Look of ‘MIB II'” gives us Bo Welch as he walks us through the visual effects of the movie. “Rick Baker: Alien Maker” gives us Oscar award winning creature creator as we see the “simple” process from concept to completion. “Squish, Splat, Sploosh: The Stellar Sounds of ‘MIB II'” gives us an overview of the sounds made to give the movie its unique, er, soundtrack. “Cosmic Sumphonies: Elfman in Space” features composer Danny Elfman as he brings us through the process of writing the score. It’s very easy when you’re a musical genius. “Barry Sonnenfeld’s Intergalactic Guide to Comedy” shows us the director and his somewhat unique approach to making films. “Creature Featurette” showcases the different aliens in the film and we see each one brought to “life” so to speak. “Seleena Animatic” is just that, a 2 minute sketch and animations of our antagonist in the film come to life. There’s also a multi-angle feature that shows before and after sequences in the film as well as a Will Smith music video (you know, when he used to sing) “Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head).” There’s an alternate ending, blooper reel and an Ultraviolet copy of the movie as well.

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