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Barry Sonnenfeld
Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Lara Flynn Boyle,Rip Torn, Rosario Dawson, Patrick Warburton
Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro, based on the comic book by Lowell Cunningham

Same Planet. New Scum.
Box Office:
Budget $140 million.
Opening weekend $52.148 million on 3557 screens.
Domestic gross $190.418 million.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 5/1/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director Barry Sonnenfeld
• Alternate Ending
• Blooper Reel
• “MIIB: ADR” Featurette
• “Design in Motion” Featurette
• “Rick Baker: Alien Maker” Featurette
• “Squish, Splat, Sploosh” Featurette
• “Cosmic Symphonies” Featurette
• “Barry Sonnenfeld’s Intergalactic Guide to Comedy” Featurette
• Creature Featurettes
• “Serleena” Animatic Sequence
• Multi-Angle Scene Deconstructions
• Music Video


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Men In Black II [Blu-Ray] (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 30, 2015):

Since 1997’s Men In Black earned $250 million, it would have been the biggest hit of the year if not for a little something called Titanic. While the latter didn’t exactly lend itself to sequel possibilities, MIB provided a wealth of franchise opportunities and seemed like a lock for more flicks.

So why’d it take them five years to finally produce Men In Black II? Money, money, money! With a budget of $90 million, the first flick didn’t exactly come cheap, but given its success, the price tags of all involved escalated. MIIB shot up to a budget of $140 million, and I’d guess that costs for its leads and director probably accounted for a substantial percentage of that sum.

But it’s all for the good of the film, right? After all, sequels that omit significant participants from the original usually stink, so it’s great to see all of the main folks from the first one return, right? This means MIIB will be just as much fun as that movie, right?

Uh, no. While not a horrendous movie, Men In Black II almost totally loses the spark seen in the original flick. It plods along and never feels like anything more than a tepid imitation of the first picture.

At the start of MIIB, we see a quick prologue that purports to come from a TV show that exposes secrets such as the existence of aliens and the men in black. This program sets up something called the Light of Zartha. Back in the Seventies, a nasty ET named Serleena wanted it for evil ends, so the MIB made sure she didn’t get it when they transported it off the Earth into realms unknown.

Flash-forward to 2002, and Serleena returns to Earth. She takes the first image she sees – a Victoria’s Secret ad – and molds herself to look like that model (Lara Flynn Boyle) for her time on the planet. She then begins her evil quest to find the Light of Zartha.

In the meantime, we see Agent “J” (Will Smith). After five years on the force, he’s become their top man, and something of a workaholic to boot. He goes through partners quickly, and we watch as he neuralyzes his latest one after a botched job. After Serleena kills an alien she confronts for information, “J” gets the assignment to follow up with a witness named Laura Vasquez (Rosario Dawson). Rather than give “J” a regular partner, Zed (Rip Torn) has Frank the Pug (voiced by Tim Blaney) accompany him. They don’t get a lot of info, but “J” starts to fall for Laura.

Back at the headquarters, Zed declares that they need to bring back the one agent who knows about the Serleena incident from the Seventies: “K” (Tommy Lee Jones). Of course, “J” neuralyzed him at the end of the first movie, but apparently the MIB developed a deneuralyzer, so they can use this to restore his memories. “J” heads to rural Massachusetts, where “K” – now called “Kevin” – works as the postmaster. He slowly starts to convince “K” about his past life and gets him to return to the fold.

From there, MIIB basically follows the action. The deneuralyzer doesn’t work perfectly, so “K” struggles to regain all of his past knowledge. Nonetheless, he and “J” resume their prior relationship as they chase the new villain.

What went wrong with MIIB? Pretty much everything, as the movie felt terribly uninspired.

On the positive side, Smith and Jones still displayed a fairly good chemistry. Their interaction helped make the original flick memorable, and some of that spark remained on display here. They didn’t click to the degree we saw in 1997, but they nonetheless allowed some of the material to become more interesting than otherwise might have been the case.

Boyle did a decent job as the sexy alien too. No, she didn’t reach the disgustingly amusing heights attained by Vincent D’Onofrio in the first movie; he made Edgar a cartoony hoot. However, Boyle brought a sultry nastiness to Serleena that allowed the role to work fairly well.

Otherwise, I found it tough to locate much to praise in MIIB. Probably the film’s biggest fault stemmed from the fact that it essentially did little more than rehash the original. It reversed the roles slightly, as “K” was the experienced one who showed “J” the ropes there, but the two still worked along the same lines. Both plots seemed terribly similar, and they followed the same progressions as well.

Oddly, the visual effects appeared to get worse over the five years between films. I felt surprised at how weak this material looked in a film with such a high profile and huge budget. Unfortunately, those elements almost uniformly presented cheesy images. From “J”’s ride on Jeff in the subway to Johnny Knoxville’s second head to Frank the Pug’s speech, far too much of MIIB looked unconvincing, even by 2002 standards. That problem actively distracted me from the movie.

Not that a flick with perfect effects would have entranced me either. Can I state that I hated Men In Black II? No, for the product seemed too lackluster to warrant any form of passion in either direction.

I can’t call MIIB a genuinely unenjoyable experience, as I didn’t really dislike the time I spent with it. However, it never engaged me in any real way, and much of it felt stale and leaden. The movie showed no signs of inspiration and came across as a limp remake of the original.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+ / Audio A / Bonus B+

Men In Black II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a flawless image, but it mostly looked good.

Sharpness consistently appeared positive, so the movie seemed crisp and well defined most of the time. Virtually no signs of softness emerged – well, except for some effects shots, but that was an inevitable outgrowth of the techniques involved.

Jagged edges and shimmering presented no issues, and edge haloes remained absent. As for print flaws, I saw a few speckles but nothing more than that.

The palette of MIIB came across well on the disc. Despite a number of dark scenes, the movie featured a fairly bright and vivid sense of color, largely via all the different aliens we saw. Those tones appeared nicely vibrant and distinct, and they displayed no issues that negatively affected the presentation.

Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but didn’t become excessively dense. The smattering of print flaws knocked down my grade to “B+”, but this was mostly a terrific image.

I found no concerns when I listened to the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Men In Black II. The movie displayed a terrifically active soundfield from start to finish. It boasted excellent separation and definition, and elements meshed together very nicely. Movement seemed especially solid, as elements zoomed all around the room in a seamless manner.

The track made active use of all five channels and really helped make the film a more involving affair. Quite a few moments stood out, but if I needed to pick the best, I’d go with the flushing sequence. In addition, the deneuralyzer and machine gun droid also provided strong elements during this terrific mix.

Audio quality appeared positive as well. Speech came across as natural and distinct, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music appeared bright and lively and also demonstrated good dynamics.

Best of the bunch, the effects always sounded crisp and accurate, and they packed a serious punch when appropriate. Low-end material was deep and tight, and those elements presented efficient bass with no boominess or other issues. Ultimately, the audio of Men In Black II worked tremendously well.

How does the Blu-ray compare to the original 2002 DVD? Visuals looked tighter and more concise, while audio was warmer and more engaging. All aspects of the presentation improved upon the DVD.

The Blu-ray duplicates many of the DVD’s extras, and we begin with an audio commentary from director Barry Sonnenfeld. He provides a running, screen-specific track, but it’s not one of his best. On the Men In Black disc, they paired him with Tommy Lee Jones, and while the actor offered little information, he seemed to give Sonnenfeld an audience. That brightened the piece and made it more interesting.

The MIB II commentary seems fairly bland. Sonnenfeld possesses a wonderfully dry humor as a speaker, but that failed to come through most of the time here. He mostly focused on effects issues, which often turned the commentary into a dull examination of real vs. CG. Some decent anecdotes popped up as well, and Sonnenfeld occasionally relates issues connected to non-effects topics like Will Smith’s improvs, but the technical areas dominated the piece. As a result, I struggled to make it through this fairly lackluster track.

Next we get a five-minute and nine-second Blooper Reel. This includes the usual set of flubs and improvs, with a particular focus on a fit of the giggles that affected the autopilot scene. I’ve seen worse sets of outtakes, but this one seems lackluster.

For a look at the planning process, check out the Serleena Animatic Sequence. It lasts one minute, 11 seconds and gives us filmed storyboards and rough computer graphics to simulate that scene.

Up next, we locate five featurettes. These include “MIIB: ADR” (9:25), “Design in Motion” (10:01), “Rick Baker: Alien Maker” (10:46), “Splish, Splat, Sploosh: The Stellar Sounds of MIB II” (8:04) and “Cosmic Symphonies: Elfman in Space” (12:52). They cover ADR, production design, Rick Baker’s alien creations, Serleena, Jeff, Frank the Pug, sound design, and the score.

These offer the standard mix of movie snippets, shots from the set and other archival materials, and interviews. We hear from director Sonnenfeld, actor Tim Blaney, makeup designer Rick Baker, composer Danny Elfman, production designer Bo Welch, visual effects art director David Nakabayashi, technical animator Mauricio Baiocchi, foley artists Marko Costanzo and Jay Peck, supervising foley editor Steve Vischer, effects sequence supervisor Amelia Chenoweth, and visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer.

Though the quality varies somewhat, overall the featurettes offer some good material. They cover their topics efficiently and informatively and strike a good balance between depth and expediency.

Of the various programs, the ADR, production design and Elfman featurettes seem the best. I especially like the shots in the first one that show the actors as they rerecord their lines. Frankly, I’d prefer a coherent documentary to the choppy presentation of these segments, but I still definitely like them.

In the Multi-Angle Scene Deconstructions, you can break down five different segments. Each of these includes between two and five possible angles. These give us a reasonably useful and fun way to check out the progress of the effects, though it seems disappointing that the clips offer no commentary or additional information, features that appeared on the MIB set.

Next we get a two-minute, 13-second Alternate Ending. It’s a moderately interesting piece that doesn’t seem any worse than the existing conclusion. Unfortunately, the disc includes no commentary or other information that would let us know why Sonnenfeld chose the finished film’s finale over this one.

For information of various critters, we shift to the Creature Featurettes section. There we find eight shorter programs that discuss Frank the Pug (5:03), Scrad/Charlie (2:59), the Worms (3:49), Serleena (4:04), “Alien Esoterica” (5:26), Jeebs (3:30), Jarra (4:21), and Jeff the Worm (3:35). All told we get 21 minutes and six seconds of footage here.

In these, we see movie bits, behind the scenes work, and interviews with Sonnenfeld, alien designer Rick Baker, actors Johnny Knoxville and Lara Flynn Boyle, visual effects art director David Nakabayashi, technical animator Mauricio Baiocchi, Lara Flynn Boyle, visual effects supervisor John Berton, and effects sequence supervisor Amelia Chenoweth.

Some of these work quite well; I especially like the segments that discussed Jeebs and Jarra. That’s because those delve into new topics. Unfortunately, most of the others cover material that we already hear elsewhere. On their own, they give us good information, but if you watch the supplements “in order”, they’ll seem pretty redundant by now.

Barry Sonnenfeld’s Intergalactic Guide to Comedy goes six minutes. We hear from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, screenwriter Barry Fanaro, producers MacDonald and Parkes, and Sonnenfeld. It offers a general featurette about actors, Sonnenfeld’s ideas of comedy, and other basic topics. It seems like a watchable piece, but we hear much of this elsewhere.

A few minor pieces round out the disc. Theatrical One-Sheets displays four posters used to promote the film. After that comes the music video for “Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head)” by Will Smith Introducing TRA-KNOX. This lasts four minutes, 39 seconds and offers an elaborate but surprisingly dull experience.

Although I made it through Men In Black II painlessly, I feel the sequel virtually defines the concept of a “paycheck movie”. It seems as though everyone involved in the project signed on to collect a big fat wad of cash, for they clearly show few signs of imagination or creativity. The Blu-ray provides good visuals, excellent audio and a mostly informative array of supplements. Whole this turns into a fine release, the movie itself is mediocre at best.

To rate this film, visit the original review of MEN IN BLACK II