Galaxy Defenders

Of the ‘90s blockbusters, few exhibit Men in Black’s intelligence. By no means deep – Men in Black still wants a mass market appeal – those philosophical sci-fi touches produce a fervent message of humanity’s place in the stars. It’s clever, decorated with enough comedy, off-set by conspiracy theorist parody, and blasted by visual effects.

Then Tommy Lee Jones calls the entire species dumb, dangerous, panicky animals. He’s not wrong.

In the opening sequence, police stop a van of illegal immigrants. Jones pulls up, finds the real threat among them (an actual alien) and lets the rest go. Each migrant looks disheveled, tired, and terrified. One of them visibly shakes in terror when the van first opens. Men in Black creates a threat bigger than borders. It’s not about the planet, but everything around us. Convincing the dumb, dangerous, panicky animals of that fact is the problem.

“Human thought is a disease,” mourns Jones, the cynic who spent far too many years lasering space-born critters. Jones’ Agent K grounds Men in Black, the straight man in a buddy comedy against the brash, arrogant rookie Will Smith. Smith’s Agent J spent days running down criminals as NYPD, but soon learns what no one else wants to accept – aliens live among us, just 1500 of them, mostly in New York. That explains the city’s unique melting pot eccentricities. Carefully, Men in Black notes that most pose no problem as apolitical refugees.

Men in Black finds an entertaining base with which to deliver the undervalued, smart messaging

Men in Black moves fast enough as to never linger, but requires multiple viewings to absorb everything. Here’s a hidden government agency, keeping us safe from man-eating bugs or harboring intergalactic refugees, all for the sake of peace. Between the attractive chrome guns, the quips, and the explosions, Men in Black finds an entertaining base with which to deliver the undervalued, smart messaging. Maybe not so much to blindly trust in government forces as to accept things that cannot be controlled.

It’s a movie full of color, comedy, and magic-like set pieces. There’s a break from trends too, with Linda Fiorentino kidnapped, seemingly a damsel, before Men in Black not only lets her go, but turns her into a hero. In a movie with “men” in the title, Men in Black skirts a sexist trope before letting it go. It’s a rational mega-budget studio movie, aware and clever of all that exists in its purview. Few special effects-laden summer popcorn flicks can make such a claim.

Video

A consistent disappointment on prior formats for its pale and pinkish color, it’s taken until UHD to color correct. Now, flesh tones appear natural, pure, and untouched. Primaries shine, bringing out color in the alien props and digital creations. There’s no sense of fading, and no pink hue.

On top of that, a generous 4K scan. Sony’s exemplary catalog work continues here. Facial definition and rich texture stick around for the full runtime. A small grain structure is preserved and resolved cleanly. No errant processing is noted; Men in Black’s 4K release debuts with full transparency to the film stock.

Sony’s HDR pass livens things up too, adding to the density of black suits and Ray Bans without a loss of shadow details. The finale, cloaked by night with splashes of fire, offers plenty to gawk at. There’s plenty of energy on both ends of the spectrum, keeping images dense with intense highlights.

Audio

Remixed into Dolby Atmos, this mix offers plenty of energy, if held back by the older design. For instance, LFE support punches up to add weight to gunfire or major explosions, but otherwise feels lightly applied. The final act is the best of it, including the jet engines on the car and UFO slamming into the ground. Everything else lacks the accentuation.

Same goes for the surrounds, used brilliantly as the ball knocks around MIB headquarters, if lacking ambiance when in New York. The city sounds dead. Luckily, there’s still that third act with rifles firing and panning around, the UFO flying, and the big bug skittering. It’s fun, if left behind by the aggressiveness of modern tastes.

Extras

The Blu-ray holds it all, the same as the previous release. That’s fine as the bonuses offer plenty to digest. Two commentaries are included as previously, including the technical track which has Rick Baker and crew discussing the visual effects. The next is a silhouetted telestrator comm with director Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones. They point to things on the screen as they discuss them without causing too much disruption.

Features begin with some character animation studies. Using the angle button, you can view the various stages of the creatures as they come together for the screen. Four deleted scenes are available plus the above-mentioned ball sequence without any added effects. Two scenes get the deconstruction treatment including the car/tunnel scene and the final fight (the latter is only available here). These can be watched with commentary.

Metamorphosis of the Men In Black is an excellent 23-minute documentary with behind the scenes footage and the usual round of interviews. A section on art and animation is split into five areas that cover things like storyboards and the CG characters. Three of the movies scenes can be edited using the editing workshop, but this is limited and you’ll only end up ruining the scene; it won’t make sense. Finally, a photo gallery features more content than the standard disc.

There is a short promotional featurette running a little over six minutes, but there is nothing here you won’t see in the longer documentary. A music video from Will Smith based on the film (which played non-stop on both the radio and MTV during the theatrical run) and some talent files end the menu selections.

Men in Black
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Smart, witty, and rational, Men in Black features the expected rain of visual effects, but also a considerate, philosophical script.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 43 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: